Flyers

Flyers drop back into top wild-card spot with SO loss

Flyers drop back into top wild-card spot with SO loss

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — It took awhile for the Flyers to get their motors running in the Motor City. Once they did, they rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to earn a point before losing to the Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout.

Shootout specialist Frans Nielsen scored the only goal during the skill competition.

The loss dropped the Flyers into the top wild-card spot in the playoff race (see standings).

On the other end, the win snapped Detroit’s 10-game losing streak with its first win since Feb. 25.

• In his first return to Detroit since being traded to the Flyers, Petr Mrazek was pulled after allowing three goals on 19 shots in the opening 30 minutes.

• Alex Lyon stopped 11 of 12 shots in relief, including two buzzer-beaters and the final save that forced a shootout.

• Matt Read scored his first goal of the season, Sean Couturier reached the 30-goal mark for the first time and Travis Konecny continued his brilliant second half with his 20th goal of the season. And with three assists, Claude Giroux became the Flyers' fifth all-time leading scorer at 662 points.

• The Red Wings were able to strike first as they caught four Flyers in deep and unable to retreat in transition. Dylan Larkin slowed down Konecny and snapped a shot far post on Mrazek to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. 

• On the Flyers’ second power play, catastrophe struck again as they surrendered their 10th shorthanded goal of the season and a 2-0 Red Wings’ lead. Luke Glendening fired a shot top shelf, near side post over Mrazek’s glove hand. Mrazek appeared somewhat surprised as he usually comes out a little farther in his crease to cut down the angle. 

• The Flyers were in a complete defensive disarray on Detroit’s third goal, and I would love to know what Wayne Simmonds was doing during this sequence. He reached unsuccessfully for the puck, peeled off and then didn’t help out on the coverage down low. With the Flyers in complete scramble mode, it set up perfectly for Evgeny Svechnikov, who banged home an easy rebound.

• Mrazek was pulled after allowing three goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period and replaced by Lyon. You have to wonder where Dave Hakstol’s trust in Mrazek is after his night was cut short for the second time in three games. However, the Flyers let down Mrazek defensively and the goalie appeared to have said something to the coaching staff as he raced off to the dressing room.

• The Flyers finally woke up in the third period as Hakstol performed the four-line shuffle they needed to get that first one to wake up the sleeping bear. Surprisingly, it came from Read, who scored his first of the season. Scott Laughton’s shot deflected off of Read and angled upward past Jimmy Howard as the Flyers cut the deficit to 3-2.

• The Red Wings’ penalty kill sat back and let the Flyers’ power play drive to the net. Giroux did a solid job of settling the puck down and moving it over to Jakub Voracek. Voracek’s cross-ice pass allowed Shayne Gostisbehere to snipe the puck from close range. Howard had no chance as the Flyers tied it at 3-3.

• Just 28 seconds after Larkin made it 4-3 for the Red Wings, the Flyers struck back as a hard-charging Konecny got his body in the way of Couturier’s shot. Credit the Flyers, who weren’t ready for the start of this game, but had a never-say-die mentality in the final 10 minutes of regulation. 

• Interesting to see how the Red Wings attacked Mrazek with knowledge of his tendencies. Early on in the first period, Detroit elected to test Mrazek on wide-angle shots whether to generate a rebound or catch him leaving the near-side post unprotected. 

Sean Couturier pulls a Chris Pronger as Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins

Sean Couturier pulls a Chris Pronger as Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — Whatever qualifies as the writing on the wall should probably be ignored when it comes to Flyers hockey.

A team that was humiliated and booed off home ice after it was outscored 10-1 in Games 3 and 4 had just about everything working against it during Friday night’s elimination game in Pittsburgh.

The eulogy had been drafted and all it needed was Sidney Crosby’s finishing touches in front of a sellout crowd of screaming, yellow towel-waving fans. The Penguins were ready to bury the bodies and move on to the next round.

“There’s a lot of commotions,” Sean Couturier said. “When s--- hits the fan and things start not going our way, you've got to kind of focus and stick together.”

Couturier was the catalyst in Friday’s 4-2 Game 5 victory (see observations). The Flyers' center knew not long after the morning skate, that regardless of his health, he was determined to play. Claude Giroux even conjured up the memory of an old teammate as additional incentive.

“I told him the story of (Chris) Pronger in Game 6 in Buffalo (2011), and he surprised us at 3:30 after our naps that he was going to be in,” Giroux said. “Before he went on the ice, I said, ‘You gonna pull a Prongs or what?’ And I told him the story and he texted me right after the morning skate and said, ‘I’m pulling a Prongs.’ So it was pretty funny.” 

