Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Flyers Finish Five-Point Homestand

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FLYERS FINISH FIVE-POINT HOMESTAND WITH A SHOOTOUT LOSS TO FLORIDA, 2-1

In a game that largely similar to Tuesday’s low-energy, low-scoring affair that ended in a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay, the Philadelphia Flyers managed to take one point from a 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers. The Flyers finished their four-game homestand with a 2-1-1 record; a bit of a disappointment after the club started out with convincing back-to-back wins over the struggling New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes.

A fluky first period goal by former Flyers forward Scottie Upshall was matched by a second period tally by Jakub Voracek. Steve Mason finished with 31 saves on 32 shots in regulation and overtime and then denied four of six shooters in the skills competition. Roberto Luongo officially denied five of six (Voracek scored) but several Flyers lost the handle on the puck and never got off a shot.

The Flyers got significantly outplayed in the first period. They were a little better in the second. The latter part of the third period and especially the overtime saw Philadelphia generate several chances. On the whole, however, Florida’s tight-checking style made life tough on the Flyers.

There were opportunities to turn defense into offense and the energy was too low at times. In several shifts early in the game, fourth liners Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (who set up Voracek’s goal) and Zac Rinaldo were the best forecheckers on the Flyers’ team. FIRST PERIOD

The Flyers had a decent amount of territorial possession in the Florida end over the first four minutes. However, shots were just one apiece for the two teams. Thereafter, the Panthers dominated most of the opening stanza.

At 5:12, Florida’s Sean Bergenheim deflected a puck into the net with his stick at helmet level. The goal was disallowed and the call was upheld after a very brief video review in Toronto.

The Flyers got away with a little bit of sloppy play over the next several shifts as the Panthers generated the games next four shots. Mason held for a stoppage at 7:54 after some scrambly play around the Philadelphia net.

Nicklas Grossmann’s left point shot hit off the skate of Dmitry Kulikov and dangerously re-directed near the net at 8:21.Luongo stayed with the puck for the save. The deflection took most of the steam off the puck, but the angle severely changed.

Florida took a 1-0 lead at 9:37. A shot from the left side boards by Tomas Kopecky rebounded first off Mason’s blocker and then off Scottie Upshall’s midsection or chest as he crashed the net. The puck ticked off the inside of the post and then into the net past Mason.

The goal, the first of the season by former Flyers forward Upshall, was reviewed in Toronto for a potential kicking motion but correctly upheld. Dylan Olsen got the secondary assist.

A right point shot by Aaron Ekblad was held by Mason at 11:06. At this point, Florida had a 10-3 shot advantage.

Nick Schultz set a pick on Upshall behind the Flyers net to give room for defense partner Braydon Coburn. Referee TJ Luxmore spotted it and Florida got the game’s first power play. With 57 seconds left in the penalty and 6:21 left in the period, Ekblad accidentally hit R.J. Umberger with a high stick to cancel out the rest of of the Florida power play.

The Flyers’ fourth line generated the team’s best shift in about 16 minutes — Zac Rinaldo was especially active — as time ticked down to about three minutes left in the period. Philly’s energy picked up a bit in the next few shifts after that.

With 36.1 seconds left, Luongo denied Schultz a wraparound attempt after the Flyers defenseman collected a long rebound on a Claude Giroux shot and skated around behind the net to try to stuff the puck inside the opposite post.

Shots in the first period ended up as 12-8 in Florida’s favor. SECOND PERIOD

Thirty six seconds into the second period there were offsetting penalties at the Flyers blueline. Braydon Coburn went off for tripping, but Jonathan Huberdeau got an embellishment penalty. During the ensuing four-on-four, Andrew MacDonald missed the net on an open scoring chance from the right circle off a setup by Giroux.

Jakub Voracek had a shift with two scoring chances; one early, one late. He was denied by Luongo from the left side on the first chance but scored from the right side about a half minute later as the Flyers tied the game at 1-1 at 4:07.

On the play, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare won a battle behind the net and centered to Voracek in the right slot. Voracek buried his 12th goal of the season. Bellemare (second assist of the season) and Nicklas Grossmann (fifth) got the assists. Luongo argued that Rinaldo was in the crease — he was — but the goal stood.

