Flyers hold team meeting after 'unacceptable' effort in loss to Sharks

Flyers hold team meeting after 'unacceptable' effort in loss to Sharks


Tuesday night’s lackluster, lethargic effort was the tipping point.

A 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks, the same team the Flyers knocked off on opening night, culminated with a players-only, closed-door meeting (see observations). Even the players’ fathers, in attendance for a special gathering coordinated by the Flyers, were waiting outside the dressing room.

“We've got to look at each other and see what we’re playing for here and go play for it,” captain Claude Giroux said. “The position we’re in here, it’s really frustrating. It’s not the position that we thought we’d be in right now.” 

The Flyers’ winless streak stretched to nine games (0-4-5) with their last victory three weeks ago on home ice over the Chicago Blackhawks. They posted a 2-5-6 record during the month of November.

“It’s not just this one [game]. It’s all nine,” forward Wayne Simmonds said. “It’s a cumulative thing. We’ve had leads, chances to win in overtime, shootouts and whatever it may be and we haven’t done it. I know this is unacceptable. This isn’t right.”

“I think it’s just a matter of guys saying what you want to say,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “It’s not questioning anyone’s integrity or their work ethic or anything. It’s more just we got into this thing together, and it’s up to us to get out of it.”

The mistake-filled effort on Tuesday night included countless turnovers, sloppy passing and six minor penalties during a span of 27 minutes that negated a pair of power-play opportunities. 

After witnessing a similar performance against the Canucks last week, the Wells Fargo Center crowd quickly turned on the guys in orange sweaters. However, the most venom was reserved for the head coach as a chorus of boos and “Fire Hakstol” chants intensified in the final minutes of the game (see Ron Hextall's take).

“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Dave Hakstol said. “If you don’t want to be in this spot, that’s a choice. That’s how I react to it. There’s high expectations in this market, and we have maybe the best fans in the National Hockey League and they’re full value for having the expectations.”

“They can chant whatever they want. We’re in this together,” Giroux said. “We’re all in the same boat here. It’s not on him. It’s on everybody.” 

“I don’t think that’s a fair assessment,” Simmonds said of the chants. “He’s not on the ice, he’s not playing. It’s up to us to go out there and play every single night.”

Playing for the first time in a week, Michal Neuvirth couldn’t come up with his best effort either, as he was slow to react on the Sharks’ first two goals — a Chris Tierney snap shot from the high slot and Joe Thornton’s sharp-angle shot during a 5-on-3 power play that gave San Jose a 2-1 lead after the opening period.

“Yeah, I’ve definitely got to stop that one,” Neuvirth said of Thornton’s goal. “It was a long shift and some heavy legs, but I’ve got to make the save there, for sure.”

Frustration mounted as the Flyers, playing on the second night of a back-to-back with tired legs, went more than 23 minutes while registering just one shot against Sharks netminder Aaron Dell.

“Maybe when you’re tired you make some poor decisions,” Giroux said. “We didn’t take care of the puck. We made some bad decisions. We didn’t generate any offense. I don’t really have answers for you. We just have to find a way.”

“I probably think that last night’s game was a tough loss to swallow,” said Neuvirth, who backed up Brian Elliott’s 47-save performance in Pittsburgh. “I think that affected us tonight.”

“Everything’s connected,” Hakstol said. “We ran out of gas, for sure, as we ran into the third period. I thought effort-wise was there. We just didn’t have much execution and we didn’t have much energy.

“There’s not a magical formula. You go back to work. You believe in the guy that’s next to you. You’ve got to stick together and believe in the guys that are in that room. Nobody’s going to wave a magic wand.”

Wednesday is a much-needed day off for the Flyers. Many of them will drive their fathers to the airport following the two-day dads’ trip that isn’t exactly one they’ll be bragging about for years to come.

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak


The Flyers developed a Muhammad Ali-type mentality Saturday night.

It was hockey’s version of the rope-a-dope, where the Flyers took the Dallas Stars' best punches early on before going the distance, eventually wearing down an opponent that was playing their third game in four nights.

The end result was a 2-1 Flyers victory, extending their season-high winning streak to six games (see observations).

In fact, the Stars attempted to set the tone on the opening shift when Stars captain Jamie Benn tried to rattle the cage of Claude Giroux. They tangled on their way back to the bench with Benn extending his glove underneath Giroux’s chin.

“We knew they were going to have a good push at the start of the game,” Brian Elliott, who has started all six games of the winning streak, said. "We knew they wouldn't be able to keep it up playing a back-to-back. I thought our guys did a really good job of sticking to that game plan and staying patiently persistent."

The Flyers also knew the Stars would come out of the gates flying after a disappointing 5-2 loss at New Jersey the night before.

“We’ve been on the other side of it,” Giroux said. “Playing a back-to-back, it’s not easy, especially when you’re traveling and we really wanted to take advantage of that. Other teams took advantage of us before.”

