Flyers

As Flyers suffer brutal loss, playoff door begins to close

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As Flyers suffer brutal loss, playoff door begins to close

BOX SCORE

With a lot of talk about believing in each other and their ability to scratch and claw their way to the playoffs, the Flyers had deemed each one of the 10 games they’ve played so far in March a must-win.

But after Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, they fell to 3-6-1 for the month, and seven points out of playoff contention.

“It comes down to one-on-one battles, and we didn’t win many of them today,” Kimmo Timonen said. “I think it was all Rangers -- they were hungrier and a better team today.”

Time is running short for the Flyers, who are in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and have just 16 games left in the season to get their act together. But against the Rangers, to whom they’ve now lost 11 of their last 12 games, the Flyers allowed themselves to fall into a 3-0 deficit before they woke up at all.

They seem to think they know the reason why.

The problem is, they can’t figure out how to correct it.

“I always think it comes down to individual preparation,” Timonen said. “You’re either ready to play or you’re not. And a lot of guys, a lot of people, blame coaches. But we play the game. We’re out there making plays. Like I said, you’re ready to play or you’re not.”

And on Tuesday night, right from the very first shift, in which they allowed Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin to skate in on Ilya Bryzgalov on a breakaway, the Flyers simply weren’t ready to play.

“The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift,” Wayne Simmonds said. “To win games in this league that’s what you have to do, and it just didn’t happen tonight.”

Based on all their talk, and even on the way in which they played for much of Sunday’s overtime loss in Pittsburgh, though, they should have been. In fact, it should have been Timonen’s night to shine. With his friends and family in attendance, the veteran defenseman was honored before the game for having played his 1,000th affair in the NHL.

Instead, it was the Rangers’ Rick Nash and Derek Stepan who stole the spotlight.

Stepan had four points and was involved in all but one of the Rangers’ goals, while Nash scored twice. The ex-Blue Jacket has now scored four goals (equal to a third of his season total) against the Flyers in 2013.

The game seemed to unravel for the Flyers in the second period. Though the Flyers entered the middle frame trailing 1-0 thanks to Nash, the Flyers fell apart as it went on, allowing goals to Brad Richards and Stepan, who now has points in 11 of the Rangers’ last 14 games.

Simmonds got one back late in the second period after the Flyers had fallen down 3-0, but the period ended 3-1 -- and the Flyers were 1-10 when trailing after two periods this season heading into Tuesday’s affair.

“It’s disappointing,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s a big game. Need to find a way to be ready for those kinds of games. It’s frustrating because we have a good team in here and can’t find a way to get those wins.”

Voracek, who recorded his 10th multi-point game of the season, scored for the Flyers in the third period. Giroux’s shot from the high slot appeared to hit Jakub Voracek in the chin area, into the net, making it 3-2 and giving fans hope of a comeback.

But whatever hope there was faded quickly, however, when Nash scored his second of the night on a wraparound less than a minute and a half later. Chris Kreider’s goal to make it 5-2 sucked what air remained out of the arena. Fans left in droves.

“We have 16 games left, and to me, we have to move on,” Timonen said. “Obviously it’s tough and this was a huge game to lose. We can talk all we want or watch tape, but once we step on the ice and it doesn’t happen that’s our fault. We’re the players that play the game and that’s our fault.”

There are small things to build on from Tuesday’s game. Bryzgalov looked very sharp through two periods, and the Flyers finally scored a third-period goal. But the end result makes it that much harder for the team -- and its fans -- to keep the faith that a run at the playoffs is at all possible.

“There’s nowhere to go except to the rink tomorrow for practice and to get ready for the next game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Regardless of how the night went, the season’s not over. We need to win hockey games. The objective remains the same.”

Four games now remain in what is undeniably a crucial homestand for the Flyers. And most of the players in the locker room believe they must win all four in order to have any chance of making the postseason.

“We have four games left on this homestand, and we’ve got to put up points,” Simmonds said. “There’s no excuses.”

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

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AP Images

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues' first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak

Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves (see full recap).

Maple Leafs ride big 1st period to win
TORONTO -- Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves in his season debut and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 14 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.

Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0. The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists.

Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period (see full recap).

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

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USA Today Images

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s an amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night, Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.