Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Four Goals Just Enough, Luke Schenn, Ghost Injuries

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FOUR GOALS JUST ENOUGH FOR FLYERS, POWER PLAY SPURS 4-3 WIN

Things got too close for comfort in the third period but the Philadelphia Flyers hung on to prevail in regulation by a 4-3 score over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers built a 4-0 lead through two periods and then watched the lead steadily dwindle to one before surviving a late game penalty kill and a wild finish in the waning seconds.

Special teams proved to be the difference in this game. Power play goals by Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds during a five-minute power play late in the first period and early in the second staked the Flyers to a 2-0 lead. Giroux subsequently added a 5-on-3 power play goal to build a 4-0 edge after Brayden Schenn notched the team’s lone even strength tally midway through the game.

All totaled, the Flyers went 3-for-6 on the power play. The team went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.

While Philly’s special teams in road games have been nothing too special (10 percent power play, 60 percent penalty kill), they are a robust 31 percent on the power play and 96 percent on the PK at the Wells Fargo Center.

Steve Mason let in one somewhat leaky goal (on a 2-on-1) in this game but was otherwise outstanding in turning back 36 of 39 shots. He was especially good once the lead shrunk to 4-3 but made his share of excellent saves throughout the game. Reto Berra stopped 23 of 27 shots at the other end of the ice.

The match was scoreless through nearly the entire first period as the Flyers outshot Colorado 11-9. The game’s flash point occurred at 19:07 of the period when Luke Schenn got pushed from behind by Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon near the right side of the icing line.

MacKinnon, who does not have the reputation of a dirty player and was not trying to injure Schenn, nevertheless made a bad decision. He was staring at the numbers on Schenn’s back the whole time — it wasn’t like Schenn turned at the last second — and the positioning on the ice was in a dangerous spot. It wasn’t a forceful hit by any means, but a little bump can be all it takes.

Schenn, whose skate gave out as he tried to stop his momentum, injured his left shoulder as he crashed into the lower portion of the end boards. He did not return to the game. The Flyers did not issue an update on his condition as of this writing. MacKinnon did not receive a game misconduct but got a five minute major.

On the ensuing power play, the Flyers struck twice. With under four seconds remaining in the first period, Giroux sniped a beauty into the long side top corner through a screen by Wayne Simmonds. On the play, Colorado defenseman Jan Hejda was unsure if Giroux was going to shoot or pass to Brayden Schenn. As Hejda glanced in Schenn’s direction, Giroux used the space to skate into shooting position in the left circle. The resulting shot was a superstar’s goal that Berra had no prayer of stopping.

Simmonds and Jakub Voracek earned assists on the goal. Voracek, who has at least one point in 13 of 14 games this season, extended his current point streak to eight consecutive games.

As the second period began, the Flyers resumed their power play with 3:53 remaining on the MacKinnon major. At the 2:48 mark of the period, Simmonds stepped out in front of the net and slid the puck through Berra’s pads to make it a 2-0 game.

Giroux and Voracek got the assists on the goal. Voracek now has seven multi-point games on the season, while Giroux has six multi-point efforts.

Throughout the first 30 minutes of the game, the Sean Couturier line with Matt Read and Brayden Schenn was arguably the Flyers best line at even strength. They buzzed on the forecheck in numerous shifts in both the first and second periods, and have been doing so with regularity the last three games. The hard work finally paid off at 11:24 mark.

Schenn, who has points in six of the last seven games (three goals, four assists) and points in three games in a row, had a scoring chance from the slot but missed the net. The Flyers regained the puck and continued to attack. Berra stopped Read near the right post but Read regained the puck behind the net and centered it out to Schenn. With Berra out of position, Schenn got enough of the puck to knock it the net. Nick Schultz got the secondary assist.

Trailing 3-0 with 5:54 remaining in the second period, Avalanche winger Jarome Iginla tried to fire up his team by dropping the gloves with Brayden Schenn. Iginla got the better of the tussle and Schenn was left shaking his hand in the penalty box (but would remain in the game).

For the next few minutes, the Avalanche got very undisciplined and would pay the price. Zac Rinaldo mixed it up with a few Colorado players — hollering at MacKinnon — and eventually drew a roughing penalty on Cody McLeod at 14:40. At 15:05, former Phantoms and Flyers defenseman Nat Guenin received a high sticking minor for accidentally clipping Vincent Lecavalier behind the Colorado net.

