Flyers must respond to unfamiliar territory

Flyers must respond to unfamiliar territory


You could see a game like this coming from a Carolina country mile.

After finding ways to overcome stretches of sluggish play to win games throughout the month of February, finishing with a 10-1-2 record, the Flyers (34-20-10) turned in a lackluster performance Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“Obviously that is not what you want to do especially this time of year,” Jakub Voracek said. “No loss is a good loss. It’s hard to say if you feel it coming. You feel winning, you don’t think about losing the game.”

“We didn’t have a lot of energy tonight, but there’s no excuse for that. That’s a fact,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I’ve said before, after some of the games that we’ve won, you have to take it for what it is.”

The opening five minutes of the first and second periods set the tone as Carolina played suffocating defense on the Flyers, who struggled to transition the puck out of their end and were responsible for bad turnovers. Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald combined for five of the team’s 10 giveaways.

“They sat on top of us pretty well. They didn’t give us a lot of time and space,” Hakstol said. “When you’re not doing things at full speed and real crisp and real sharp, it’s hard to make things happen and that was the case tonight.”

After bailing out the Flyers Monday in Montreal, Petr Mrazek didn’t have his best start, either. Carolina opened the scoring just as its power play expired. Former Flyer Justin Williams worked behind Manning and tapped in a rebound that Mrazek couldn’t control (see highlights).

“At the beginning of the game, I felt pretty good,” Mrazek said. “I made a couple of mistakes, a couple of rebounds that I should have had. I didn’t like the first goal, too. The puck got on the edge a little bit. It went to me and it gave them the momentum to be up 1-0 in our building.”

The Hurricanes were motivated by the return of their top center Jordan Staal. He and his wife Heather are recovering from the loss of their stillborn daughter. Staal's presence gave the entire Carolina team that emotional boost.

“That’s what you need,” head coach Bill Peters said. “You need your best players to be your best players and you miss them when he’s not here. I think it’s good for both us and him.”  

For the Flyers, it’s one loss that could be nothing more than running over a pothole on I-95, now with their eyes squarely focused on a two-game weekend road trip to Florida to face the Lightning and Panthers this weekend.

“We've got to make sure we give ourselves a boost out of this,” Hakstol said. "It’s a quick turnaround time. We have a short workday [Friday]. We get on the plane and head south. This team has handled reality very well, and that is what we will do again in this case.”

Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

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Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

DETROIT — Petr Mrazek knew the day he was traded to the Flyers wouldn’t be the last time he’d be in Detroit. Looking at the Flyers’ schedule, Mrazek noticed one more game left to be played against his former team.

Tonight, Mrazek will make his 12th start with his new team against the organization that drafted him in the fifth round in 2010.

Prior to the morning skate, Mrazek spent time talking with former teammates and fellow netminders Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau. But it was a little strange walking into Little Caesars Arena for the first time as a visitor.

“A little different, different entrance, but it’s a fun building and one of the nicest visitor locker rooms in the league,” Mrazek said. “Every game is different. I wouldn’t know who’s got more of an advantage. I talked with Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) this morning and asked if he’s going to do the same move as he always does or if he’s going to go backhand. But when the puck drops, we've just got to focus on ourselves.”

Mrazek won his fifth game in orange and black with a 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals Sunday. If the Flyers advance to the playoffs, the Red Wings would receive a third-round draft pick as compensation.  

The Dead Wing era
With a win tonight, Mrazek and the Flyers can eliminate the Red Wings from the postseason. It will mark the second straight season Detroit has failed to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which hasn’t happened in Hockeytown since the early 1980s.
The current-day Red Wings have completely tanked since the trade deadline. They’ve dropped ten straight (0-9-1) since Feb. 26, and have just one regulation victory over the last 15 games.

The Flyers will be looking for a three-game season sweep of the Red Wings while being mindful of a dreaded letdown game against one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s important for us to be ready from the start,” said center Sean Couturier. “We don’t want to get surprised. They’re still a good team. They’ve got some talent probably some guys who want to prove themselves. These games are never easy. We’ve got to be prepared for that and just focus on what we’ve got to do.”

The Dead Wing Era is a period in Detroit hockey from the late 1960s to the early 1980s when the Red Wings failed to reach the postseason in 15 of 17 seasons. 

Passing 'Big E'
With a point tonight Claude Giroux can pass Eric Lindros for fifth place on the Flyers' all-time scoring list with 660 points. Whenever his career ends, Giroux will join Lindros one day in the Flyers Hall of Fame.

The current and former Flyers captains spoke briefly in Voorhees earlier this season prior to Lindros’ No. 88 retirement ceremony on Jan. 18. Overtaking “Big E” is an accomplishment Giroux holds in high regard.

“Just for what he’s done for the organization it means something. He’s had a great career,” Giroux said. “Just talking with him was pretty special. He talked about what experiences he’s had, talking about things he was going through as a team. To be able to pass him, it’s pretty special.” 

This season alone, Giroux has worked his way from 11th on the franchise’s career scoring list to where he is now. Once he moves past Lindros, Giroux will be 38 points shy of passing Rick MacLeish for fourth place, which in all likelihood, will come next season.

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).