Nationwide (Arena) is not on the Flyers' side

Nationwide (Arena) is not on the Flyers' side

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — If you feel like you've seen this movie in the exact same theater before, it's because you have.

The Flyers' 2-1 shootout loss Saturday night to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena marked their 11th straight loss in the building that opened in 2000 (see observations).

Thanks to Pierre-Luc Dubois' shootout goal, and some tough luck, the Flyers head into the Christmas break losers of two straight and winless in Columbus for the 12th straight calendar year.

Just 24 hours after enduring a disappointing regulation loss in Buffalo, the pair of points on Columbus ice remained elusive despite eking out the shootout loss point.

“It’s a good team and a tough barn to take points out of and I’m proud of the way the guys played,” said goalie Brian Elliott, who was burdened with the loss despite stopping 35 of 36 shots thrown his way.

In just their fifth contest of the season against a division opponent — and the first of four against their rival from Ohio — the Flyers once again found themselves playing catch-up thanks to Seth Jones’ power-play goal in the opening stanza.

The Flyers answered in the second with Ivan Provorov’s blast from the point that found eyes through traffic and past Sergei Bobrovsky, who now stands just one win away from his 200th career NHL win.

Despite Bobrovsky’s 30-save performance, the Flyers had their chances. After Provorov's goal in the second, the Flyers appeared to take the lead on a deflection off the stick of Taylor Leier. The play was reviewed, however, and waived off due to Leier’s stick making contact with the puck above the crossbar.

In the third period, Jakub Voracek was thwarted on two separate opportunities, including a close-range one-on-one chance against Bobrovsky after causing a turnover in the Flyers’ offensive zone.

Additionally, Sean Couturier — who added his 16th assist of the season on Provorov’s goal — nearly prevented overtime by beating Bobrovsky to only see his wrister go off the inside of the post.

“A couple bounces either way, like Cootsy’s chance at the end there," Travis Konecny said, "it goes up inside the post so I think it was a good effort tonight.”

Missing key defenseman Zach Werenski, Columbus failed to put the visiting Flyers away early despite dictating the pace of play throughout much of the contest. For those familiar with games between these teams though, outcomes are seldom of a wide margin.

Despite finding themselves pressured once again by an aggressive Blue Jackets team, the orange and black were able to force overtime for the sixth time during the span of their 11-game skid in Columbus.

And although Hakstol’s team came away from Buffalo empty-handed, they depart Ohio’s capital with one point in hand — a valuable point as they now sit four points out of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I think we had a real good effort from our lineup,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, we weren’t happy with the result or, you know, overall how things went for us last night, but I think tonight, you can flip that around the exact opposite. We had real good efforts from everyone in the lineup.”

With an exhausting five-game gauntlet in eight days behind them, the Flyers not only welcome the Christmas break, they also know things could be a lot worse.

“I feel good about our team,” Provorov said. “We’re playing hard, we’re getting better, you know, that 10-game losing streak kind of set us back a little bit in points, but we stuck with it, kept battling and we’ll continue to do that.”

With three games remaining against Columbus on the schedule, and one more at Nationwide Arena, the Flyers will have to find a way to end what’s now become a running narrative — the fact they can’t win in Columbus.

Not only do they have just two wins in the former Western Conference city, no player on the current roster was on the team that last won on Dec. 13, 2005.

It’s a hurdle that must be cleared if general Ron Hextall’s blueprint is to turn into a masterpiece.

The one that got away from the Flyers

The one that got away from the Flyers

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The losses at Nationwide Arena are mounting up, and the time elapsing from the Flyers' last win in Ohio's capital grows more distant.

With Saturday night's 2-1 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets, the Flyers have now lost 11 straight games in Columbus — the Flyers haven't won here since Dec. 13, 2005.

Blue Jackets rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois scored the shootout's only goal.

Dave Hakstol's 200th game as the head coach wasn't all for naught, of course, given the Flyers at least exited with a point — just like they did in five previous losses on the road against the Blue Jackets.

In just their fifth contest of the season against a divisional opponent — and the first of four against their rival from Ohio — the Flyers once again found themselves playing catchup, thanks to Seth Jones' power-play goal in the opening stanza.

The Flyers answered in the second period with Ivan Provorov's blast from the point that found eyes through traffic and past Sergei Bobrovsky.

With Michal Neuvirth still on the shelf, Hakstol continued to ride Brian Elliott, who made his 11th straight start and second in as many nights. The 32-year-old backstop was once again sensational, turning away 35 Columbus shots on 36 total shots.

Before the Flyers take their holiday hiatus, here are some observations from Saturday’s showdown in the Buckeye State:

• Much like the previous 10 road games against Columbus, the Blue Jackets clogged the neutral zone early on, suppressing a good portion of the potential chances that did end up in the Flyers’ offensive zone. Columbus’ transition game, on the other hand, made zone-entry for them not so difficult.

The Blue Jackets’ speedy transition established possession often, and for as much of a cliché as “getting pucks deep” is, it’s exactly what the Blue Jackets did.

• The Flyers failed to damage Columbus’ fourth-ranked home penalty kill, as they struggled to set up shop in their own zone. The normally sure-handed Shayne Gostisbehere was unable to keep the zone on a pass to the point and later turned the puck over, leading to a breakaway chance for Matt Calvert.

The orange and black failed on their second power play of the night in the second period due in large part to an outstanding Bobrovsky save on a Giroux one-time attempt set up by Voracek. An early third-period penalty to Nolan Patrick was nullified by a roughing penalty to Artemi Panarin, which also came up empty.

