Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Flyers Collapse in Shootout Loss; Phantoms Win and More

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FLYERS-CANADIENS WRAPUP: FLYERS SUFFER EPIC COLLAPSE IN 3RD

The Philadelphia Flyers got their first point of the 2014-15 season but it was hardly something in which the club could take any satisfaction. After building a 3-0 lead on the Montreal Canadiens through two dominant periods, the Flyers utterly collapsed in the final period of the game and went on to lose in a shootout, 4-3.

Wayne Simmonds tallied even strength and power play goals for the second straight game, while Michael Raffl opened the scoring for Philadelphia early in the first period. The Flyers had numerous chances to extend the lead as they compiled a 27-18 shot advantage through two periods. Although they were unable to do so, a 3-0 cushion should have been plenty good enough to win the game.

In the third period, the Flyers got off to a sleepy start for the first six minutes or so. They weren’t getting pucks in deep, weren’t skating as well and started losing puck battles they’d routinely been winning in the first 40 minutes. However, the Canadiens weren’t generating much of consequence, either, even as they got the first five shots of the period.

Things rapidly got worse for Philadelphia. Sleepiness turned into a full fledged nightmare.

At the 7:05 mark of the third period, Andrei Markov weaved home a shot through traffic and past Ray Emery (35 saves on 38 shots). From there, the wheels utterly fell off for the Flyers.

For virtually the rest of regulation, the Canadiens played with short ice. Not only could the Flyers not generate any forechecking pressure to stabilize the game, they couldn’t even get over the red line and force Montreal to go 200 feet on dump-ins. Mostly, the Flyers’ players stood on flat-footed and increasingly desperate as the giveaways and failed clears began to pile up along with the Canadiens’ shot totals.

Flyers head coach Craig Berube called a timeout at 8:27 of the third period, but the team was still unable to stop the bleeding. At 9:12, Tomas Plekanec potted the rebound of a P.A. Parenteau shot to cut the Canadiens’ deficit to 3-2. Markov got the secondary helper.

The shot disparity in the third period grew to 11-0 in Montreal’s favor — en route to a 19-4 shot disparity bombardment plus 10 Habs third-period shot attempts that were blocked and eight that missed the net. Finally, the Flyers mustered a harmless 97-foot shot by Matt Read at the 10:01 mark for their first shot of the period.

The spectacular goaltending of Emery delayed the inevitable for a few more minutes. At 14:40, Alex Galchenyuk scored the tying goal on a tip-in. Plekanec and Markov got the assists.

The Flyers had one decent scoring chance in the third period — a 3-on-2 rush led by Claude Giroux — but that was about it. Mostly, they were lucky just the game to overtime.

The third period featured nine giveaways charged to Philadelphia. There were a few other turnovers on failed clears that were rather generously not charged as giveaways. Officially, the roll call of third period unforced turnovers was as follows: three charged to Emery on puckhandles behind the net that got intercepted as he tried to play the disc up the walls, two charged to Michael Del Zotto, and one apiece charged to Luke Schenn, Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Nick Schultz.

In the overtime, Emery was forced to make a spectacular glove save to deny Galchenyuk on a breakaway after a terrible gaffe by Mark Streit. At 2:23 of the extra frame, Montreal’s Lars Eller was whistled off for a tripping infraction that gave the Flyers a chance to win. They accomplished nothing. Shots in the OT were 1-1 to bring the game total to 38-32 in Montreal’s favor.

Last season in shootout situations, Emery stopped just two of seven attempts. He surpassed that save total in a single night, denying Galchenyuk, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher in the first three rounds. However, none among Vincent Lecavalier, Giroux or Sean Couturier were able to beat Carey Price (30 saves on 32 shots in regulation and overtime, 4-for-4 in the skills competition). After Matt Read failed in the top of round four, Parenteau snapped a wrist shot past Emery to give his team a bonus point from the game.

By this point, the Flyers’ dominance of the first two periods was but a distant memory. However, for the first 40 minutes of play, the Flyers outworked the Canadiens and played a high-tempo two-way game that was actually quite impressive.

In the morning skate both Simmonds and Giroux talked about the need for the club to come out skating and forechecking early and to play with a lead. They delivered in the early going of the game.

