Conor Sheary

Flyers learn harsh reality that they're 'not there yet'

Flyers learn harsh reality that they're 'not there yet'


You can get away with mistakes against teams like the Canadiens or the Senators.

Against the Penguins, you’ll get buried.

On Wednesday, the Flyers paid dearly as Pittsburgh scored three unanswered goals in the second period en route to a 5-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations). The Flyers’ four-game losing streak has dropped them from first to third place in the Metropolitan Division, and their playoff cushion in the wild card is now just six points.

“We’re playing good teams right now that are on top of the standings with a lot of experience, so sometimes it shows that we are not there yet,” forward Jakub Voracek said. “Obviously it was a big game today, but we’re still not there.”

This game played out very similarly to the Flyers’ 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 2 when the Penguins scored three goals in just over two minutes. When the Flyers weren’t killing first-period penalties, they dominated stretches of the second period. They even took the lead when Travis Konecny scored his 18th goal of the season, but inconsistency proved once again to be a killer (see highlights).

“We didn’t play a complete game 5-on-5,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You’ve got to play a complete game throughout the 60 minutes, and we didn’t do that and that cost us.”

Conor Sheary scored two goals to lead Pittsburgh, including one in the final minute of the second period that gave Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead.

“I know on the fourth goal there, I take responsibility,” Konecny said. “I could have got the puck in deep, and then I didn’t get the puck out of the zone too. Two turnovers there and they capitalized, and it’s tough to get back in games against guys like this.”

The Flyers could have benefitted from a power-play goal, but that unit was a combined 0 for 5 even with Wayne Simmonds’ return to the lineup. The Flyers’ power play is now 1 for 19 over the last six games.

“The power play was s--- tonight and it’s frustrating,” Claude Giroux said. “We did a good job of drawing those penalties and gaining momentum, but it wasn’t good.”

“We gotta find ways to get the puck to the middle of the ice to alleviate the pressure,” Simmonds said. “Once we got it on the wall, they pressured. They did a good job not allowing us to get it off.”

Playing the Penguins also presented matchup problems for the Flyers. With the Sean Couturier line mostly battling Evgeni Malkin’s line, Hakstol attempted to contain Sidney Crosby’s line with the trio of Valtteri Filppula, Jordan Weal and Simmonds. While they didn’t play terribly, they were still collectively minus-8 and played much of the game at even strength on the defensive side of the ice.

“We made a couple of mistakes and they took advantage of it,” Simmonds said. “I think as a whole, I don’t think we were too bad, but just those couple mistakes, they put them in the back of our net.” 

The Flyers are proving to be one of the NHL’s streakiest teams, both good and bad.

Now they must find a way to pump the brakes Thursday night in Boston.

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins score early in OT for 2-0 series lead

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins score early in OT for 2-0 series lead


PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby enters the faceoff circle with a plan every time, well aware it will almost certainly evaporate once the puck smacks the ice.

That doesn't stop the Pittsburgh superstar from doing it, because every once in a while the idea in his head morphs into reality. Times like Wednesday night, when Crosby's improvisation helped move the Penguins within two victories of the Stanley Cup.

Crosby's faceoff win helped set up Conor Sheary's perfectly placed wrist shot 2:35 into overtime, one that lifted the Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"I call 25 faceoffs a night," Crosby said with a laugh. "I got 24 wrong tonight."

It's the one Crosby got right that will live on if the Penguins find a way to close out their fourth championship. Just before heading to the dot to the right of San Jose goalie Martin Jones, Crosby told Sheary to line up on the wall and then look for a soft spot in the San Jose defense.

Crosby won the draw and dropped it to defenseman Kris Letang, who feigned a shot then slipped it to Sheary. The 23-year-old rookie zipped it over Jones' outstretched glove for his fourth goal of the playoffs and second of the series.

"It's pretty surreal," said Sheary, who began the season in the minor leagues.

Game 3 is Saturday night in San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Justin Braun tied it with 4:05 left in regulation, but San Jose fell to 0-4 when pushed to overtime in the playoffs after getting largely outplayed for much of the night by the quicker, more nimble Penguins.

Phil Kessel scored his 10th goal of the postseason for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray made 21 stops. The Penguins have not trailed at any point while reeling off four straight playoff victories after falling behind in the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay.

"Game 1 was decided in last two minutes, tonight was decided in overtime," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "We'll hold off on the funeral."

Maybe, but time is running out. Only five teams in NHL history have come back from a 2-0 deficit in the final to win the Cup, a hole the Sharks find themselves in despite Braun's second career playoff goal and 28 stops by Martin Jones.

"We know that if we play this way we're not going to win games, so we need to be better," San Jose center Logan Couture said.

The Sharks blamed themselves for their shaky start in Game 1, with defenseman Brent Burns admitting the spectacle of playing the franchise's first Finals led to spending a large portion of the first period standing around and watching the Penguins take an early lead on the way to an eventual 3-2 victory.

Burns and his teammates promised repeatedly they would be sharper and more focused faced with the prospect of heading home in a massive hole, pointing to their 5-1 record this postseason in games immediately following a loss as proof of their resilience.

While the Sharks were better Wednesday, the sustained push the Penguins were expecting from the Western Conference champions failed to materialize until it was nearly too late. Pittsburgh did the two things that have been the club's hallmark since coach Mike Sullivan took over for Mike Johnston in mid-December, controlling the puck and forcing the San Jose to go a full 200 feet to create chances.

"I think that's the identity of our team," Sheary said after becoming the fifth rookie to score in overtime in a Cup final.

Pittsburgh's forecheck made San Jose labor just to get the puck in the offensive zone and once there, the Penguins kept throwing black-and-gold glad bodies in the way.

Still, it took time for Pittsburgh's heady and hectic play to translate into a goal, with the group that's been Pittsburgh's best line for the last three months finally breaking through against Jones just before the midway point.

Thrust together as an experiment when Evgeni Malkin went out with a left elbow injury in mid-February, the trio of Kessel, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino have rapidly evolved into Pittsburgh's most dangerous line. They began the night with 90 combined points in 34 games, and added to it during another typically aggressive shift when Hagelin stripped it from San Jose defenseman Roman Polak and slipped it to Bonino in the slot.

Bonino, who put in the Game 1 winner with 2:33 remaining from a similar spot, slipped it to Kessel on the door step. The pass was heading for the net but Kessel nudged it in anyway just to be sure.

"They're feeling it right now," Sullivan said about the line dubbed `HBK.' "They have that chemistry."

It appeared as if it would be enough to wrap things up in regulation until Braun found a moment of joy in the midst of a difficult time for his family. Braun's father-in-law, former Flames and Blackhawks center Tom Lysiak, passed away on Monday following a lengthy fight with leukemia.

Braun remained with the team, pledging to pay his respects to Lysiak before Game 3. His first goal of these playoffs -- a shot from just outside the top of the right circle that made its way under Murray's glove and off the post before crossing the line -- gave the Sharks a needed jolt with their chances at a first championships teetering.

The momentum didn't last. The Penguins wasted little time while improving to 4-2 in overtime.

"We did a good job of playing well here at home," Crosby said. "We know it's going to get challenging going to San Jose.