Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: After Comeback Point, Flyers Fall Again in Shootout

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AFTER COMEBACK POINT, FLYERS FALL AGAIN IN SHOOTOUT

In three of their four games played to date, the Philadelphia Flyers have fallen behind and then pulled even with their opponents. In two games, they’ve recovered from multi-goal deficits. In the other game, the team took a 3-0 lead into the third period.

All the Flyers have to show for it, however, is a pair of regulation losses and two 65 minutes ties in which they lost via the postgame skills competition known as the shootout.

The unclaimed bonus point from shootouts can ultimately pinprick a team to death in the playoff race as the one-point games add up for the teams that are not good at them.

It is no secret that the Flyers have fared poorly in shootouts ever since they were introduced after the 2004-05 lockout as an artificial way to decide tied regular season games. With Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Flyers all-time record in shootouts fell to 27-53.

Philadelphia played a sloppy first period and paid the price twice for lapses in their attention to detail. Anaheim outshot the Flyers by a 15-11 margin in the opening frame and took a 2-0 lead to the locker room on goals by Tim Jackman and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Thereafter, the Flyers more or less dominated the game. Power play goals by Mark Streit (5-on-3) and Wayne Simmonds (5-on-4) in the latter half of the middle frame tied the score. With 17 seconds left in the period, the Flyers had another untimely defensive lapse that ended up in their net as Matt Beleskey put Anaheim ahead, 3-2, heading into the third period.

In the third period, it took the Flyers awhile to start working their way through Anaheim’s checking. As the Ducks’ legs continued to tire, the Flyers began to generate some chances but could not find an equalizer against Frederik Andersen (39 saves on 42 shots in regulation and overtime). Finally, Jakub Voracek capped off a spectacular individual effort by elevating a puck over Andersen on the backhand as the Czech forward swung out in front from behind the net.

The Flyers had the Ducks on the ropes for the remainder of the game. Quite frankly, the only way that Anaheim was winning this game once the Flyers tied it up in the third period was via shootout.

The Ducks were a worn down team with no gas left in the tank. That was partially because Anaheim was at the end of a four-game road trip, playing the second half of back-to-back games and for the third time in four nights. It was also because the Flyers really pressed the forecheck in the final 45 minutes, outshooting Anaheim by a 31-13 margin from the second period onward.

Getting one point out of this game “feels” a little better psychologically because the Flyers rallied back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2, rather than blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period in freefall fashion as the club did against Montreal. Nevertheless, all that matters in the end is that the Flyers are still searching for their first win of the season as they head on the road for a tough three-game trip.

Steve Mason (25 saves on 28 shots) played a generally strong game in net for the Flyers, apart from leaving out a bad rebound on the first Anaheim goal. He was called upon numerous times to make tough saves, including a spectacular save on an early-game 2-on-1.

The first Anaheim tally, scored at 12:20 of the first period was a complete breakdown by multiple Flyers. It started with Sean Couturier losing a faceoff cleanly to Nate Thompson. Mason then left out a bad rebound on Francois Beauchemin’s point shot and knocked the rebound with his goalie stick directly to goal-scorer Jackman. Meanwhile, there was no weak-side help from the other Flyers skaters on the ice.

The Ducks made it 2-0 at 16:53 of the opening period. As a Nick Schultz hooking minor was about to expire, Andrew MacDonald failed on a clearing attempt up the boards. The puck was held in by Cam Fowler. Moments later, Smith-Pelly deflected home shot by Hampus Lindholm.

In the second period, the Flyers started to take over the game but could not put a puck past Andersen. The second line trio of Simmonds — who has been a forechecking machine in the first four games of the season in addition to racking up five goals — along with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Brayden Schenn looked good in generating some offensive zone time for the team.

The Flyers got a golden opportunity to get back in the game when they got a 48-second 5-on-3 power play with 7:46 remaining in the middle period. They took advantage.

At the 12:43 mark, Claude Giroux feathered a pass over to Mark Streit between the circles. Streit, who had just been denied on a point shot that Andersen smothered and held for a stoppage, did not miss on his second chance of the power play. Streit’s one-time shot hit the right post and went into the net. Simmonds earned the secondary assist.

Philadelphia, which went 2-for-4 on the power play, could not capitalize on the remaining 5-on-4 time (the second power play unit was out on the ice for much of it). However, when they got another 5-on-4 on a Lindholm interference penalty at 15:43, the Flyers struck again on the man advantage.