At 3:39 of the opening period, directly following a shift in which the Habs were hemmed in deep after a neutral zone turnover, the Flyers got an offensive zone right circle faceoff and went to work with the top line on the ice. Jakub Voracek made a good play along the walls and Giroux threaded the needle to Michael Raffl. The Austrian winger slid a backhanded shot through Price to give the Flyers their first lead of the young season.

Just 18 seconds later, Simmonds extended the lead to 2-0. The Flyers moved the puck rapidly out of their defensive zone as Del Zotto made a good first pass to Brayden Schenn, who in turn caught Simmonds on the tape with speed through the neutral zone. Flying up his off-wing, Simmonds unleashed a shot that beat Price high to the glove side.

Philadelphia outshot Montreal 14-11 in the opening period. This was especially impressive in light of the fact that the Flyers had to kill off a 37-second 5-on-3 penalty and subsequently killed a 4-on-3. When called upon, Emery was excellent in net. His best save of the period came against Eller on a delayed hooking penalty on Del Zotto at 11:36.

In the opening minute of the second period, the Flyers went on the power play after P.K. Subban high-sticked Brayden Schenn just 10 seconds after the opening faceoff. At the 55-second mark, Simmonds was Johnny-on-the-spot to collect a Lecavalier rebound and stash it home for his second goal of the game. Streit received the secondary assist.

Simmonds and his teammates kept right on flying through the middle stanza. On a subsequent Philadelphia power play, he twice narrowly missed completing a natural hat trick. Sean Couturier also came close to scoring twice, including hitting the goal post from the slot.

Montreal was rather fortunate to be down “just” 3-0 after two periods. Among his 24 saves in the first two periods, Price denied Raffl on a breakaway (Raffl tried to go to his backhand again), made a tough stop on Lecavalier and a pair on Couturier.

As a result of the Flyers’ collapse in the third period against Montreal, the team has now been outscored by a 7-2 margin in third periods in the three games this season. Postgame Notes and Quotes

* Berube stayed with the same line combinations he used after jumbling the starting lines midway through Thursday’s game against New Jersey. Michael Raffl skated on Claude Giroux’s line. Brayden Schenn skated on Vincent Lecavalier’s line with Wayne Simmonds on right wing. Meanwhile, R.J. Umberger started on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read. Only the fourth line unit of Zac Rinaldo and Jason Akeson flanking Pierre-Edouard Bellemare remained untouched. The defense pairings also remained unchanged.

* Asked why Brayden Schenn had been moved down in the lineup, Berube minced no words after the morning skate. In essence, Berube said the player was not skating, creating or doing enough in general to make the top line better with his presence.

* A grim-faced and tight-jawed Simmonds was asked for his overall assessment of the first three games of the season. He said the team has been playing good hockey “in spurts” but there has yet to be 60-minute effort.

* Simmonds said his team “completely stopped playing” in the the third period on this night. He was then asked about the Flyers mental state devolved in the third period. The assistant captain responded, ” Well, first we were thinking, ‘Okay its one goal’, then the second goal happened. You get angry. As a team that’s when you start getting mad, even after the first goal I think you start there. You stop it right away but we continued to turn the puck over. It didn’t help us any.”

* As a followup question, Simmonds was asked if enough of his teammates “got angry” after the Habs started to get back into the game and got the momentum rolling. He said, “I guess not. We didn’t pull out of it.”

* Berube said, more than anything else, the team needed a bit of offensive zone possession time in the third period to regain its equilibrium and confidence. It never happened.

“It’s not baffling,” said Berube. “It’s a mental thing. I think that we went through it last year at times, at the start of the season, the same kind of thing. Where we had leads, third period; might have been four or five of them the start of last season, where we had leads at the start of the third period and lost them.”

************** FARM REPORT: PHANTOMS DOWN WILKES BARRE/SCRANTON

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms kicked off their 2014-15 regular season with a 5-2 road win against the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday night. A pair of power play goals by Chris VandeVelde led the way for Terry Murray’s club, while defenseman Mark Alt and forwards Brandon Alderson and Nick Cousins (power play) also tallied goals for Lehigh Valley.

Rob Zepp was strong in net for the Phantoms in his regular season debut for the club. The veteran netminder turned back 21 of 23 shots. The two Penguins goals came late in periods, with Bryan Rust scoring a buzzer beater at the end of the second period and Conor Sheary scoring a meaningless goal in the final minute of the third period to cut Wilkes Barre/Scranton’s final margin of defeat to three goals.

