No goals and another injury as Flyers fall to Blackhawks

No goals and another injury as Flyers fall to Blackhawks


CHICAGO — Corey Crawford was the reason behind a lack of offense.

Another injury was the reason behind the Flyers' lack of defense.

Crawford stopped all 35 shots he faced, including a handful of breakaways, as the Blackhawks shut out the Flyers, 3-0, at the United Center Wednesday night (see observations). It was the third time in the first 13 games the Flyers were unable to manufacture a single goal.

There was a Valtteri Filppula breakaway, a Travis Sanheim breakaway, a Filppula wraparound, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek had opportunities from point-blank range, and yet, the Flyers were just blanked altogether.

“I really can’t find one guy who was below the bar tonight because of effort,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We had a real good effort throughout. Offensively, we didn’t have anything to show for it, and that’s the difference in the hockey game.”

“The chances we had were quality chances. So many times the puck was just laying there and Crawford found a way to make the save,” Giroux said. “We did a good job of going to the net and getting traffic, getting rebounds and it was just hitting a glove, a skate or something.”

Sanheim, who impressed coaches with three preseason goals, was on the verge of scoring his first NHL goal in the second period when he fired a shot top left corner on Crawford, but the Blackhawks' goalie reached out with his blocker pad to make the save.

“I tried to get it off quickly,” Sanheim said. “Hopefully those bounces start going my way.” 

Every period the Flyers increased their shot total, going from eight to 12 to 15, as they battled desperately to break through with that first goal.

“The third period we had seven or eight really good scoring chances, like I said, we just didn’t have anything to show for it,” Hakstol said. “You've got to give [Crawford] credit for that.”

However, the Flyers can be faulted for helping pump some air into the Blackhawks' power play that had looked completely flat coming into the game. Chicago’s man advantage was 2 for 30 on home ice and ranked 28th overall. On the Blackhawks' fourth opportunity, they finally converted when Brian Elliott’s initial save was a rebound that wasn’t cleared and Artem Anisimov moved past Ivan Provorov for the game’s first goal (see highlights).

“You hope your guys are close enough to battle for it and clear it,” Elliott said. “It’s tough when you’re killing penalties like that. They have one extra guy and you have to figure what to cover.” 

The Flyers were forced to cover for Radko Gudas, who never returned after the first intermission following a hard hit he took from Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, resulting in an upper-body injury. For the second time in three games, the Flyers' defense was reduced to five players, three of them rookies.

Not only have the Flyers lost three defensemen in the span of 11 days, but three veteran blueliners for a team that was already pushing the youth movement. Combined, the three rookies logged 56:20 of ice time or nearly half of the 120 minutes required of a team’s defense corps. 

“It’s not what you want to see on any team, especially your own,” Elliott said of the injuries to the defense. “We just have to battle through it. It’s just a next-man-up mentality that when one guy goes down, another one picks up the slack.”

“We have to play with those guys that we have right now," rookie Robert Hagg said. “There’s not much we can do about it. We’ll see Thursday (in St. Louis) who’s playing, and whether Gudas is back tomorrow or not.”

Gudas was dressed and standing in the hallway after the game with no residual appearance of an injury. If he can’t play in St. Louis, in all likelihood, 29-year-old Will O’Neill will be pressed into action against the Blues in what would be his NHL debut.

Notes and tidbits
• Provorov continues to log some heavy minutes. Wednesday night, Provorov was on the ice for a career-high 29:51, the second straight night he has posted a career high in ice time. That’s the most playing time in a regulation game for a Flyer with less than 100 career games played.

• Sean Couturier led the Flyers with six shots on net. It’s the third game this season in which Couturier has had six or more shots on goal. Prior to this season, Couturier had that many shots in just four of the 416 games he had played in. He’s currently on pace for 246 shots this season.

Best of NHL: Brian Boyle's emotional goal helps Devils beat Canucks

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Best of NHL: Brian Boyle's emotional goal helps Devils beat Canucks

NEWARK, N.J. -- Brian Boyle scored one of the most meaningful goals of his career to help the New Jersey Devils beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Friday night.

The Devils were marking "Hockey Fights Cancer Night," a battle especially meaningful to Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia during training camp and missed the first 10 games of the season while undergoing treatment.

The Prudential Center erupted with cheers when Boyle, set up by a beautiful drop pass from Will Butcher, scored at 10:17 of the second period to snap a 1-1 tie.

Taylor Hall got the second assist as part of his big night. The Devils' leading scorer had a goal and two assists as the Devils picked up points in a third straight game (2-0-1).

Damon Severson also scored for New Jersey and Cory Schneider made 23 saves to improve to 6-1-2 against the team that made him a first-round draft pick in 2004.

The win gave the Devils a sweep of the two-game season series, having beaten the Canucks 2-0 in Vancouver on Nov. 1 (see full recap).

Pastrnak goal in 3rd lifts Bruins past Penguins
BOSTON -- Matt Grzelcyk scored his first career goal, David Krejci had a goal and an assist and the Boston Bruins stretched their season-long winning streak to four straight in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

David Pastrnak's goal on a breakaway 5:06 into the third broke a 3-all tie and Anton Khudobin shut out the Penguins the rest of the way to win his fourth straight start. Khudobin finished with 17 saves for Boston, which outshot Pittsburgh 33-20 and has its longest winning streak of the season.

Sydney Crosby had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh, which rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to tie it with three goals in the second period. Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel also scored for the Penguins, who lost their third straight.

After being outshot 14-4 in the first period, Pittsburgh pulled within 2-1 just 1:02 into the second on a one-timer by Jake Guentzel with assists by Crosby and Kris Letang.