• The orange and black’s penalty killing unit was not granted such fortune. Seth Jones broke the game’s seal on the man advantage thanks to a too many men penalty taken by the Flyers' bench.

Jones’ wrister from just inside the point deflected off of Ivan Provorov before setting the cannon off. With their first-period power-play goal, Columbus has now scored on the man advantage in four straight games.

• The Blue Jackets’ opening tally marked the 15th time they’ve scored the game’s first goal in their last 24 outings. Columbus is now 16-3-2 when scoring first. Conversely, the slow starts for Hakstol's team bit them Friday night in Buffalo and nearly once again Saturday night.

• Columbus continued to pressure the Flyers at the start of the second, pushing the visiting team back on their heels until Provorov blasted home the equalizer. Later in the second, it appeared as though the Flyers took the lead on a goal deflected off the stick of Taylor Leier, but an officials’ review determined that Leier’s stick was above the crossbar, wiping the go-ahead mark off the board. After the play was replayed on the big screen, it’s interesting the goal was not waived off right away.

• Although the number of former Flyers who have come back to haunt their former team is plenty, perhaps no other former Flyer has done so more than Bobrovsky. Not only has the Russian-born goalie gone on to win a pair of Vezina Trophies, he’s also been a nuisance to the team that’s historically had their share of goalie woes.

The fact Bobrovsky has thrived post-Philadelphia within the Flyers’ division, no less, adds salt to a wound that Elliott has otherwise bandaged.

Bobrovsky was excellent Saturday night. He made 30 saves and was perfect in the shootout.

• Tonight’s tilt was career game Mo. 692 for Giroux, moving him past Simon Gagne for 10th on the Flyers' all-time list. The captain now sits only 33 games behind Gary Dornhoefer for ninth on the list.

• Just the Flyers' fifth game this season against a Metropolitan Division opponent, and the first since just after Thanksgiving.

• After playing their fifth game throughout the span of the last full week, the Flyers will enjoy the holidays with an extra day off on the tail end of the Christmas break. Their next slate of action will include two games in the next eight days.

No. 2 Penn State suffers heartbreak to No. 6 Ohio State for 1st loss

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No. 2 Penn State suffers heartbreak to No. 6 Ohio State for 1st loss

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — One team’s vindication is another’s heartbreak.

No. 6 Ohio State’s improbable 39-38 comeback victory Saturday night over No. 2 Penn State at Ohio Stadium left the Nittany Lions in a state of shock, a sort of payback, if you will, for last year’s 24-21 upset victory in Happy Valley. 

Leading from the first play of the game, a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Saquon Barkley, to the 1:48 mark of the fourth quarter, James Franklin’s team threw everything it had at the upstart Buckeyes to only see it slip away.

“You got to give Ohio State, the crowd, the environment, the stadium, Coach (Urban) Meyer, his team credit,” said Franklin, who moves to 1-3 against his conference rival from Columbus. “They’re obviously a very, very good football team, (and) it’s a tough place to come and get a win.”

That ruckus environment rose to life in the final minutes of the game, uplifting the host Buckeyes to a late game-winning drive that was capped off with a 16-yard touchdown pass from J.T. Barrett to Marcus Baugh. Barrett’s final scoring throw of four on the day delivered the dagger to a Penn State team that was outscored, 19-3, in the fourth quarter.

“In no way shape or form should anyone have their head down,” tight end Mike Gesicki said. “Obviously, we didn’t have the outcome we wanted, but playing on the road in this kind of atmosphere, to come up that short, we can fix the mistakes, we’ll bounce back.”

Though the Buckeyes faced two 18-point deficits, they managed to set a record for the largest deficit a team coached by Meyer has overcome. Ohio State’s victory came in a game that witnessed two turnovers committed by the home team, one of which led to a Penn State touchdown.

Despite the deficits and the turnovers, though, the No. 6 Buckeyes reversed their fortunes by tightening the clamps on star running back Barkley, moving the ball thanks to a monstrous performance by Barrett (33 for 39, 328 yards, 4 TDs), and a blocked punt with 11:39 remaining in the fourth quarter that for all intents and purposes, changed the complexion of the game.

“The margin of error is very small when you play these types of games,” Franklin said. “I thought the blocked punt was a huge play in the game.”

Additionally, Ohio State’s man coverage allowed the Buckeyes to be more aggressive on defense, sending men at quarterback Trace McSorley from different directions. The Ohio State defense sniffed out the visiting team’s read-option with containment on the edges while sacking McSorley twice.

“They did a good job,” McSorley said. “Especially with that opportunity we had to ice it. They made the plays and we didn’t.”

The opportunity McSorley refers to is a 10-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a Tyler Davis 24-yard field goal to give Penn State an 11-point lead with 5:42 left in regulation, instead of a touchdown.

“They did some different stuff,” said Barkley after turning in a 172 all-purpose yard day with a pair of touchdowns. “They blitzed us a lot more than they usually did, they stopped the run — we just gotta find a way to run the ball.”

Locked in on arguably the country’s best player, Ohio State’s defense contained Barkley to 80 yards on 21 carries, but 36 of those yards came on his only rushing touchdown of the day.

With only seven days to prepare for a second straight road game, this one against a 6-2 Michigan State team, Franklin wants to see his team improve in the crucial areas that cost them Saturday.

“Our offense has got to sustain drives longer," Franklin said, "but our defense needs to create three-and-outs and get off the field by creating turnovers."