As with the second Anaheim goal, the Philadelphia goal sequence started with a failed clear by the penalty killing team. The puck was kept in the offensive zone by Voracek. The rest of what unfolded was a broken play with a favorable outcome for the Flyers. Giroux flubbed a shot after getting the puck in shooting range near the hash marks. The puck trickled to Brayden Schenn, who shot quickly at the net. In the ensuing scramble and pileup near the net, Simmonds tucked in the still-loose puck to knot the game at 3-3.

It was the epitome of an ugly-but-good goal. The Flyers gladly took it.

With things looking like Philly would take the game into the second intermission tied, they suffered a costly coverage breakdown that could have been a backbreaker. Couturier and Schultz bumped into each other as Schultz was caught in no man’s land, and eventual goal-scorer Beleskey cruised right on past to finish the play at 19:43. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry received the assists.

The third period started in somewhat frustrating fashion for the Flyers. Skating on tiring legs, the Ducks were pretty much content to chip pucks in and out. It took Philly time to regain the sort of forechecking pressure and momentum they enjoyed for much of the second period. Eventually, though, the chances started to come.

With 5:20 remaining in regulation, Voracek got the puck behind the Anaheim net, swooped out in front and elevated a gorgeous backhander upstairs to re-tie the game at 3-3. Michael Del Zotto earned the lone assist.

Anaheim clung on for the rest of regulation and overtime. The Flyers outshot Anaheim 11-7 in the third period and 2-0 in overtime but could not come up with a game-winning goal.

In the shootout, the Ducks got a first-round goal by Jakob Silfverberg before Mason denied Perry and Ryan Kesler. After Voracek failed on a weak five-hole attempt in the first round, Giroux pulled out a spectacular east-west move to score on a backhander against Andersen. Third round shooter Matt Read was unable to convert, forcing Mason to deny Kesler to keep the skills competition going.

Fourth-round shooter Couturier was unable to score. Once again, Mason needed to make a save to prolong the shootout. This time, he got beaten. William Karlsson snapped home a shot to grab the bonus point for Anaheim.

The Flyers will practice for the next three days at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. On Saturday, they begin a three-game road trip with a clash against Lindy Ruff’s Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. After that, the club will play back-to-back games in Chicago next Tuesday and Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The next home game for the Flyers is an Oct. 25 meeting with the Detroit Red Wings.

*********** POSTGAME NOTES AND QUOTES

* In the second period, Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann crashed awkwardly into the end boards as he lost an edge while going in against Kesler. He got up slowly and went off with trainer Jim McCrossin but soon returned to the game.

* The Sean Couturier line featured a slightly different look in this game, as wingers Matt Read and R.J. Umberger switched sides. The change was made by Read’s request to Craig Berube, with agreement from both Umberger and the coach.

Said Berube before the game, “I have no problem with it. I like their input. I like to know what they are thinking. And I think it’s good. I think they should be able to come to me at any time with whatever they need to talk to me about.”

* In the third period of the game, Berube changed two of his defense pairings. Grossmann was placed with Andrew MacDonald on the top pairing while Nick Schultz was put with Mark Streit. Berube said the change was likely just for this game.

* Through the first four games of the regular season, the Flyers have been outscored at five-on-five by a 12-6 margin. They’ve made up the gap a bit through special teams, generating five power play goals to date while killing off all but one of their own penalties thus far (although the second Anaheim goal tonight came immediately after a Flyers penalty expired).

* The Flyers reached the fourth game of the season without a win for the first time since the 2008-09 season, when they started 0-3-1. The longest the Flyers have gone into a season without a win is six games, which has happened twice. In 1999-2000, the club started 0-5-1 before recovering to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2008-09, when they started 0-3-3.

* After the morning skate, Berube said that Braydon Coburn (lower-body injury) might resume skating as soon as tomorrow. He also said that Schultz may remain in the lineup.

* Wayne Simmonds was asked after the game what he thought of the team’s performance as the game rolled along: “I just feel like we kept it simple. We weren’t trying to be fancy. We weren’t trying to make plays in the neutral zone, we got pucks deep and guarding them down. That’s got to be a key to our success and I thought we did that in the second, third and overtime. Unfortunately we didn’t do it in the first period and that’s what killed us.”

*Mark Streit on whether the team’s comeback ability has been a positive despite the team’s 0-2-2 start: “Absolutely. It shows character in the room, we kept calm and we didn’t quit and that is a really good sign. On the other hand, we have to find a way to have a good start, have a good second period and finish strong.”

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

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