Flyers

Flyers prove they're the best in the business for 1 night

Flyers prove they're the best in the business for 1 night

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Flyers turned in one of their most impressive performances of the season to defeat the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 Friday night.

It was just the third regulation loss for the Lightning at Amalie Arena, as they came into this game with a 16-2-1 record.

Sean Couturier scored the go-ahead goal with 11 seconds remaining in the second period when he pounced on a loose puck right in front of Lightning goalie Peter Budaj that gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead.

Making his 13th consecutive start, Brian Elliott made some crucial saves late in the second period and finished the game with 24 saves on 27 shots.

Claude Giroux had his second three-assist night in his last five games, and extended his point streak to a season-high seven games.  

Both teams were playing on the second night of back-to-back games. The Flyers improved to 3-2-2 in the second game of back-to-back sets while the Lightning fell to 1-4-0.

• One of the more interesting subplots to this game was to see how Shayne Gostisbehere handled himself in the defensive end against the Bolts’ top line. Early on, Gostisbehere sealed off Lightning star Nikita Kucherov, got the puck back and proceeded to skate it out from behind his net. I liked the confidence and commitment to defense in Gostisbehere’s game at the outset.

• The Lightning buried the Flyers with their power play as Kucherov sent a cross-ice missile right through the box and onto the tape of Steven Stamkos, who may have one of the top three one-timers in the league. Not a thing Brian Elliott could do to stop that.

• The Flyers received a gratuitous power play when Cory Conacher seemingly hooked Gostisbehere. The Flyers’ first unit had a couple of early shots on Budaj and the second unit couldn’t even get set up.

• Another first-period stick infraction for the Flyers as Valtteri Filppula had his stick wrapped around Yanni Gourde. The Flyers’ PK performed much better at closing off those passing lanes while they successfully cleared the zone more often.

• There was a great read by Elliott to pick up Kucherov’s cross-ice pass to a cutting Victor Hedman. A play similar to the power-play goal, but Elliott had just a spilt second longer to react.

• Take away the Stamkos goal and I liked the Flyers’ opening 20 minutes. I give them the slight edge when the two teams skated at 5-on-5, even though the shot total was even.

• The Flyers can’t seem to cut down on the odd-man rushes. The Lightning had a golden opportunity early in the second period and the Flyers were fortunate that Conacher hit the outside post.

• The Flyers’ third line had an extended shift five minutes into the second period. Nolan Patrick looked much more comfortable playing alongside Wayne Simmonds than he did with Jake Voracek.

• The Lightning PK got a little overaggressive and the Flyers caught them in more of a diamond formation. With Dan Girardi as the only defender down in the low blocks, he unwisely went to his knees. That opened up a passing lane as Sean Couturier completed a nice no-look, backhand pass across the crease to Simmonds, who slammed it home. That snapped an 0-for-9 power-play skid.

• The Flyers continued to push play at even strength as Gostisbehere and Patrick nearly teamed up for a quality scoring chance, but the “Ghost” pass was just a touch behind Patrick.

• Kucherov took a retaliatory slashing penalty against Robert Hagg and that led to the Flyers’ scoring their second power-play goal. Gostisbehere was operating in the right circle as Simmonds took the shot, Giroux grabbed the rebound and fed a pass to “Ghost,” who found the wide-open net. 

• The Lightning’s big guns were able to strike late in the second period as Ivan Provorov turned the puck over in the neutral zone. That allowed Tampa to transition quickly and led to a 3-on-2 as no one picked up Brayden Point in the slot. Point nearly whiffed on his shot, but got just enough of it to throw off Elliott’s timing.

• Elliott bailed out the Flyers again as Alex Killorn got past Andrew MacDonald and skated in all alone. A sprawling Elliott denied Killorn with his right pad. Less than a minute later, Point sped his way around Radko Gudas and got a chance to bang home a shot. Once again, Elliott had everything sealed up.

• The Flyers grabbed a late lead in the second period as Tampa struggled to clear the zone. Gostisbehere jumped on the loose puck and fed it to Provorov, who fired a cross-ice pass to Giroux. Budaj robbed Giroux, but the puck squirted free and Couturier was there to clean it up. It was a big momentum goal for the Flyers.

• Elliott had another highlight-reel save when he snared Kucherov’s potential game-tying goal with a beautiful glove save. Fifteen seconds later, defenseman Brandon Manning, playing for the first time in 10 games, pinched down low. The initial shot was saved by Budaj, but Manning corralled the puck behind the net and wrapped it around for the goal.

• With the Flyers looking to add another power-play goal, they were doomed by an unfortunate circumstance when Provorov snapped his stick on a slap shot from the point. Provorov was left trying to defend Tyler Johnson without a stick. Johnson made a nice move to free up a shooting lane and proceeded to beat Elliott high to the blocker side.

