Flyers-Penguins observations: Skid reaches 8 with loss to rival

Flyers-Penguins observations: Skid reaches 8 with loss to rival


PITTSBURGH — The Flyers’ season and story seems to rewrite itself on a nightly basis.

Flyers killer Sidney Crosby scored the game-winner just after Pittsburgh’s power play had expired to give the Penguins a 5-4 overtime victory Monday and extend the orange and black’s losing streak to eight games.

Prior to Michael Raffl’s go-ahead goal with 3:41 remaining, Pittsburgh erased the Flyers’ 3-1 lead with two quick goals in the first 1:46 of the third period.

Jake Guentzel scored his second goal of the game with 1:04 left that tied the contest at 4-4 to force overtime.

It was the fourth time in the Flyers’ last six games they had squandered a two-goal lead.

Travis Konecny scored his first goal in 14 games, which gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead in the second period. Sean Couturier added his 14th goal of the season in the final minute of the second period.

Brian Elliott made a career-high 47 saves.

• Here’s a matchup Dave Hakstol wants to avoid: Crosby in the corner against Shayne Gostisbehere. Twice the two players battled along the boards in the first period and twice Crosby found a way to get the puck to a teammate. Overall, the Flyers did a nice job during that frame on Crosby, who was held without a shot and won just 3 of his 9 faceoffs. That included losing one to Wayne Simmonds.

• The Flyers' second line continues to generate opportunities and offensive zone time. The unit's first shift resulted in three shots on net from each player on the line. The second shift resulted in a power-play opportunity as it worked the puck deep in the Penguins’ zone before Konecny drew a slashing penalty at the 7:57 mark of the first period.

• Couturier wasted that opportunity to gain an early lead when he swung his stick and was eventually whistled for slashing, which essentially negated the Flyers’ power play after just 23 seconds on the ice. Those are the opportunities you can’t let go to waste playing against Pittsburgh.

• Robert Hagg turned in a solid defensive shift against the Penguins’ top line. He stayed in front of Crosby and then peeled off to take Conor Sheary, who swung around to the left of the net and was able to only get off a sharp-angle shot. One of Hagg’s best strengths is how he utilizes his stick low to the ice to take away potential passing lanes.

• Unless Guentzel’s shot deflected off Brandon Manning’s stick, Elliott should have made a blocker save on that shot. It appeared Elliott was on his angle and the puck simply slipped past his blocker.

• For the most part, the first period was played evenly until the final six minutes when the Pens gained the territorial edge and wound up outshooting the Flyers by a 17-10 margin.

• The Flyers were given a generous 5-on-3 opportunity for 1:21 when Olli Maatta was whistled for a cheap hooking penalty. Regardless, the Flyers capitalized with their first two-man advantage goal as Gostisbehere cranked a slapper that Matt Murray could not handle. For Gostisbehere, that’s two goals in two straight games.

• Fourth-line tough guy Ryan Reaves took a run at Flyers captain Claude Giroux and knocked him into the short boards between the two benches. You can’t have one of your skilled players take that sort of punishment.

• There was a very good recovery from Travis Sanheim on Carl Hagelin’s potential breakaway. Both Manning and Sanheim converged on Hagelin.

• The Flyers hit the crossbar twice in the span of less than two minutes. Nolan Patrick from the right side and then Ivan Provorov on a perfect cross-ice feed from Jori Lehtera. Provorov had chances to jump into the play and make something happen. That was his closest chance of the game. About four minutes later, Danick Martel hit the post from about the same angle that Guentzel scored on Elliott in the first period.

• That’s two posts and two crossbars for the Flyers or this could have been a 5-1 lead.

• Couturier with a deadly snap shot that beat backup goalie Tristan Jarry. Credit Provorov with a nifty-looking kick pass right to Couturier, whether he intended to or not. Couturier has scored the bulk of his goals from right around the crease, but this time he displayed some touch on a goal that beat Jarry high glove. 

