Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Tampa Not Too Tired to Stifle Flyers, 3-1; Forsberg

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Tampa Not Too Tired To Stifle Flyers, 3-1

The Philadelphia Flyers did not play terribly against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 3-1 loss at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. However, they simply did not generate nearly enough speed through the neutral zone, get enough shots in quantity or quality or win enough 50-50 puck battles to win a tight-checking game.

The Bolts, playing for the third time in four nights on the road, did not do anything fancy. They defended well, taking away time and space and were opportunistic offensively. When Tampa had a chance to clear the puck from the zone, they did not need many second chances. They made the first pass well and were just opportunistic enough offensively to win.

Rookie Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy earned his first NHL win and did not get tested often in stopping 23 of 24 shots. Many of the potentially better chances got blocked down — the Bolts blocked 16 shots to just seven for the Flyers — or missed the net. Tampa also did an especially good job of checking Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux at 5-on-5.

Steve Mason did not play poorly at all for the Flyers. He did get a little lucky early in the first period on a couple of near-miss chances for Tampa. However, Mason had little to no chance on either Tampa goal, and made several clutch saves to keep the Flyers close.

Wayne Simmonds scored a late first period power play goal for the lone Flyers’ tally. Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead to the first intermission only to lose the lead and the momentum as Tampa scored twice in the first 6:38 of the second stanza.

Steven Stamkos scored a sniper’s goal at 1:50 of the second period to knot the score. At 6:34, shortly after the expiration of a Brayden Schenn penalty, Tyler Johnson scored off a favorable puck bounce off teammate Ryan Callahan. The bigger issue was that the Flyers could not get the puck out of their zone late in the penalty kill. Valtteri Filppula sealed the win with a late third period empty net goal.

Philadelphia went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill but several of the penalties were ill-timed ones and one ended up in the net 10 seconds after the 5-on-4 kill expired. The Flyers went 1-for-3 on the power play.

With the loss, the Flyers have now lost six in a row and eight of their last nine against Tampa. All of the losses have come in regulation. FIRST PERIOD

The Lightning had two near-miss chances near the Flyers’ net and a hit goal post off a Nicklas Grosmann turnover in the first seven minutes, although the Flyers outshot the Bolts, 3-1, over that span.

With 10:27 remaining in the period, Luke Schenn picked up a roughing minor well away from the puck in front of the Philadelphia net. It was a rather marginal call. The Lightning generated a lot of offensive zone time during the advantage but no shots. Philly did a good job of getting sticks in the passing lanes.

With about 7:20 left in the period, Nick Schultz stopped a surefire goal for Jonathan Drouin from near the goal line with one of the most spectacular and well-timed blocks of the season.

Simmonds received a tripping penalty off a center ice faceoff at 13:17. Tampa moved to the power play for the second time in the period. Mason made a great glove save on Hedman from point-blank range in the final four seconds of the penalty.

After a pair of Flyers turnovers on the same shift, Mason picked Tyler Johnson cleanly with the glove and held on for a stoppage with 3:15 left in the period. Johnson’s shot tied the SOG tally for the period at 7-7.

The Flyers earned their first power play of the game at 19:03 as Brenden Morrow hooked down Schultz. Philly made quick work of the advantage to take a 1-0 lead.

Claude Giroux and Mark Streit jockeyed the puck from the left circle to center point. Streit blasted a shot as Simmonds deflected the puck home from in front of the net.

The goal was Simmonds’ 14th of the season and eighth on the power play,as well his sixth goal in the last six games. Streit picked up his 15th assist of the season, while Giroux got his 27th.

Shots in the first period were 10-7 in the Flyers’ favor. SECOND PERIOD

It didn’t take Tampa long to tie the game at 1-1, scoring on their first shot of the period.

Drouin left a drop pass for Stamkos, who sniped his 18th goal of the season, beating Mason high to the blocker side at 1:40. Drouin’s primary assist was his 11th of the season. Ryan Callahan got the secondary helper for his 13th assist of the season.

Brayden Schenn received a neutral zone tripping penalty at 4:27. Philadelphia barely survived the latter portion of the penalty but gave up a goal 10 second after its expiration as Tampa took a 2-1 lead.