Several minutes later, the fourth line generated another very active forechecking shift, throwing their weight around. Rinaldo registered his third hit of the game with a crunching check in the right corner.

With about 10:30 remaining in the second period, Voracek broke in on a 2-on-1 with Michael Raffl. The pair narrowly missed connections on what would have taken a spectacular save by Luongo to stop if the pass was completed and Raffl got the puck on net.

Mason erased a dangerous Mark Streit turnover with a good save at the 12-minute mark and then the Flyers’ Grossmann took an icing. The Flyers won the ensuing faceoff and got the puck to safety.

As time ticked down under six minutes, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds cycled the puck effectively on a lengthy shift spent in the Florida end. There were a no shots on net but it was an excellent shift.Shortly thereafter, the Giroux line had a similar prolonged shift in Florida’s end but it ended with Giroux taking a stick slashing penalty along the side boards at 15:44.

Shots in the second were 11-9 in Florida’s favor; 23-17 for Florida through two periods. THIRD PERIOD

The Flyers took a bad icing in the opening minute of the third period. No harm resulted. Philly had a couple of turnovers inside the blueline in the early minutes as well.

Mason made a good stop on Brandon Pirri off a left circle give-and-go with Aleksander Barkov with 15:15 left on the clock. The shot was the Panthers’ 26th of the game and third of the third period.

Florida had a 2-on-1 opportunity with about 12:30 remaining but a pass across to Dave Bolland was ill-advised and Mason ended up snuffing the shot out on a sharper-angle attempt. Several minutes later, Mason made a huge save on Pirri from point-blank range as Florida generated a chance moments after Scott Laughton lost the puck to Bergenheim just inside the defensive blueline.

With 2:06 left in the third period, Mason made a left circle save and held on for a stoppage. Upshall got away with an unpenalized high stick on Brayden Schenn and an after-the-whistle scrum ensued.

As time ticked down near one minute, Voracek side-stepped a hip check attempt by Ekblad. Moments later, Mason gloved a shot from the right side perimeter for his 29th save on Florida’s 30th shot.

The Flyers took a time out with 30.3 seconds left just before a left circle defensive zone faceoff. Giroux lost the draw to Jussi Jokinen — one of just three faceoffs Giroux lost during regulation — but the Flyers were able to clear the zone.

Shots in the third period were 7-5 for Florida; 30-22 for Florida through regulation. OVERTIME

With both teams having one point in the bank, four-on-four play began with Giroux and Voracek out against Bolland and Tomas Fleischmann. The shift ended with a tough offside call on Giroux.

On the third shift of the period, Read had a good chance hitting the blueline with speed and cutting in from the left circle. Read steered the puck wide of the near side post as he was pressured one-on-one.

With 1:38 left in the period, Voracek fed Streit for an excellent scoring chancr. Luongo denied Streit’s left circle shot after he skated around the D. Luongo went on to make three more saves, including two on MacDonald.

Overtime shots were 4-2 in the Flyers’ favor; 32-26 in Florida’s favor through the end of the hockey game. The game moved to the skills competition. SHOOTOUT

Round one: Florida shooter Pirri came close to making a complete stop, then started again and beat Mason. For the Flyers, Vincent Lecavalier was denied on a backhander. FLA 1 – PHI 0

Round two: Nick Bjugstad was stuffed by Mason. Giroux lost the puck on his attempt. FLA 1 – PHI 0.

Round three: Jokinen moved left and was denied on hs forehand. Voracek kept the shootout going with an east-west move and a backhanded goal. FLA 1- PHI 1.

Round four: Huberdeau was denied on a five-hole attempt. Read lost the puck trying to go to his backhand. FLA 1 – PHI 1.

Round five: Fleischmann beat Mason but rang his shot off the post. Brayden Schenn was denied on a five-hole attempt. FLA 1 – PHI 1.

Round six: Bolland did a slow-down, speed-up move and scored low on Mason. Couturier was denied as he partially flubbed the puck and had nowhere to go. Final: FLA 2 – PHI 1. NOTES AND QUOTES

* The Flyers lost their 10th consecutive shootout, and fifth this season.

