Flyers Do Everything But Score in Season-Opening Loss to Toronto

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Wayne Simmonds shot is stuffed by Toronto goalkeeper Jonathan Bernier. The Flyers had 32 shots, but scored just one goal in loss to the Maple Leafs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Wayne Simmonds shot is stuffed by Toronto goalkeeper Jonathan Bernier. The Flyers had 32 shots, but scored just one goal in loss to the Maple Leafs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—There was an old coach who once said defense with no offense is like working all day and not making any money.

In their season-opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Flyers worked their butts offs and did everything they could to put the puck into the net.  They outshot the Maple Leafs 32-25 and stayed on the attack for the most of the game. They had several chances to score, but just could not finish it off.

“When you’re up 30 shots on net, usually you get two or three goals,” said Flyers center Vincent LeCavalier. “We just couldn’t capitalize.”

But in the end, your hard work has to pay off with goals and the Flyers didn’t have enough of them as Toronto came away with a 3-1 win in front of a sellout crowd of 19,872 fans at the Wells Fargo Center.

“Offensively, that’s the best we’ve looked, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to put more goals in than one,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “Like I said there were lots of pucks, they blocked a lot of shots. I thought we missed the net a lot tonight. It seemed like we had some zone time.

“Give Toronto credit. I thought that they played hard through the second and third and they made it difficult to find better chances or better scoring areas we had to work for those spots. They played pretty good defensively tonight.”

If anything else, the effort was there for the Flyers, but the execution was flawed as they were constantly attacking Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier with shots and did not score enough goals to win. The Maple Leafs goalie had 31 saves.

Even when the Flyers had the man-advantage on the Maple Leafs, the didn’t do much with it and were just one of six on the power-play. Claude Giroux said the Flyers inability to take advantage of those power-play opportunities were a boost in momentum for the Maple Leafs.

“When you kill a penalty, you get momentum,” Giroux said. “We had our chances and it’s frustrating, but we have to stay positive. It’s one game. We have 81 more.”

The Flyers dominated the first period and spent most of the first 20 minutes attacking Bernier. The Flyers broke through for what turned out to be their only goal of the game on the power play when Brayden Schenn took a pass from LeCavalier and shot it past Bernier to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

Toronto evened the game in the second period on a goal center Phil Kessell with a little over three minutes left.

Perhaps the biggest momentum killer for the Flyers and the biggest boost for the Maple Leafs was the missed penalty shot by right winger Wayne Simmonds, who got to go one-on-one with Bernier when he was tripped on a break away by Toronto’s Paul Ranger.

Bernier stuffed Simmonds shot and that was emblematic of the Flyers first evening of the 2013-2014 season.

“I missed it. It would have been the difference in the game, I think,” Simmonds said. “When you get to a penalty shot situation, obviously it’s one-on-one, he got the better of me that time.”

Toronto would go ahead for good early in the third period on a goal by center Dave Bolland. He would add a power-play goal late in the game to close out the scoring for the Maple Leafs.

Despite giving up the last two goals of the game, goaltender Steve Mason was solid in goal with 22 saves. Laviolette said he was satisfied with his performance.

“I thought Mason was good,” Laviolette said. “He made a couple of big saves in the second period. A couple of point-blank chances that they had.”

Fading Fast: Flyers Lack of Offense is Killing Their Postseason Chances

By Chris Murray

Claude Giroux scored the only Flyers in the loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Claude Giroux scored the only Flyers in the loss to the Ottawa Senators.

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday

With season dwindling down to just eight games left in the season, the Flyers playoff chances on are on life support and are about to fade to black.

The Flyers are seven points behind the New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the NHL with three teams ahead of them. From this point forward they have no margin for error.

“I think everyone’s still going to put in a good effort right up to the end. There’s no question about that,” said Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn. “Guys still have a lot to play for, but obviously everybody’s a little bit frustrated.

“I think guys are probably squeezing the stick too tight. Obviously, we’re not scoring very many goals. I know everyone’s working and competing and we’re going to do it to the very end.”

