Flyers burnt by NHL’s hottest team as key stretch begins off rails

Flyers burnt by NHL’s hottest team as key stretch begins off rails


SUNRISE, Fla. — The Flyers were short on rest, and the Panthers were long on speed.

The result was a 4-1 Flyers loss Sunday at the BB&T Center, and only a late rebound goal by Travis Konecny avoided a shutout.

All four Panthers goals came as the result of stretch passes as Evgenii Dadonov (twice), Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau took turns skating past gasping Flyers defenders.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol didn’t blame turnovers on three of those goals, and he didn’t fault goalie Petr Mrazek, either.

“It was not the volume [of shots], but it was the absolute grade-A chances,” Hakstol said. “The number of breakaways (Mrazek) had to face … It wasn’t the turnovers. They transitioned — it was their quick transition coming out.”

Coupled with a 7-6 shootout loss Saturday to Tampa, the Flyers got just one point on their trip to Florida.

Worse yet, including a weak effort in a 4-1 loss Thursday to the Hurricanes, the Flyers have lost three straight games while maintaining their second-place standing in the Metropolitan Division.

Shayne Gostisbehere, who is a South Florida native, was asked about that short rest.

“It’s an easy excuse,” he said. “(The Panthers) haven’t played (since Friday), and we played (Saturday) afternoon. But it comes down to our readiness.

“(The Panthers) are a quick team. We knew what they were going to do, but we didn’t respect it enough. They got their chances. They were not cheating but pushing us out of the zone quickly.”

For the Flyers, who are 26-10-4 since Dec. 4, this is their third mini-losing streak in the past three months. But they've been resilient all season.

That has to give Flyers fans hope despite the talk about not being ready or watching an upstart team skate past them.

Then again, the Panthers have been the hottest team in the NHL since Jan. 30, winning 13 of 16 games. With the win over the Flyers, they went 6-0-0 during this homestand.

And with players such as Barkov, Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck and Dadonov on the top two lines, the Panthers have speed and skill.

Radko Gudas, whose interference penalty led to a Panthers power-play goal that made it 1-0 just 2:41 into the game, took some of the heat.

“It wasn’t our best defensive coverage,” he said. “The Panthers played a lot of stretch passes. They were gone, and we were still in the zone. It took us a while to adapt. We could’ve done a way better job.”

Gudas wasn’t buying the tired legs argument, either.

“It was a tough two games,” he said. “But those excuses — everybody’s in good condition. I don’t think that should be a factor at this point in the year.

“We wanted more than one point out of this trip. For us, these next two games are crucial.”

Health check
Hakstol said Johnny Oduya “got dinged up” and could not finish the game.

Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

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Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

BOSTON -- Cam Atkinson scored 2:55 into overtime to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-4 victory over Boston on Monday night for their eighth straight victory, spoiling a splendid NHL debut for Bruins forward Ryan Donato.

Sonny Milano, Boone Jenner, Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin also scored for the Blue Jackets. Nick Foligno had two assists, nd Vanek and Jenner each added one. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 34 shots.

Atkinson cut in on the left wing and fired a wrister past Rask for the game-winner.

Columbus moved into a tie with Philadelphia with 85 points, but the Flyers hold the tiebreaker for third place in the Metropolitan Division and the Blue Jackets hold the first wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Donato had a goal and two assists for Boston, which moved a point behind idle Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic. Riley Nash, Brad Marchand and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins, and Tuukka Rask finished with 19 saves (see full recap).

Luongo, Panthers blank Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Roberto Luongo stopped 28 shots for his third shutout of the season and 76th of his career, leading the Florida Panthers to a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov scored to help the Panthers inch closer to a playoff position, pulling three points behind idle new Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Florida has two games in hand on the Devils.

Antti Niemi finished with 38 saves for Montreal, which was shut out for the second straight game and 12th time this season -- including three against the Panthers. The Canadiens were coming off a 4-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday.

The opening 10 minutes saw two fights, one of which had Ekblad sparring with Nicolas Deslauriers. It may have fired up the big defenseman because he stole a puck from Michael McCarron, deked past defenseman Jeff Petry and beat Niemi with a move to the backhand for an unassisted goal with 1:29 left in the opening period.

Jacob De La Rose thought he had tied it for Montreal 17 seconds later, but a video review showed Alex Galchenyuk was offside by a toenail and it was waived off.