• Andrew MacDonald had an early third-period trip on Patric Hornqvist that gave the Penguins life. Hornqvist converted with a power-play goal by batting the puck in just above the crossbar and right in front of Elliott’s mask. Elliott looked as if he was preparing to grab it with his glove before Hornqvist got his stick on it. Dave Hakstol unsuccessfully challenged the call for goaltender interference.

• The Flyers took a two-goal lead into the third period, which lasted all of 1:46 after Bryan Rust broke in all alone on Elliott. Gostisbehere’s shot was blocked by Rust and “Ghost” simply didn’t have the foot speed to keep up with him. Elliott stopped the initial shot and the rebound appeared to kick in off Rust’s stick.

Lines, pairings and scratches 

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Danick Martel-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Dale Weise-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Brandon Manning

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Jordan Weal (healthy) and Taylor Leier (healthy), and defenseman Radko Gudas (suspended).

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 scoresheet 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 Washington Capitals that inched the Flyers within four points of the division-leading Caps 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’s 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 hair style 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,” said Simmonds. “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,” said Hakstol. “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
General manager Ron Hextall announced Monday morning that 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.

Future Flyers Report — Anthony Stolarz's long road back to playing

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Future Flyers Report — Anthony Stolarz's long road back to playing

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 24, 6-6/232, Reading (ECHL)
It was a long road back but Stolarz found his way back on the ice last week.

Stolarz began his rehab stint with the Royals and it doesn’t appear to be a long one. Per Jason Guarente, Stolarz packed up his gear Saturday and appears headed back to Lehigh Valley.

With Reading, Stolarz allowed six goals on 61 shots. As of this post, he has yet to be recalled.

The 24-year-old had been out since last April and underwent left knee surgery in September. Now that he’s back on the ice, expect Stolarz to see some AHL action. He’s on a one-year deal.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
Well, some disappointing news first. He failed to break the WHL shutout record, allowing one goal in Everett’s final regular-season game. He finishes his junior career with 26 shutouts.

Hart enjoyed one of the best junior seasons ever from a goalie and dominated the WHL. He led the league in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.947) and shutouts (7). The disparity between Hart and the No. 2 goalie, Cole Kehler, in GAA is remarkable. Hart finished with more than a goal better average than Kehler’s 2.77. Griffin Outhouse was second in save percentage, with .914. Hart was head and shoulders above his peers in the WHL.

Up next, the WHL playoffs. Then next season, the AHL. Hart watch is ramping up.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Frost’s quest to lead the OHL in points came up short but the Flyers' “other” 2017 first-round pick finished his draft-plus-1 season as a 1.67 point-per-game player.

The 18-year-old’s regular season ended Sunday with a goal and an assist. He finished the season with 42 goals, 70 assists and 112 points and led the OHL as a plus-70 player. Next up is the OHL playoffs.

Let’s cool the jets on the Frost on the Flyers talk next season. There is a chance he outshines the competition in training camp but he still needs to bulk up a considerable amount.

March Madness
The NCAA Tournament begins Friday. It’ll feature four Flyers prospects, Michigan’s Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski and Clarkson’s Terrance Amorosa.

Quick Hits
• Phantoms center Mikhail Vorobyev remained hot last week with two assists in three weekend games. He has eight points in his last nine games.

• Pascal Laberge’s point streak reached nine games before ending Friday. He finished the regular season with 47 points in 64 games between Quebec and Victoriaville.

• Matthew Strome, who signed his entry-level contract last week, finished the regular season with Hamilton with 37 goals and 68 points.

Isaac Ratcliffe’s season wrapped up on a four-game point streak and three-game goal streak. Ratcliffe led Guelph with 41 goals and 68 points.

• The Flyers signed Maksim Sushko to his entry-level contract. Sushko finished with 31 goals and 60 points. Five of the Flyers’ seven 2017 draft picks have signed.