It was another night the Flyers couldn’t get anything going offensively and the Ottawa Senators came away with a 3-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night.

“All losses are tough,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “We’re in the business of winning hockey games. Not getting that done is frustrating at this point.”

Ottawa got what turned out to be the winning score on a power-play goal by left winger Colin Greening. The Flyers were a man down because of a high-sticking double minor on Claude Giroux whose stick ended up on the face of Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad.

The Senators added an empty by Daniel Alfredsson in the last 10 seconds of the game.

Not only was it the Flyers third straight loss, it was also the third consecutive game in which they could muster no more than one goal.  In a season that has been hot and cold, it was another frustrating night of not being able to put the puck in the net.

“We got to find a way of getting more pucks to the net, more traffic and we have to be a little bit more  hungry than we are right now,” said Flyers center Claude Giroux. “We’re not getting the job done right now and so we have to figure out something there.”

For a team that was fighting for whatever faint playoff hopes it supposedly has, the Flyers didn’t come out with a sense of urgency in the first period.

Ottawa jumped on the board with a breakaway by center Zack Smith, who took a pass from Mark Methot and slid the puck past goal Ilya Brzygalov. Smith was able to have a clear shot at Brzygalov because the Flyers were in the middle of a line change and simply caught got napping.

With the exception of the two goals, Brzygalov did a good job of guarding the net for the Flyers. He had 31 saves.

But later in the period, the Flyers evened the game at 1-1 with 7:44 left on a short-handed  goal by Claude Giroux who deflected a shot by Simon Gagne past goalie Robin Lehner.

Through the first two periods, the Senators outshot the Flyers 24-14. In the second period, the Flyers had just seven shots on goal. The Flyers picked up the pace in the third period and had 13 shots on goal but couldn’t get anything past Lehner.

The Flyers are 0-for-2 on the power play. On their first opportunity at the beginning of the third period, the Flyers couldn’t get off a shot. On their second midway the period, the Flyers had five shots on goal, but came up short.

“I thought the third period was our best period,” Laviolette said. “It generated the most offense, probably played the tightest defensively that we played that period, but we didn’t get the results we were looking for.”

Holding on to Hope: Flyers Come from Behind to Upend Montreal

Wayne Simmonds scored the game-tying goal in the Flyers win over the Montreal Canadiens

Wayne Simmonds scored the game-tying goal in the Flyers win over the Montreal Canadiens.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA-With the Flyers having to climb over several teams to get the eighth and final playoff spot in the NHL’s Western Conference, every game is virtually a must win with 12 games left on the schedule.

All that basically means the Flyers, who are 13th in the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings, have no margin for error at this point in the season.

“The only thing we can control right now is our games and we have to make sure we win them,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette.

While their chances for the postseason may be slim and none, they at least have a pulse at this point.

The Flyers (16-17-3) came back from a one goal deficit late by scoring three goals in the final five minutes of the game and came away with a 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens in front of 19,882 fans at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night.

“Certainly, it’s an area that we haven’t been good at up until this point,” Laviolette. “So it’s nice to see some results in the third period, putting games away or coming back in games and getting the points and the wins that we need.”

For the first time this season, the Flyers have won three in a row and they are now four points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We got find ways to get two points every night,” said center Sean Couturier, who scored his goal in 27 games in the second period. “The past two games are an example of our character and getting those two points.”

With the game going into its final five minutes, the Flyers trailed 3-2 and seemed on their way to certain defeat. But like their overtime win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday, they exploded to score two goals in a space of a two and a half minutes late in the third period.

“We’re winning battles and making better decisions with the puck,” said center Claude Giroux, who had an assist on what turned out to be the game-winning goal. “I don’t know. We’re having more fun playing that third period. Sometimes we’re down and we want it so badly that we keep working and we get couple of bounces in.”

Right Winger Wayne Simmonds tied the game with 5:06 left when he deflected a shot by Bruno Gervais past Canadiens goalie Carey Price.

Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafson got the winning goal when he deflected in a shot by Claude Giroux, who got the assist on the play. The Flyers would add an empty net goal by right winger  Jakub Voracek.

“To have the poise and patience to do that, it’s a young player stepping up,” Laviolette said.

In the first period, the Canadiens got on the board with 6:47 left on a 42-foot slap shot by Alexei Emelin that sped past Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzygalov who was screened off from the puck by Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher.

The Flyers tied the game on a rather fortuitous goal by Couterier. The puck bounced off goal  Price’s stick and then caromed off the skate P.K. Subban into the Canadiens’ net.

Later in the second, the Flyers took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Simone Gagne, who got the puck on a shot by Luke Schenn that went wide of the bounced off the board to the right of the goal and onto Gagne’s stick past Price.

But the Flyers lost that lead in matter of 21 seconds. First, Alex Galchennyuk took the puck away from Schenn near the Flyers blue line and then passed it to Jeff Halpern who found a streaking Brandon Prust and shot it past Brzygalov to even the game at 2-2.

Seconds later, Montreal took the lead on a goal by David Desharnais. On the scoring play, Brzygalov apparently lost the puck in the lights because he ducked when the puck whizzed by him into his net.

Offense Comes Up Big For Flyers in Win Over Carolina

By Chris Murray

Ilya Bryzgalov had 42 saves for the Flyers in their win over the Carolina Hurricanes

Ilya Bryzgalov had 42 saves for the Flyers in their win over the Carolina Hurricanes

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette would like to bottle his team scoring output against the Carolina Hurricanes for the rest of the season.  But knowing that his team has had problems on offense, he will take Saturday night’s effort as a start in the right direction.

After struggling to score more than two goals in their last three games, the Flyers offense finally awoke from its slumber and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in front of 19,591 fans at the Wells Fargo Center.

“I thought we came out hard and had a good start,” Laviolette said. “That first shift was really important and it set the tone.  We went down in the opposition’s end and we tried to pound it at the net and on the forecheck.”

In the first period, the Flyers scored three times which was more than the entirety of their last two losses to the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals. What made this win even more special for the Flyers is that five different players scored goals.

“When you look at the past two seasons, we were successful because we always had a guy like (Claude) Giroux who was leading the charge or Mike Richards before, but we were getting offense from all the way down the line,” said Flyers center Danny Briere. “That’s probably what was missing a little bit this year.  To come here tonight with five different goals, five different goal scorers, I think it’s good for everybody’s confidence.”

The Flyers were perfect on their power-play chances, going three-for-three. Defenseman Kurtis Foster scored the game’s first goal in the first period when the Flyers had the man-advantage over the Hurricanes.

“We had a better presence at the net,” said Danny Briere, who scored on a power-play goal in the first period. “Even the first power-play that Foster scored it wasn’t pretty.  But it was the presence in front of the next on all three goals if you look we had one or sometimes two guys in the crease to block (the goalie’s) view or pounce on the rebound.”

Meanwhile, Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov had a slow start, giving up a pair of first period goals that came primarily from a couple lapses in the Flyers defense. Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen got a clean shot ath the goal from Bryzgalov’s right while Flyers defenders were stacked to the opposite side.

The Hurricanes got a power-play goal from center Eric Staal who stole a Flyers pass and scored an unassisted goal to bring Carolina within 3-2.

From there Bryzgalov settled down and stopped 42 Hurricanes shots on goal. He gave up a late power-play goal in the third period. With the Flyers defense seemingly taking the foot off the gas pedal in the third while compiling time in the penalty box, Carolina got 15 shots and scored just once thanks Bryzgalov’s outstanding play between the pipes.

“The second period was good, but in the third period, they had a lot of shots and there was a lot of traffic coming from their power-play,” Laviolette said. “They really started to press the issue in the third period.

“They were checking forward with their defenseman. They were high risk, high reward and they ended up staying in the zone. They had lots of zone time on us. The second period was good for Bryzgalov, but he was unreal and really strong player for tonight.”

Notes-Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine was suspended three games for an elbow to the head of Flyers rightwinger Wayne Simmonds.