On the ensuing 5-on-3, all three Colorado penalty killers had their eyes on Lecavalier as he got the puck at the top of the right circle. That enabled Giroux to skate untouched to the left post. The Flyers captain had a slam dunk after a perfect feed from Lecavalier. Voracek earned his third secondary helper of the game as the Flyers built a 4-0 lead.

The Flyers ended up with a 10-9 shot advantage in the second period. Things seemed well in hand with a 4-0 lead. However, in somewhat similar fashion the Flyers’ blown 3-0 third period lead in a shootout loss to Montreal in the third game of the regular season, the Flyers stopped skating and attacking in the third period. This time they got away with it, but barely.

Simmonds, angry with Colorado’s Dennis Everberg, received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty upon the expiration of the second period. The Flyers survived the two-minute kill to start the period but things were about to get very hairy.

Twenty-nine seconds after the kill, Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann attempted a weak pass from behind the goal line, which got picked off by ex-Flyers forward Max Talbot in the right circle. Talbot snapped a quick shot passed Mason at the 2:29 mark for an unassisted goal to make the score 4-1.

The lead was reduced to two goals at 6:46. On a two-on-one rush, veteran Alex Tanguay received a pass from Tyson Barrie. Mason was still moving and not fully squared to the shot, which got under his glove hand and went into the net. Everberg, who chipped the puck past Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the neutral zone to set up the two-on-one, got the secondary assist.

The Avs had a chance to close within one goal when Braydon Coburn received a stick holding penalty on John Mitchell at the 8:53 mark. On the ensuing successful kill, Rinaldo made a nice play at the defensive blueline and sped off on a breakaway against Berra. The goaltender made the save.

At 11:38, Colorado moved back within one goal. Talbot knocked R.J. Umberger off the puck along the left side board and then fed the puck to veteran Alex Tanguay between the circles. Tanguay fired off a snap shot that beat Mason to make it a 4-3 game. McLeod got the secondary assist.

Mason was under siege the rest of the game, even after Flyers coach Craig Berube called timeout. The Flyers goaltender had to make several outstanding saves to protect the narrow lead. With 2:49 left in the third period, Coburn was called for holding Tanguay. Roy pulled Berra to create a 6-on-4 power play.

Mason and the penalty killers stepped up to get the team through the two minutes. However, the Avalanche kept on attacking. With time ticking down to the end of the game, Grossmann blocked one final shot attempt to protect the win.

Shots in the third period were 21-6 in Colorado’s favor. The Avalanche finished the game with a 39-27 shot advantage.

The Flyers, who have the next five nights off, will hold practice tomorrow at noon in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. The practice is free and open to the public — as any normal practice is at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ — but is a ticketed event unlike Skate Zone sessions. NOTES AND QUOTES

* The last time the Flyers recorded three power play goals was on December 28, 2013 at Edmonton, in a 4-3 shootout win. The last time they did it at home was February 23, 2013 in a 5-3 win over Winnipeg.

* Giroux’s three-point game was the 29th of his NHL career.

* Winners of three in a row, the Flyers now have a 5-1-2 record on home ice this season.

* Colorado forward Nathan MacKinnon on his boarding major: “It was a dumb play by me. I was just trying to turn him the other way with my hand. I definitely take responsibility for the hit; I didn’t mean to hurt him. I actually went to dinner with him and his brother last night. I feel really bad because I know he is hurt. I think they got two goals off of the [major], and obviously it sucks but like I said I didn’t mean to hurt him and I feel really bad.”

* Avalanche coach Patrick Roy on the MacKinnon penalty: “I had no problem with the call. I mean my only problem with it is the referee was very close to the play and it was the linesman that was at our own blue line that made the call

* Flyers defenseman Mark Streit on the MacKinnon penalty: ” [Schenn] was lucky he turned his head a little bit. He hurt his shoulder. It’s a pretty bad injury. Mackinnon is a young player and he has a lot to learn, I just couldn’t understand why the other team got so furious about it.”