At 6:37, Tyler Johnson swept a loose puck home from the slot for his 10th of the season. Nikita Kucherov (17th assist) and Ryan Callahan (second of the game, 15th of the season) got the assists. Kucherov put the puck toward the net and it bounced off Callahan directly to the eventual goal scorer.

Shortly thereafter, Mason was forced to make an extremely difficult save on Anton Strålman from the doorstep to keep the deficit at one goal.

The Flyers generated only one shot on goal through the first half of the second stanza but earned a power play at 10:43. Valterri Filppula went to the box for hooking in the defensive zone.

With 6:05 left in the period, Drouin got a boarding minor for pushing Zac Rinaldo from behind as they battled along the right side boards. The Flyers nearly got a carbon copy of their first goal but this time, a Simmonds deflection of a Streit shot did not find the mark.

Stifling defense by Hedman shut down a scoring chance for Scott Laughton with 1:12 left in the period. The sequence started with a rare Tampa turnover, and Simmonds found an open Laughton.

Shots in the second period were seven for Tampa (14 through two periods) and six for the Flyers (16 through two periods). THIRD PERIOD

The Flyers generated some attack zone time but there was only one shot (Philly’s) through the first 4:08 of the period. After a prolonged shift in their own zone, Tampa took timeout following an icing.

The Lightning played a 1-2-2 protecting the lead. Laughton stickhandled around Mark Barberio and was denied in close by Vasilevskiy about five minutes into the period.

Schultz got a hooking penalty at the defensive blueline at 7:06. The whistle blew dead a potential Flyers’ counterattack. The Flyers did a solid job on the ensuing penalty kill but lost two minutes off the clock in pushing for a comeback.

With 10:31 left in the third period, Johnson sped past Streit and was denied by Mason on a backhander. The shot was just Tampa’s second of the period.

The Flyers had a couple cracks in front off a Giroux rebound with 6:25 left but could not stash the puck home with Michael Raffl in front.

Braydon Coburn appeared to tweak a knee or otherwise injure his lower body with about four minutes left in the game. He went off gingerly and was doubled over the bench for awhile. With 3:28 left, Mason fought off a point shot through traffic to keep the deficit at one goal. It was his 20th save of the game.

Tampa took an icing with 2:24 left. The Flyers brought out the Giroux line, plus Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Streit, with Mason pulled.

Philly pressed the attack but could got not generate a shot. Eventually, Tampa broke out and Filppula put the game away with an empty net goal (sixth tally of the season). Cedric Paquette, who fed the puck to the goal-scorer got his second assist of the season. Johnson got the secondary assist for his 23rd helper of the season.

Shots on goal in the third period were nine for Tampa (game total of 23), eight for the Flyers (game total of 24). NOTES AND QUOTES

* The Flyers will hold an 11:30 a.m. practice tomorrow at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. They host the Florida Panthers on Thursday in the final match of the four-game homestand.

* The Flyers won 65 percent of the faceoffs in the first period, but Tampa took control in the faceoff department — an important factor in a game where the Flyers had trouble generating enough time with the puck — over the rest of the game. Tampa ended up winning 52 percent (29 for 56) for the game. Claude Giroux ended up 13-for-22 (59 percent) to lead the Flyers.

* Giroux’s assist on Simmonds’ goal gave the Flyers captain a six-game point streak (one goal, seven assists, eight points). Simmonds has scored goals in three straight games, and six in his last six.

* Giroux on the team’s performance in this game: “There were times when we took control of the game. We played the games just like the games we just played. And I think we need to look at some tape and see what we’re doing wrong. I think there’s a lot of positive here.”

* Steve Mason’s assessment of the Flyers’ performance: “We should have taken advantage of a tired team. I don’t think we did a great job at that. I think overall there wasn’t a whole lot of scoring chances both sides. There was a lot of good defensive play on our part. But at the end of the day I think we missed an opportunity to take advantage of a tired hockey team over there and I don’t think we generated enough to win.”

* Nick Schultz’s assessment of the Flyers’ performance in the game: “It was alright. I think we were sloppy at times; we didn’t have the urgency we needed in our game at certain times. I think we had an opportunity to win this game. Obviously they came in on a back to back night and we had been sitting for a couple of days, I think we needed a little more energy and a little more desperation in our game that we didn’t have at certain times. I think we had some quality chances where we could have scored and gained momentum but we gave them an opportunity to get a couple and we just couldn’t fight back.”