The Flyers started to turn up the heat in the opening minutes of the second period when they controlled play with extended shifts in the Stars' end of the ice, coupled with a pair of breakaway opportunities from Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek.

“That (second) period was the one for me where we pushed the game in our direction,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It was during the second period we were able to use everybody. Everybody was going and that allowed us to raise the pace of play a little bit.”

The Flyers were also propelled by their power play that finished the game 2 for 6 and a whopping 12 shots on net. After scoring on a rebound that deflected off the backboards, Shayne Gostisbehere landed the knockout blow with 1:10 remaining in overtime when "Ghost" blasted an overtime slapper during the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“A lot of that power play was going rover," Gostisbehere, who scored his fifth career overtime winner, said, "but you could tell we were feeding off each other, finding lanes and we were just relentless and a goal at the end just showed we weren't giving up there."

Stars coach and former Flyers bench boss Ken Hitchcock was attempting, for the second time, to become the third coach in NHL history to win 800 career games. Much of the reason he didn’t achieve the milestone was the careless penalties of forward Alexander Radulov, which led to both of the Flyers' power-play goals.

“It’s not team discipline, it’s individual,” Hitchcock said. “It’s disappointing to fight like we fought and battle. Come off, playing hard like this off a back-to-back, it’s really disappointing to take those two penalties at the end of the game.”

The Flyers also snapped a seven-game losing streak in contests that extended after regulation. The Flyers had dropped five of those in overtime and another two in the shootout.

“I thought we had a really positive attitude,” Elliott said. “I think everyone thought we would go out there for overtime and win. I didn’t think anybody had any doubts or anything. That’s all you can ask for going into those situations.” 

“I liked the way we approached overtime,” Hakstol said. “I didn’t think we pressed or pushed anything. We weren’t taking any long shifts, no high risk plays. I thought guys just went out and did their job and did it the right way.”

Right now, it’s a Flyers team that may not be floating like a butterfly, but they can certainly sting like a bee.

Craig Anderson leads Senators to 4th-ever outdoor shutout

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Craig Anderson leads Senators to 4th-ever outdoor shutout

OTTAWA, Ontario — Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots for his 40th career shutout, leading the Ottawa Senators to a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night in the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Bobby Ryan and Nate Thompson scored for the Senators, who have consecutive wins for the first time in more than a month.

Carey Price was kept busy as he stopped 35 shots for the Canadiens, but didn't get any offensive support.

The temperature at puck drop was about 12 degrees. Despite the frigid temperatures 33,959 fans filled the stands at TD Place for the first outdoor game for the current Ottawa franchise. The game was part of the NHL's 100th anniversary celebration (see full recap).

Hutton saves 48 shots, outduels Mason in battle of former Flyers 
ST. LOUIS — Carter Hutton made a career-high 48 saves to earn his ninth career shutout as the St. Louis Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-0 Saturday night.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Vince Dunn scored for St. Louis, which snapped a two-game skid.

Hutton improved to 5-2-0 a day after being activated from injured reserve after sustaining a lower body injury. He was tested early and often as Winnipeg peppered him with 15 shots in the first period and 21 more in the second.

Steve Mason, making his first appearance since Nov. 25, stopped 28 shots as Winnipeg lost for the fifth time in six games.

Tarasenko opened the scoring on a power play 9:16 into the first period when he buried a pass from Alexander Steen. That goal was Tarasenko's 15th of the season and third in his last 12 games. It snapped a streak of four games for St. Louis without a power-play goal (see full recap).

Ovechkin's goal gives Capitals OT win over Ducks
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin scored on a slap shot at 1:58 of overtime, and the Washington Capitals rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 Saturday night for their sixth straight win at home.

Ovechkin's 23rd goal of the season came on a blast from the top of the right circle that beat Anaheim's John Gibson.

Washington took only 15 shots over the first 40 minutes and trailed 2-0 before Nicklas Backstrom knocked in the rebound of a shot by Ovechkin at 3:05 of the third period.

Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it just over four minutes later, beating Gibson on the stick side with a shot from the left circle.

Braden Holtby had 28 saves for the Capitals, who have won in a row and 10 of 12 (see full recap).

​Eberle's OT goal lifts Islanders past Kings
NEW YORK — Jordan Eberle scored 1:54 into overtime to lift the New York Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee also scored to give the Islanders the lead after they trailed 2-0. Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots to help New York win for just the second time in seven games (2-4-1) and improve to 10-2-2 at home.

Oscar Fantenberg, Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar scored for the Kings, who have lost three straight after an eight-game winning streak. Darcy Kuemper finished with 29 saves.

Kopitar tied the score 3-3 with 13 seconds remaining in regulation when he knocked the puck past Greiss after a scramble in the crease. Kopitar's team-leading 17th goal came after Lee had given New York a 3-2 lead with 3:16 left (see full recap).