Rookie Phantoms defenseman Robert Hägg and second-season forward Petr Straka each earned assists on the first and third goals for Lehigh Valley. Overall, Hägg was a plus-one with three shots on goal. Shayne Gostisbehere was held off the scoreboard and did not register a shot in the game.

Darroll Powe had the Phantoms’ first fight of the regular season, dropping the gloves with Bobby Farnham with the game scoreless midway through the first period. Zack Stortini later had his first regular season fight as a Phantom. Both Powe and Stortini were credited with an assist apiece in the game. Phantoms rookies Scott Laughton (one shot on goal) and Taylor Leier (no shots) were held off the scoresheet in the game.

The game was scoreless until there was 1:10 remaining in the first period. With Lehigh Valley on the power play, VandeVelde was the first to a loose puck in the slot and beat Jeff Zatkoff (15 saves on 20 shots) to forge a 1-0 lead.

The Phantoms’ lead grew to 3-0 with a pair of closely spaced goals in the first half of the second period. At 7:50, Alderson intercepted a clearing attempt in the offensive zone and ripped home a shot high to the blocker side for an unassisted goal. Dating back to the end of last season, Alderson has scored seven goals in his last nine AHL regular season games.

Just 81 seconds later, a deflected pass by Cousins intended for Stortini made its way instead to a pinching Alt just above the right circle. The defenseman skated the puck in a stride and then ripped a slapshot past Zatkoff to make it a 3-0 game at 9:11. The Penguins called timeout.

The Phantoms nearly took their three-goal cushion to the second intermission. Rust scored a goal at the horn which, after video review, was determined to have crossed the goal line with 0.1 second remaining on the clock.

Lehigh Valley nursed its two-goal lead through most of the third period, killing off a Kevin Goumas slashing penalty mid-period to preserve the 3-1 advantage. When Rust went off for slashing at 16:39, the Phantoms put the game away on the ensuing power play.

At the 17:06 mark, Cousins followed up on his own rebound, going upstairs to beat Zatkoff on the second-chance opportunity. Brandon Manning and Stortini (who was playing net-front forward on the man advantage) received the assists.

The lead grew to 5-1 as the frustrated Penguins continued to take penalties late in the game. VandeVelde notched his second power play of the game, stashing home an Alderson rebound at 18:06. Powe earned the secondary assist. The Penguins made it a 5-2 final with Shear’s goal with 58 ticks left on the clock.

Next up for the Phantoms is a home-and-home set with the Adirondack Flames. On Friday, the teams will play in the first regular season game at the brand new PPL Center in Allentown, PA. The next night, the scene shifts to the Phantoms’ former stomping grounds of Glens Falls, NY.

*********** QUICK HITS: OCTOBER 12

* ECHL: The Reading Royals captured a 4-1 exhibition game win over the Elmira Jackals, powered by two goals by Sean Wiles. Royals goaltender Connor Knapp turned back 17 of 18 shots. Rookie forward Matt Hatch earned an assist for Reading.

* With 2011 Flyers fourth-round pick Marcel Noebels’ refusal to report to Reading and subsequent waiver and unconditional release from his NHL entry-level contract, a roster spot was opened on the Royals. The team signed former Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) winger Dmitry Antipin to a tryout deal a few days after releasing him from a tryout contract due to overcrowding on the roster. Before starting his pro hockey career late last season, Antipin billeted with the family of HockeyBuzz blogger Paul Stewart; a longtime NHL referee and former NHL player.

* Flyers Alumni birthdays: Two-stint enforcer Dave Brown, now the Flyers’ head of pro scouting, turns 52 today. Defenseman J.J. Daigneault, best known as the player who scored the game-winning goal in Game Six of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals, celebrates his 49th birthday. Forward Randy Robitaille, who briefly played with the club during the 2006-07 season (five goals, 17 points in 28 games) before being traded to the Islanders for Mike York, turns 39.

* Today in Flyers History: On Oct. 11, 2001, Mark Recchi notched a hat trick to power the Flyers past the Calgary Flames by a 5-4 count despite a four-goal outburst by the Flames in the second period. Roman Cechmanek (21 saves on 25 shots) outlasted countryman Roman Turek (29 saves on 34 shots) in goal.

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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