Flyers

Flyers wake up too late from holiday slumber

Flyers wake up too late from holiday slumber

BOX SCORE

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Flyers picked up where they left off prior to the Christmas break Thursday night with their third straight defeat, a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie scored his first goal of the season and the fifth shorthanded goal the Flyers have allowed this season as Florida won its fourth in a row.

Jared McCann and Jonathan Huberdeau also scored for the Panthers.

Scott Laughton scored his sixth goal of the season and is now one shy of matching his career high of seven he finished with in 2015-16.

Starting his 12th straight game, Brian Elliott stopped 24 of 27 shots. Elliott is 7-4-1 during this current stretch. 

Claude Giroux saw his point streak extended to six games with an assist.

The Flyers and Panthers will meet one final time on March 4 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.

• It was an absolute brutal start for the Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere, who was whistled for an interference call just 36 seconds into the game. Vincent Trocheck collided with “Ghost,” who made it look like he lowered his shoulder to deliver contact. 

• Moments later, Elliott was whistled for tripping Aleksander Barkov on a breakaway attempt. Elliott tried to poke check the puck away from Barkov. You see goalies make that play without drawing a penalty and I’m not sure Elliott actually tripped Barkov.  

• The Flyers’ PK, which came into the game ranked 29th, did an excellent job of killing off 1:19 of 5-on-3 time. The Panthers had just one shot on net and another ring off the post, but the Flyers did a solid job of closing off the passing lanes.

• The Panthers struck first when McCann made a move around Wayne Simmonds and fired a snap shot from the high slot that beat Elliott low to the blocker side. Replays didn’t appear to show the puck was deflected. My biggest problem was how the Flyers just gave the Panthers a clean zone exit and allowed them to move freely in the neutral zone. 

• Not sure what got Andrew MacDonald so fired up that he practically jumped Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson. Perhaps it was a slashing infraction as both guys went to the box during the matching minors as MacDonald was whistled for roughing.

• There was an irresponsible high-sticking penalty from Nolan Patrick, as the rookie raised his stick and clipped Michael Haley when neither guy was playing the puck. Hard to understand why players hold their sticks up high when there’s simply no need. 

• The Flyers played a typical opening 20 minutes for a team that had a three-day Christmas vacation. They were outshot 13-5 and trailed 1-0. The skated much better once the penalties were served. 

• Head coach Dave Hakstol has threw his lines into a blender as he moved Laughton onto the second line and bumped Jordan Weal to the third line. Hakstol appeared to be trying to find any combination after a lackluster first period.

• The Flyers were saved by the Panthers’ ineptitude to stay onside in the opening minute of the second period. Florida was looking at a potential 3-on-1 if Barkov hadn’t stepped over the line prematurely.

• The Flyers’ power play has been charitable when giving the opposition shorthanded chances. That was the case again when Giroux moved the puck down the boards just inside the blue line. Florida’s Colton Sceviour retrieved it to spring a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Giroux couldn’t keep up with MacKenzie, who scored on the one-timer pass from Sceviour.

• In an effort to drum up some emotion, Michael Raffl dropped the gloves with Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic. Give Raffl credit as he also drew a roughing penalty on Petrovic. The Flyers appeared lifeless in the first 30 minutes of the game.

• The Flyers couldn’t respond as the Panthers opened up a 3-0 lead when Matheson beat Robert Hagg to a loose puck to feed Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad then fed Huberdeau for a perfectly-placed shot. Huberdeau also used Radko Gudas as a screen as Elliott was late to pick it up. The Panthers had two players in the zone to the Flyers’ four. Florida simply out-hustled the Flyers.

• Jake Voracek had an excellent opportunity to get a goal back when he broke in all alone on James Reimer. However, he couldn’t finish as it appeared Voracek was trying to go five-hole with his backhanded shot. Instead, he pulled it too much left and it deflected off Reimer’s pad.

• The Flyers finally got one back with 7:32 remaining in regulation after Aaron Ekblad broke his stick on a slap shot that sprung Travis Konecny. The Flyers capitalized as the trailer, Laughton, snapped off a perfect shot that beat Reimer just under the crossbar. 

• The Flyers’ power play broke through as well when Sean Couturier redirected Gostisbehere’s shot from the point to pull them within one.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

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.