Barkov got his 26th of the season at 6:23 of the third when his shot from the left side went in off Montreal forward Logan Shaw.

Star goalie Carey Price returned to the Montreal lineup after concussion suffered Feb. 20. He backed up Niemi (see full recap).

Rinne makes 35 saves in Preds’ shutout
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots for his eighth shutout of the season and the Nashville Predators set a franchise record by earning a point in their 15th consecutive game with a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen scored goals 4:34 apart in the second period, and Filip Forsberg and Ryan Hartman sealed the victory by scoring in the final four minutes.

The NHL-leading Predators improved to 14-0-1 in their past 15, and also extended their team-best road winning streak to nine straight.

Rinne won his 11th straight to match his personal best in a stretch in which he's allowed just 18 goals. The shutout was the 51st of his 12-year career and third in nine games.

And Rinne also improved to 40-9-4 in becoming the NHL's seventh goalie to win 40 games in a season three or more times.

The Predators haven't lost in regulation since a 3-1 defeat to Detroit at home on Feb. 17. And they improved to 12-0-3 in their past 15 road games since a 3-0 loss at Vegas on Jan. 2 (see full recap).

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny is one of a handful of young Flyers who thrives on confrontation, lining up an opponent in his crosshairs and going for the kill.

And that’s just his profile in Call of Duty — the popular war-based video game he plays occasionally with teammates.

And while Konecny didn't show up on the score sheet Sunday evening, he still answered his call of duty, leading the charge in a variety of ways in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Capitals that inched the Flyers within four points of division-leading Washington and two points of Pittsburgh for second place. All three teams return to action Tuesday with the Flyers in Detroit.

Battered, bloodied and perhaps a little beaten, Konecny was determined that the Capitals weren’t going to get the best of him.

“I just think I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been here it doesn’t matter what your role is on the team,” Konecny said after the game. “Everybody buys in, everybody blocks shots, everyone goes to the net, everyone backchecks. I think it’s a part of me that’s learned to become a Philadelphia Flyer.”

The orange and black uniform was only a cover for the black and blue bruises Konecny’s body endured. In the third period, he stood directly in the line of fire of Christian Djoos’ shot and then limped back to the locker room. On his next shift, Konecny blocked another shot from Dmitri Orlov.

Even after giving all the postgame interviews, Konecny was still limping. The playing surface at the Wells Fargo Center may not have had enough ice for all of his sore spots.

“He’s got the heart of a lion and I think you’ve seen that all year long,” said Wayne Simmonds, who tallied twice in the win. “I kept telling him that’s what winners are made of. It’s the type of effort we’re going to need from every single guy in this dressing room. He blocks one shot, he gets up slowly, gets back on the ice, blocks another.”

The clean-cut and rather reserved Konecny that came to the Flyers as a 19-year-old rookie last season has now been replaced with a more brash, tattoo-sporting, always-chirping Konecny with a longer hairstyle and the appearance of facial hair.

The only missing element to complete the look is a leather biker’s jacket.  

That rugged toughness was on display again when he dropped the gloves with Washington winger T.J. Oshie and bloodied his knuckles 7:41 into the third period.

“I just got high-sticked right before,” Konecny said. “I got frustrated and I finished my hit on him. Not a bad guy to take off the ice when they’re trying to score."

“It was awesome. It was great to see,” Simmonds said. “You see him get high-sticked there. He didn’t quit on the play and kept going. He battles with a guy who’s probably 20 pounds bigger, maybe more than that. It was a great emotional leap for the team in the third period there. Unbelievable job and kudos to him.”

Konecny, who has 19 goals and 22 asissts on the season and has earned Dave Hakstol's trust with a bump up to the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, has quickly rounded into a five-tool player this season with speed, playmaking, a scoring touch with a hard-nosed edge. Much like Brad Marchand with the Bruins, that type of player becomes vital once the postseason rolls around.

“It gives the bench a good injection of life,” Hakstol said. “They love it and guys love to see that on the bench. I think that’s what our guys expect, but it’s always great when you see one guy doing it.”  

Which is probably why Konecny enjoys that other Call of Duty. Another game with a similar approach, except a lot less painful.

Raffl out
Forward Michael Raffl will miss two weeks with an upper-body injury suffered in the second period against the Capitals Sunday. Raffl, who has 11 goals and eight assists this year, had been seeing some time on the top line with Giroux and Couturier recently.