* Mark Streit on the Flyers’ mediocre breakouts: “I think that is one thing we need to do better. We had way too many turnovers in the neutral zone but it was all over the ice. We didn’t get too many clean breakouts, they’re a hardworking team, they skate hard, and you have to match it. There was a little sloppiness here and there and we were in trouble so we can’t be happy about the effort in the way we played tonight.”

* Streit on the need to fare better in a tight-checking game: “They played a good game. That was the game plan to come out and play them hard and have a high pace right away and we didn’t do that. On the other hand they had a pretty good start and it’s just not what we wanted and we can’t be happy about the effort in the way we played tonight.”

* Mason on Tampa’s first goal: “Our D kind of got crossed up. I believe it was Drouin who dropped it to [Stamkos]. He’s one of the game’s best goal scorers. He’s got a great shot and he beat me on it pretty good.”

* Craig Berube on the Flyers’ troubles against Tampa: ” I think that you can look back at a lot of teams. We had a problem with Detroit for years, San Jose. Tampa is a different type of team now than two or three years ago. We had trouble with them then. It has nothing to do with their personality or their coaches or how they coach because there’s been different coaches. They’re a good hockey team right now.”

******* PETER FORSBERG TRANSCRIPT

The Flyers honored Peter Forsberg’s recent induction into the Hockey Hall Fame with a brief ceremony before the game. There was a tribute video on the Wells Fargo Center’s Arenavision screen, Forsberg came out and waved to the crowd and then dropped the ceremonial opening faceoff.

After the first period, Forsberg had a media availability session that lasted the duration of the first intermission. He talked about his time in Philadelphia and his chemistry with linemate Simon Gagne, the foot problems that curtailed his career, looked back at the 1991 Draft and his surprise selection with the sixth overall pick (most forecasts had him projected as a second-round or end-of-first-round selection) and his career overall.

In assessing his days with the Flyers, Forsberg talked about how things got off to such a good start — he set a franchise record with 39 points in his first 21 games, while Gagne had 21 goals in that span — but then got derailed.

Forsberg extended his best wishes to longtime friend and former linemate Gagne, whose father is gravely ill with an incurable form of cancer. At the end, “Foppa”, who is now the father of two young children, said that fatherhood is keeping him busy but he loves this new chapter of his life.

A portion of the media availability transcript follows. Q: What are some of your favorite memories from here?

A: “Well when I got here, it was a special feeling because I got drafted by the Flyers back in the day. And I knew how they wanted guys to play, you know with Clarkie and everybody, and a little physical. And I thought my play would fit here. So when I got here, it was a perfect start. We played very well. I got to play with Knuble and Gagne. Clicked right off the bat. I think we were leading the league until Christmas and that time was fantastic playing here I have to say. Then we kind of went down.

“Primeau got hurt. I struggled a bit. And a few other guys got hurt. But in the beginning it was fantastic to be here. Crowds were into it. And I enjoyed that the people here, the fans, enjoyed physical play and winning games. So it was a fun time.” Q: How bad were the injuries and how much did they affect you?

A: “Well it started really good. Like I said, me and Gagne and that line started really well and we played so well. And it just got worse and worse. And after the first year, I had a big surgery. They actually cut the whole heel off and moved it over. It didn’t really help. And there were a lot of things going on.

” I felt I was struggling a lot but on the other hand I looked at the points and it wasn’t that bad. It was like 115 points in 100 games. But on the other hand, I felt like I could have done so much better. So it was a little struggle coming here. And the second year was hard. The team didn’t win and it was hard coming to the games. But I had a good time here.

“It’s an organization that wanted to win and that’s why it was so hard to play here because we didn’t win. And the fans here wanted it and expected the team to win. So it was a tough time the second year. But like I said for the first part when we were winning, it was one of the best times as a hockey player. The fans enjoy it when you’re winning.” Q: Have you ever thought what it would have been like if you weren’t traded from the Flyers and you played your career here?

