The Philadelphia Flyers followed an all-too-familiar path on Monday night. They played well and battled back twice to tie the game, but a late goal by the Vegas Golden Knights cost them the opportunity to grab at least a point after a hard-fought game.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ tough loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Can’t close out the 3rd
The Flyers went back and forth with the Golden Knights all game long, and they had the better play throughout some stretches, but they couldn’t close things out in the third period to at least get a point. The little things piled up for the Flyers yet again, and old habit that they need to get rid of.
Turnovers in the defensive zone and failed attempts to clear the zone haunted the Flyers against the Knights. They got away with a handful of them throughout the game, but it was one too many as Vegas finally made them pay late in the third period.
A shift after Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux got away with turnovers in their own zone, the third line wouldn’t be so lucky. Valtteri Filppula failed to clear the zone after taking possession of the puck in the corner. He tried to bank it off the glass and out, but Vegas kept it in the zone and went back in on the forecheck.
The failed clear turned into a hardworking shift for Vegas, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare won a battle to give his team the eventual game-winner. Bellemare beat Simmonds along the halfboards, chipped the puck down to the corner past Filppula and Gudas, allowing Cody Eakin to get the puck in front to Ryan Carpenter who was all alone for the goal. Simmonds had failed to follow Carpenter as he crept towards the slot, and MacDonald didn’t do anything to stop the centering pass, but rather essentially provided a screen for Carpenter on the goal.
It was a shift to forget for the third line as a group, which is unfortunate given their performance in the game prior to that late goal. Every shift and every battle matters. The Flyers can’t let up at any time, but especially in the third period, as we head down the home stretch and into the playoffs.
Special teams play regresses
Both of the Flyers special teams units regressed back towards the mean on Monday night. The power play got on the board again in a one-for-four night, while the penalty kill allowed two goals on two opportunities against after a 13-for-16 stretch.
The Flyers were the better team overall during 5v5 play, but goaltending and more importantly special teams were the difference. Vegas took full advantage of their opportunities and the Flyers were only able to strike once. It was a timely goal, coming in the third period to tie the game back up 66 seconds after Vegas took a 2-1 lead, but it was still just one goal.
The good news for the top power-play unit is that one of their key cogs got off the schneid. Simmonds took a great pass from Jake Voracek at the side of the net and roofed a perfectly-placed shot over Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Flyers have only scored power-play goals in six of their last 15 games, and have gone a month without scoring two power-play goals in a game. They have the firepower to get it done, and they need to get back on track to help the Flyers in the home stretch.
Patrick survives a scare
It was almost more than just a game that the Flyers lost on Monday night. Star rookie Nolan Patrick survived a scare after he took a hit up high early in the second period.
Patrick was skating with his head down in the offensive zone when he ran into Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. He went down onto the ice for a bit, forcing the referees to stop play.
He skated off the ice under his own power with the trainer, and eventually went into the locker room to presumably undergo concussion protocol.
It was a scary Moment for Patrick, who suffered an “upper-body injury” earlier in the season that hampered his development a bit. Luckily, however, he returned to the ice just a few minutes later and didn’t look worse for wear.
Patrick is still learning in the NHL and he’s going to need to learn quickly about avoiding hits like that. He’ll have a full offseason ahead of him to put some muscle on as well, which will certainly help.
Patrick played 13:07 in total for the Flyers: 4:29 in the 1st, 3:41 in the 2nd, and 4:57 in the 3rd.
Strong forecheck creates chances, goals
Vegas scored the game-winning goal after a good forecheck and cycle, but they weren’t the only ones generating chances off of strong play in the offensive zone. The Flyers had several shifts extended in the offensive zone by good plays either on the forecheck, along the boards, or near the blue line to keep the puck in the zone. One of those plays resulted in a goal.
Michael Raffl and the third line had a great shift to start the second period, and the top line followed it up with one of their own.
The Golden Knights held the puck in their own zone as both teams went off for a change after that shift by the third line. Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny quickly converged on the defenseman trying to clear the zone and they kept it in. Konecny batted down the pass with a great play, then Couturier made a one-handed pass to Claude Giroux, who had joined the play down the middle. The Captain took the pass, drifted towards the left side of the ice, and sniped a shot over Fleury’s glove to tie the game at one.
Creating something out of nothing becomes increasingly difficult and increasingly important as the season winds down. The top line was able to do it early in the second period against the Golden Knights.
Flyers’ playoff cushion shrinking
The Flyers still hold the third spot in the Metropolitan Divison despite their five-game losing streak and now six losses in seven games, but things are starting to get a bit iffy. It would still take a pretty bad collapse to lose a playoff spot, but the Flyers are in a position where they need to start getting wins fast if they want to secure their spot in the Metro.
With the Flyers’ loss on Monday night and Columbus’ win, they are now just two points ahead of the Blue Jackets, who hold the first Wild Card spot. Both teams now have two days off before their matchup on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Moreover, the Flyers only hold a three-point lead on the Devils, who will make up their game in hand on Wednesday night in Vegas.
The Flyers are six points ahead of the Florida Panthers, who are the only current non-playoff team with a real chance to make it. However, Florida has three games in hand on the Flyers and Blue Jackets, and two games in hand on the Devils.
Luckily for the Flyers, they have a bit of an easier schedule than the teams chasing them. There’s a big matchup on Thursday night against Columbus, and then a back-to-back against Carolina and Washington before two weekday games against Detroit and the Rangers. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have the Flyers, Senators, Bruins, Rangers, and Panthers as their next five games; and the Devils go out west against Vegas, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, and then Pittsburgh.
It’s easy sometimes to think of the worst case scenario, but the Flyers are still a long ways away from that. Their overall play is getting better, especially against tough opponents, and it’ll come together for them soon.
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