• Scott Laughton lost an edge and undercut Budaj, who was clearly injured and had to be helped off the ice. The Flyers were fortunate they weren’t whistled for goaltender interference. It was a bad break for both teams as the Flyers had success against Budaj, who was replaced with No. 1 goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

• Valtteri Filppula scored an empty-net goal against his former team to put the game away.

Lineups, pairings and scratches 

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Mark Alt, Taylor Leier and Travis Sanheim.

Playing through pain, Provorov and Couturier give Flyers all they've got

Playing through pain, Provorov and Couturier give Flyers all they've got

BOX SCORE

You could see the tears that had formed in Ivan Provorov’s eyes.

Whether it was the product of elimination, a turnover that led to the Penguins' go-ahead goal, the sheer emotion of playing on a shoulder that may need offseason surgery or the tribulations of a six-month journey, no 21-year-old kid can be expected to overcome these levels of distress and anguish.

“I did everything I could. The third period didn’t go as well as I wanted to. I turned the puck over a couple of times and it turned to goals and it cost us the game,” Provorov said while holding back emotions. “As long as my arm was attached I was playing.”

How Provorov mustered up the strength to play 20-and-a-half minutes in his final game of the season, an 8-5 loss to the Penguins, probably defied medical logic. His left shoulder was so battered from crashing into the boards in the final few minutes of Game 5 that his upper body was often contorted to a 45-degree angle where his only option was to pass just about every time the puck was on his stick, even with a wide open net to shoot at. 

 “He is a warrior,” said defenseman Andrew MacDonald. “Everyone here knows it and respects the hell out of him.”

Had this been the regular season, Provorov and teammate Sean Couturier would have missed weeks of action. Couturier revealed he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament when he collided with Radko Gudas leading up to Game 4. Last Wednesday the Flyers' center could barely walk and yet he was already skating again.

“The decision was on me,” Couturier said, “Obviously, I had the support of the staff, the organization and the medical team. They helped me a lot. I had a lot of treatments. It definitely got better over the days, but it wasn’t the ideal situation. I didn’t really feel a whole lot today to be honest. I was just giving everything I got.”

Courageous and so incredibly determined, Couturier gave a performance for the ages. Skating on one good leg and another that needs at least four weeks of rest and treatment, the Flyers' Selke Trophy finalist scored a hat trick to go along with five points, and was on the ice for every goal the Flyers scored.

"Credit to Coots, what he played through during the playoffs and the way he played,” Scott Laughton said. “I don’t know much more to say about that guy. The way he battled and the way he played through what he was dealing with.”

The Penguins had their share of injuries as well. Evgeni Malkin missed Game 6 with a leg injury and Patric Hornqvist returned after missing the previous two contests. Even without Malkin, the Penguins had four goals from Jake Guentzel, plus they created havoc and stifled the Flyers with a suffocating forecheck that exposed areas the Flyers need to address in the offseason.

“You have to do it all the time and you have to be consistent in executing under pressure,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “We didn’t do that consistently in this series, not just tonight. That’s the time of year that it is.”    

Overall, the Flyers weren’t eliminated in six games because they didn’t have a healthy Couturier and Provorov. 

Rather, the dogged determination and incredible resolve of those two players is precisely why the Flyers can take pride in pushing the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions to six games, especially after the Flyers were manhandled 7-0 in Game 1.

In the end, the guys in orange and black simply weren’t good enough or deep enough. 

But draft and develop a few more Couturiers and Provorovs on your roster and the thought of winning championships year after year won’t just be a Pittsburgh thing.   

Sean Couturier played through torn MCL in Flyers' final 2 games

Sean Couturier played through torn MCL in Flyers' final 2 games

Sean Couturier's "lower-body" injury was a lot more serious than originally believed.

After the Flyers were eliminated by the Penguins in Game 6 Sunday (see observations), Couturier revealed he had been playing on a torn MCL in his right knee. It will not require surgery, he said.

Couturier missed just one game with the injury. When asked if he'd come back as fast if it were the regular season, the centerman said, "probably not."

"It's usually something like four weeks," he said. "Depends on the situation during the season, [but] probably take more time off."

The Flyers' top center suffered the injury in a collision with teammate Radko Gudas during practice April 17. He missed Game 4 and then returned for Game 5 in Pittsburgh, where he scored the game-winning goal to help the Flyers force Game 6.

On Sunday afternoon, Couturier recorded his second career playoff hat trick — both coming against the Penguins — and had five total points in the Flyers' 8-5 loss.

"That was incredible," Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "If you guys only knew what kind of shape those guys were in. I respect the hell out of those guys."

It turns out, we found out exactly what kind of shape Couturier was in, and it certainly was far more serious than we thought.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Eric Mullin contributed to this story.