A: “I don’t think about it. Well, when I played I didn’t think too much about it. But I have to say, Mr. Snider, he wants to win. And I think it could have been a good run too. But I ended up in a good organization that had unbelievable players coming by. And I got to play on a winning team there too. So I can’t complain. But I did watch the Flyers my whole career. And I know they were in the Final the one time there. They were close a few times. But I didn’t think about it too much. Now when I get older I think about it a little more. But not when I played.” Q: Do you think you would’ve won two Cups if you were here during that time?

A: “I don’t know. I have no clue. Maybe. It’s hard to say. Here, they always wanted to win. I think they gave the team a chance to win every single year. It’s hard for me to say if they would’ve won with me or not. I cannot answer that right now. I would like to say yes.” Q: During those few weeks when the Flyers didn’t know if they were getting Lindros or not, were you following that from Sweden?

A: “No. It was the middle of the summer. I didn’t follow that back home. When I read about it afterwards, it was real close. There was a trade between I think the Rangers or Philly. And they ended up coming here to Philadelphia. And I was part of that group. I don’t know how big of a part I was back then. I don’t know.

“For the Quebec and Colorado Avalanche organization it worked out pretty good. They were a team that was bad for a long time. And then they had a couple of first rounders with Sundin and Nolan. And they got to do that trade and brought in a lot of good players. It turned that organization around and got the money to keep the players down there in Denver too. So it worked out for that. But both teams were good for a few years there. They were close here, and fortunately we were happy and lucky to win a couple down in Colorado.” Q: When the Flyers drafted you [in the first round], it was a surprise they took you that high. Did you get a chance to talk to certain guys about that draft?

A: “Well, I talked a lot to my agent [the late Don Baizley] afterwards. And like you said, I was going in the beginning of the second round or the end of the first round. And I remember someone came to me and said Philly is trying to trade down, because they wanted to draft me 14th or 15th. They didn’t think I was going to go that high. But then there were rumors that maybe Hartford was going to take me at number 11. So I didn’t think they wanted to take a chance, so they picked me at number six.

“I guess Inge [Hammarstrom] had a lot to do with that. I was totally shocked. I was a small kid. I didn’t expect to get drafted high. But I came here. We flew right to Philly and I was here. To be honest ‘92 there in the world championship, we were negotiating with the Flyers to come over, but I thought it was too early. So I stayed home a couple of more years. Then they traded me in ‘93.

“Maybe if I would have signed in ‘92, I would’ve been here most of my career. I think it would have worked out both places for me. This is an organization that spent a lot of money and wanted to win. And I ended up in a place too that had a good team for a long time.” Q: What does it mean to you to be honored by the Flyers tonight?

A: “It means a lot to me actually. Because it feels like every time, I struggled… in my mind, I was kind of struggling. But on the other hand I was happy that they put the numbers on the screen and a couple of hits there. It was not only bad games. Like I said, we had a really good start and I got to play with some good players.

“Unfortunately, it was not maybe only my fault I was hurt but Primeau went down I think and Rathje got hurt. And they changed the rules a little bit that year too. So a few things that were not only my fault, but it was hard here coming the second year when we didn’t win a lot of games.

“It was hard to come and I know the fans here expect you to win. And it’s hard to play when you’re not doing as well as you wanted. And me struggling, I missed a few games. I think I missed 16 games the second year, too.

“When I got traded, I told Mr. Snider [I would go to Nashville], but I had no problem coming back if the foot would’ve worked out. But unfortunately it never worked out again. So I never got the chance to come back.” Q: How come you didn’t want to sign another contract here?

A: “I just didn’t think I was healthy. Otherwise I would’ve stayed. Absolutely. But it was just a struggle for me the second year. Like I said we did the surgery and I wanted to make sure the foot was fine before I signed another deal. But it never turned out. After the first year we talked. But I wanted to see if the foot was fine.

“Then I started playing and it didn’t really work out as good as I wanted. I could get around. It was not that bad. But I wanted to get better before I signed a new deal. And it didn’t. And I went home and had another surgery and another surgery. Then I came back for, I think, 13 games in Colorado. But it never really worked out again unfortunately.

But this was a good place to play. Like I said, this is a place that wants to win hockey games and they enjoy physical play with winning games. So I thought I was a perfect place for me to play when I signed here in [2005].”

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