By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—Coming into Thursday night’s game, Flyers captain Claude Giroux said that a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins would be a turning a point for a Flyers team that is at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings.
For a 1-7 Flyers squad, the ability to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis would be the first step to salvage a season that appears to be going nowhere fast.
The Flyers 4-1 loss to the Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center wasn’t what Giroux was hoping for because his team, in spite of its best efforts, simply could not score more than one goal. It was yet another night of trying to make sense of a scoring slump that seems to have no end in sight.
“I think if we would have won that game, it would have been a big turning point, but it didn’t happen,” Giroux said. “We gotta lot of time to look at tapes and look at what we’re doing wrong. I think if we play 60 minutes, responsible and disciplined about our game, we’ll be fine. We’ll start winning games. It’s just a matter of time. We just need to start believing it before we start playing.”
The good news for the Flyers is that they are off for the next six days and will have some time to figure out a way out of their scoring slump.
“You’ve got to pick your head up and come to work and get ready to play,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “They’re the only guys that are going to dig us out of this hole- the guys in the locker room. They gotta start believing in each other and believe in themselves and playing hockey like they can.”
Meanwhile, Flyers goalie Steve Mason did everything he could to keep the Flyers in the game. He had 32 saves, but allowed three goals. When you’re offense is not scoring, a goalie’s best efforts are not enough.
“It’s not easy right now. We’re struggling to create offense and I’m trying to make the save I need to make and just be patient and eventually, it’ll come,” Mason said. “When you’re only scoring one goal a game, it’s tough to win hockey games. It puts pressure on us in the defensive zone and we’re going have to start creating opportunities to score.”
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Jussin Jokinen on a pass from center Eveni Malkin with 10:17 left in the period. Malkin snatched the puck away from Michael Raffl near the blue line and passed it to Jokinen, who slapped the puck past Mason for the score.
Three minutes later, Penguins forward Chris Kunitz rebounded a shot by Matt Niskanen past Mason for Pittsburgh’s second goal of the period.
In that second period, the Flyers played poorly on both offense and defense. They managed just five shots on goal in the period and just seemed lifeless.
“We were brutal,” said Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds. “We weren’t executing, weren’t getting pucks deep. We turned over pucks in the neutral zone. They’re a good transition team. We couldn’t break the puck out of our zone and they took advantage of that.”
The Flyers finally got on the board on a power play with just two seconds left in the period when Simmonds deflected a shot from Giroux into the Pittsburgh net past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (24 saves).
That goal the Penguins cut the lead to 2-1 and that’s as close as the Flyers would get because it was back to the salt mines of their never-ending scoring drought. The Flyers managed work harder and had several chances to score, but just came up short
“We score a late goal with three or four seconds left, so we had momentum going in (to the third period),” Simmonds said. “We tried to build on it … But nothing ever came of it.”
On a night when the Flyers held the Penguins to 0-for-4 on the power play, they didn’t put anything together offensively. When you don’t score, a good offensive team like Pittsburgh is going to put you away. Late in the third, a goal by Sydney Crosby and empty-net goal by Malkin sealed the Flyers fate while sending fans to the exits.