Despite playing seven and a half minutes below his playoff average, Couturier gutted out nearly 17 minutes of ice time (nearly seven minutes on the penalty kill alone) and scored the game-winning goal with 1:15 remaining in regulation.

“Coots, what he did, he’s a warrior tonight and obviously our MVP,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Just him being out there, it’s huge for us. I think the penalty kill was phenomenal. I think they’re the real reason why he won that game.”

Valtteri Filppula’s shorthanded goal was arguably the turning point with the Penguins threatening to take a two-goal lead late in the second period. While one was left wondering about the Flyers' line combinations, head coach Dave Hakstol trusted Filppula enough to center the top line with Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

It was the 34-year-old center, not Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Giroux, who stepped up offensively in Game 5 with his most productive game as a Flyer, posting a goal and two assists.

“I don’t want to start ranking games and stuff like that, but Fil was good,” Hakstol said. “You've got to do that, especially at playoff time, when injuries are part of it. When your roll changes a little bit, you've got to step forward.”

And before the opening puck drop, it was Michal Neuvirth, not Brian Elliott, who led the team onto the ice. Neuvirth’s last start came in Colorado on March 28 and he hadn’t played a game in net from start to finish in over two months.

His glove save on Crosby inside the final minute sealed the Penguins' fate. 

“He looked great and looked really comfortable in there,” Couturier said. “He had to fight hard for a lot of pucks, and he made some big saves at the end and you can’t ask more from a goalie in the playoffs.”

The Flyers are now 60 minutes (and possibly more) away from forcing a winner-take-all Game 7. 

Two days ago, that was a scenario nobody could draw up.

Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins on Sean Couturier's late goal

Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins on Sean Couturier's late goal

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — After sitting out the previous game with a right leg injury, Sean Couturier scored the game-winning goal Friday with 1:15 remaining in regulation during the Flyers’ 4-2 Game 5 victory over the Penguins. The Flyers kept their postseason hopes alive as they cut the series deficit to 3-2.

Making his first start of the series, Michal Neuvirth came up with the save of the game when he robbed Sidney Crosby on a point-blank glove stop with 50 seconds left in the third period. 

Neuvirth denied 30 shots in the game.

Claude Giroux opened the scoring with his first goal of the playoff series and his first postseason goal since 2014, which gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Playing on the top line with Giroux and Couturier for the first time this season, Valtteri Filppula scored his first goal in his last 16 playoff games that tied the game at 2-2 late in the second. Filppula had a three-point night with a goal and two assists.

Matt Read sealed the win with an empty-netter. 

Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust added goals for the Penguins.

Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday in Philadelphia (3 p.m./NBC).

• Despite suiting up and providing a gutsy effort, Couturier appeared to labor early while dealing with his leg injury. Early on, he didn’t have much power behind his shot and didn’t have much of a skating burst as he relied more on solid positional play. However, he seemed to get better as the game moved along. 

Apparently Couturier wasn’t healthy enough to play on the top line or on the No. 1 power-play unit, but he did receive his typical workload on the penalty kill.

• After the Flyers bottled up the Penguins in the first period, Pittsburgh adjusted its attack in the second. That led to easier offensive zone entries and a longer sustained attack in the Flyers’ zone. 

The Pens’ third line capitalized against the Flyers’ fourth line as Rust broke loose from Read and no one picked him up on the backside wraparound.

The Flyers were also held without a shot over 11½ of the second period. Offensive zone time was 4:10 for Pittsburgh to 45 seconds for the Flyers in the second period.

• Neuvirth appeared to have the post covered, but apparently Rust was still able to pop it up and over the goalie’s blade. Regardless, a bad goal. 

Later in the second period, Neuvirth allowed another goal that he should have stopped as Guentzel snapped a shot that slipped between his legs. 

Overall, Neuvirth made some key saves early and on the Penguins’ power play to offset the goals.

• Regardless of the outcome, the Flyers gave Pittsburgh their most physical effort in this seres. They battled for loose pucks and made some of the Pens’ most skilled players, primarily Evgeni Malkin, fight for their possessions. 

Brandon Manning got in Malkin’s face and Radko Gudas came to the defense of Giroux when he fought Jamie Oleksiak after his incidental contact.    

• Despite some concerns that Filppula couldn’t handle the responsibilities as a top-line center, No. 51 was arguably one of the Flyers’ best forwards. Filppula scored shorthanded, played a near perfect first period and provided solid defensive play. He also led the Flyers with four shots on goal.