* The Flyers will hold an 11:30 a.m. practice on Friday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees before leaving for Toronto. The team will play its next eight games on the road.

* Philadelphia has only won a single 2-1 game this year; the match in LA where Steve Mason stood on his head. The team does not have 2-0 or 1-0 win yet but lost a shootout to the Islanders after a 65-minute 0-0 tie.

* Claude Giroux went 20-for-24 (83 percent) in the faceoff circle. The rest of the Flyers did not fare too well — Scott Laughton was 3-for-11, Sean Couturier was 10-for-25 — but the Flyers won 51 percent for the game on the strength of Giroux’s numbers.

* Zac Rinaldo led the Flyers with seven credited hits. Erik Gudbranson led both teams with eight.

* The Flyers attempted 51 shots. Twenty six made it on net, 15 got blocked, 10 missed the net. The Panthers attempted 62 shots. Thirty one were on net, 18 got blocked, 12 missed the net.

* Willie Mitchell blocked a half-dozen shots for Florida. Andrew MacDonald blocked four for Philly.

* Florida was only charged with two giveaways for the game, with six takeaways credited to the Flyers. Philly was charged with three giveaways, with three takeaways credited to the Panthers. These numbers did not seem even close to reflective of the actual gameplay. The Flyers had about five or so turnovers near their own blueline alone. If they weren’t giveaways or takeaways, what were they?

* Scottie Upshall generated six shots on goal — tops for either team — in 10:23 of ice time.

* Steve Mason’s assessment of the game: “First period wasn’t great. They got the lucky bounce on the [goal]. Pretty quiet game on the offensive front and obviously with the 1-1 score. The lull in the second period was big. We have to keep generating more.”

* Mason on shootouts: “We’ve got to find a way to win them. We’re not scoring enough in it. We’re not stopping enough. Tonight we had two opportunities to win it, and we couldn’t. We have to find ways to bear down in these things. That’s five shootouts we’ve lost this year. That’s five points we’ve left out there. That’s five points that could have put us in [better position to compete for] the playoffs; there’s your difference.”

* Mark Streit on whether he thought the Flyers were pressuring and executing well enough to turn defense into offense: “I don’t think so. I thought defensively we didn’t play that well. Also, you know like we didn’t bring up the puck really well, and that helps bring a great offense. And give all forwards an opportunity to get some scoring chances. So that is something we need to work on and get better.”

* Streit on the Flyers’ lowly position in the Eastern Conference standings: ““I know we are in a tough spot. We had a good stretch here, but the last two games are not what we wanted it to be. We are still searching for our game, it’s all about consistency and we haven’t been consistent at all. We had a few games where we played it well and played our kind of hockey and played well defensively. Things went well and then tonight it’s a different story.”

* Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the Flyers’ intensity level on the last few games: “That’s something we still have to work on. Last game we were not intense enough and tonight the first period was not intense enough again. So, some moments were good but all along it was not that great. Then we come into the second and the intensity is there. So we have to figure out the way to be like this all the time because when we are like this, we play good.”

* Flyers coach Craig Berube on the performance of energy-line players Bellemare and Rinaldo: “They’re good. They are physical, got us a goal. They are skating well. I was pleased at their play.”

* Berube on Vincent Lecavalier: “He was fine. I thought he had a couple of opportunities he could have skated a little more. Maybe on that 2-on-1, I felt like he delayed a little bit. A couple of times he just wasn’t sure, I think, but for me it was fine.”

* Lecavalier on how he felt in his return to the lineup: “It felt really good. We all thought we skated very well and we got a few opportunities and it was nice to be back out.”

* Lecavalier on the team’s place being near the bottom of the standings: “Yeah, but we are also near third place in our division as well so we have to look at it the other way. It’s a tight race and it was last year. That is why every point is important. Obviously losing 5 in a row in shoot outs we have to bear down on those. Every point is important for the end of the year.”

* Jakub Voracek on the team’s play in overtime vs. shootouts: “I think every overtime, so far we play dominating, I think we were dominating to be honest with you. Sometimes the puck goes in and sometimes it doesn’t. Lounge was good, he made a huge save in overtime. Shoot out is 50/50 on a paper but for us I think it’s 10 to 90.”

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