Grzelcyk put Boston back up 3-1 at 10:31 of the second, when Krejci misfired on a slap shot from the blue line and the puck slowly, found Grzelcyk for a wrist shot that hit Murray's glove and continued into the net. Grzelcyk is the seventh Boston player to score his first career goal this season (see full recap).

Atkinson scores twice as Columbus tops Ottawa
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Cam Atkinson scored twice to lift Columbus over the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Friday night, extending the Blue Jackets' league-high winning streak to six games.

Sergei Bobrovsky turned back 24 shots for his 14th win in 19 starts. Columbus improved to 15-7-1 and leads the Metropolitan Division with 31 points.

Ottawa's Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots as the Senators (8-7-6) lost their fifth straight.

Tom Pyatt got the scoring started off the Senators' second shot in the first period, taking a cross-crease pass from a driving Derick Brassard and going top shelf over Bobrovsky's left shoulder. It was Pyatt's fourth goal of the season, assisted also by Mark Stone.

Atkinson tied the score less than 30 seconds later, stealing the puck from Alex Burrows just inside the Jackets' blue line and creating his own breakaway. He slipped the puck under Anderson's left skate for his fifth goal of the season. It was Atkinson's first score in eight games.

A shot got behind Bobrovsky 17 seconds into the second period but was swept off the goal line by Boone Jenner without crossing (see full recap).

Streaking Jets roll past Ducks on Ehlers' 2 goals
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Nikolaj Ehlers scored two goals in the game's first 5 minutes, and the streaking Winnipeg Jets went on to beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Friday.

The Jets have won six of their last seven.

Bryan Little also had a goal and two assists for Winnipeg. Ehler added an assist to his two goals. Kyle Connor scored an empty-net goal from the red line, his sixth goal of the season.

Conner Hellebuyck stopped 30 shots for the Jets.

Anaheim's lone goal came from Francois Beauchemin. John Gibson stopped 34 of 36 shots for the Ducks.

Winnipeg scored on two of its three power plays, while Anaheim was unable to score during its two man-advantage situations.

The Jets went up 3-1 on a power play midway through the second period, Little slipping one past Gibson. Little assisted on Winnipeg's first two goals (see full recap).

Latest loss forcing Flyers to reexamine narrative

Latest loss forcing Flyers to reexamine narrative


Black Friday is that designated day after Thanksgiving when buyers are enticed to something special they wouldn’t be able to get any other day of the year.

Instead, Flyers fans got a whole lot more of the same. Same blown lead. Same defensive breakdown in overtime. Same result in the standings.

The Flyers fell, 5-4, in overtime to the Islanders for their seventh straight loss Friday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

In fact, Black Friday looks and feels similar to Groundhog Day right now.

“We obviously have to work on it,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “It’s the definition of insanity if you keep doing the same thing over and over again. We have to change some things and talk about it because these are big points and they can come back and hurt us.”

Right now, it hurts to watch. During the Flyers' current seven-game losing streak, their longest stretch of winless hockey since 2008, they’ve lost four of those games after regulation and they’ve held a lead in each of their last five games — and a two-goal lead in three of their last five.

“If you’re looking for a confidence level on this side of the TV, I can’t give you one,” Elliott said. “Everybody here is battling their own battles and trying to do their jobs. You don’t make it to this level without being able to handle things like this and being able to handle the ups and downs.”

Sure, you can cite the first-year players on defense for some of the late-game breakdowns. After all, there’s a rookie on every pairing, but the veterans have been just as culpable throughout this two-week skid. Jake Voracek has blown assignments on two of the overtime losses, including Nick Leddy’s OT winner Friday.

“Mistakes, personal mistakes,” Voracek said, “It is simple. Leddy was open there. He is my guy. I got caught puck watching. I didn’t cover my guy and got scored on. My bad.”

“I don’t know if it is a lack of confidence,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I think we kind of get away from our game. I think it is just up to us to own it and finish the game.”

After the game, and perhaps equally as disturbing, is how Dave Hakstol has spin-doctored the past four weeks. As he opened up his postgame comments, he made it sound as if the team should be patted on the back on their way out the Wells Fargo Center door.

“You got to evaluate it for what it is," Hakstol said. "I think in seven of our last ten we’ve gotten a point. Five of those are shootout or overtime losses.”

So, let’s evaluate it for what it is. The Flyers have collected just nine points in those 10 games. Spread that out over an 82-game season and you finish up in the 74-point range. That usually secures a top-five lottery pick, not a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Accumulating a point here and there is presenting a silver lining where one doesn’t exist.

Instead, the Flyers have won just four of their last 17 games. That’s the picture that needs to be painted and winning hockey games is the only solution to this problem.

“I really believe we’re going to learn from this,” Claude Giroux said. “We’re going to get a better team and we’re going to get back in a playoff spot.”

If the Flyers don’t heed the captain’s words soon, then this season will feel more like a Black Monday, that October day in 1987 when the stock market crashed.

I'll take 6 for 600
Giroux became the 10th player in Flyers history to record 600 points with the franchise. Giroux now sits one point from tying and two points from passing Rod Brind’Amour for ninth place on the Flyers' all-time scoring list.

Johnny on the overtime spot
Islanders captain John Tavares has been New York’s overtime spark plug. On Wednesday, Tavares put on a dazzling display fighting off Sean Couturier before firing a cross-ice pass to Josh Bailey, who scored the overtime winner at Barclays Center. Friday, Tavares was the on the ice again and registered the secondary assist on Leddy’s goal.

“Three-on-three, I don’t think there’s a guy other than maybe (Connor) McDavid that I would take Johnny over," Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal said. "Obviously, he’s one of the most skilled players in the league. I think we got a really skilled team up front. I’ll take us 3-on-3 against anybody."