* Streit on whether MacKinnon should have gotten a game misconduct: ““I agree one hundred percent. How many times do you go into a corner and have a forward in front of you, if you push him, he goes head first into the boards? You just don’t do it. Things happen fast out there and it’s dangerous, he goes head first and he was lucky it wasn’t worse. He hit his shoulder and I think a hit like that you should be thrown out of the game. It’s not a question.”

* Flyers head coach Craig Berube on the play: “I’m not a fan of from behind at all. Never have been, never will be. It’s a dangerous hit. The kid’s not like that. He’s not going to hit someone intentionally, but it’s a dangerous hit.”

* Berube on what he said to the team during the timeout in the third period: “Basically in the timeout, I said, ‘You’ve got to start playing. I mean it’s nothing more than that. Like I can’t sit here and draw a play for you guys to get out of it. Just play.’ When you stop playing, it’s not even that they stopped playing. It’s an attack mentality like it’s… you stop skating. That’s the biggest thing, you stop skating. Skate and work no matter what the score is. And it gets you out of trouble. It keeps you in the game.”

* Wayne Simmonds on the team jumping out to a lead in three straight games after routinely chasing games prior to the homestand: “I think it’s been really important stressing a fast start all season long but unfortunately we haven’t been able to do it. But the last 3 or 4 games we have been playing well at the beginning of the game, you get those goals quick off the start and I think your chances improve a lot to win a game.”

* Steve Mason on the finish of the game: “”They were coming, you just try to take it save by save and you hope that we can get a clear. We had some big blocks. Grossy made a huge one right with a couple seconds to go, right in the crease that was kinda off to the right then off to the center. He was down and went off his shin pad right to the corner and that killed the rest of the time. So times like that guys come up with huge plays and they don’t always get the credit but that’s what wins hockey games.”

* Berube on the play of the Couturier line with Brayden Schenn on left wing: “They’ve been very good. I think Schenner adds offense there, good with the puck, puck movement. I like the line right now.”

* Jakub Voracek on the Couturier line: “They’ve been playing great defensively and lately have been putting up some goals. So it’s huge for us and it’s really great to see them get some goals because they have been working so hard every game and finally got rewarded.”

* Streit on all the injuries this season to Flyers defensemen: “It feels like one guy gets healthy and another guy goes down. But it’s part of the game unfortunately and you hope that Schenn is going to be back soon and it’s a good thing that we have so many good defensemen that can step in and play well for us.”

* Claude Giroux on the Flyers power play: “The power play has been moving the puck well it just hasn’t been going in. We got a couple bounces and their going in. The power play is going to be up and down during the season and we have to find a way to get it back up.”

************* GOSTISBEHERE UPDATE: TORN ACL

Highly touted Flyers defense prospect Shayne Gostisbehere sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee in the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ 3-2 win over the Manchester Monarchs on Friday night. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall revealed that the player would undergo surgery on Nov. 13.

Although torn ACL are often season-ending injuries, Hextall said that he expects the player to be able to return at some point this season. Even in a six-month timeline, however, Gostisbehere would not be back until the Calder Cup playoffs.

The injury occurred in the third period of Friday’s game after Gostisbehere was on the receiving end of a check by a check by Manchester defenseman Kevin Raine as the Phantoms rookie defenseman tried to skate to the outside of Raine and went behind the net. Gostisbehere’s leg buckled as he crashed awkwardly into the boards.

The Phantoms sustained a 3-0 road loss to the Portland Pirates on Saturday night. Goaltender Rob Zepp made 37 saves in a losing cause as Lehigh Valley got outshot by a 40-27 margin. Jordan Szwarz (2nd), Henrik Samuelsson (3rd) and Lucas Lessio (5th) scored for the Pirates, while Brendan Shinnimin had a pair of assists.

ECHL callup defenseman Brett Flemming moved back into the Phantoms’ starting lineup with both Gostisbehere and Mark Alt (shoulder) out of the lineup. Brett Flemming entered the lineup in place of the injured Gostsibehere. Veteran forwad Darroll Powe served the second and final game of his two-game AHL suspension for a checking-to-the-head match penalty at the end of Wednesday’s loss to Worcester.

With the loss to Portland, the Phantoms fell to 5-5-1 on the season. The team returns to action next Friday with a road game against the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins. The following night, Lehigh Valley hosts the Toronto Marlies at the PPL Center.

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

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