NHL

Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins on Sean Couturier's late goal

Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins on Sean Couturier's late goal

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — After sitting out the previous game with a right leg injury, Sean Couturier scored the game-winning goal Friday with 1:15 remaining in regulation during the Flyers’ 4-2 Game 5 victory over the Penguins. The Flyers kept their postseason hopes alive as they cut the series deficit to 3-2.

Making his first start of the series, Michal Neuvirth came up with the save of the game when he robbed Sidney Crosby on a point-blank glove stop with 50 seconds left in the third period. 

Neuvirth denied 30 shots in the game.

Claude Giroux opened the scoring with his first goal of the playoff series and his first postseason goal since 2014, which gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Playing on the top line with Giroux and Couturier for the first time this season, Valtteri Filppula scored his first goal in his last 16 playoff games that tied the game at 2-2 late in the second. Filppula had a three-point night with a goal and two assists.

Matt Read sealed the win with an empty-netter. 

Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust added goals for the Penguins.

Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday in Philadelphia (3 p.m./NBC).

• Despite suiting up and providing a gutsy effort, Couturier appeared to labor early while dealing with his leg injury. Early on, he didn’t have much power behind his shot and didn’t have much of a skating burst as he relied more on solid positional play. However, he seemed to get better as the game moved along. 

Apparently Couturier wasn’t healthy enough to play on the top line or on the No. 1 power-play unit, but he did receive his typical workload on the penalty kill.

• After the Flyers bottled up the Penguins in the first period, Pittsburgh adjusted its attack in the second. That led to easier offensive zone entries and a longer sustained attack in the Flyers’ zone. 

The Pens’ third line capitalized against the Flyers’ fourth line as Rust broke loose from Read and no one picked him up on the backside wraparound.

The Flyers were also held without a shot over 11½ of the second period. Offensive zone time was 4:10 for Pittsburgh to 45 seconds for the Flyers in the second period.

• Neuvirth appeared to have the post covered, but apparently Rust was still able to pop it up and over the goalie’s blade. Regardless, a bad goal. 

Later in the second period, Neuvirth allowed another goal that he should have stopped as Guentzel snapped a shot that slipped between his legs. 

Overall, Neuvirth made some key saves early and on the Penguins’ power play to offset the goals.

• Regardless of the outcome, the Flyers gave Pittsburgh their most physical effort in this seres. They battled for loose pucks and made some of the Pens’ most skilled players, primarily Evgeni Malkin, fight for their possessions. 

Brandon Manning got in Malkin’s face and Radko Gudas came to the defense of Giroux when he fought Jamie Oleksiak after his incidental contact.    

• Despite some concerns that Filppula couldn’t handle the responsibilities as a top-line center, No. 51 was arguably one of the Flyers’ best forwards. Filppula scored shorthanded, played a near perfect first period and provided solid defensive play. He also led the Flyers with four shots on goal.

Flyers on verge of elimination after being blasted by Penguins in Game 4

Flyers on verge of elimination after being blasted by Penguins in Game 4

BOX SCORE

Playing without Sean Couturier was too much of a loss for the Flyers.

The Penguins took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a convincing 5-0 win over the Flyers in Game 4 Wednesday. After scoring five goals in a Game 2 victory, the Flyers have managed just one goal in their three losses during the series. 

Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal just 4:33 into the game and Phil Kessel added his first goal of the series later in the opening period.

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray stopped all 26 shots for his second shutout of the series.

The Flyers’ power play finished 0 for 4 and is now 2 for 17 in the series. 

It’s the first time the Flyers were beaten in Games 3 and 4 of a playoff series on home ice since the 1989 Wales Conference Finals. 

Game 5 is scheduled for Friday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSP).

• Unlike Game 3, the Flyers came out with a very timid start as they played with a real uncertainty considering Dave Hakstol had to make the necessary line changes in the absence of Couturier. 

Once again, the Flyers were hounded by Pittsburgh’s pressure, which eventually led to Matt Read’s holding penalty three minutes into the game. 

The Flyers were able to generate some sustained pressure after the initial 10 minutes. However, they lost all momentum when the Penguins converted a 2-on-1 between Malkin and Kessel after the Flyers had spent an entire shift in the Penguins’ zone. 

• The Flyers resorted to dumping and chasing more often in Game 4 as Pittsburgh clogged up the middle of the ice and denied them clean entries. 

The Flyers also had some inexcusable plays in the second period as they were caught offsides on a routine offensive zone entry and committed an unnecessary icing that led to their offensive ineptitude. As a result, the Flyers failed to generate a shot on net in the first 9:21 of the second period.  

• With Hakstol electing to keep Claude Giroux at left wing and moving Nolan Patrick up to the top line, the Flyers were weakened down the middle as Valtteri Filppula moved up to the second line and Jori Lehtera filled in as the third-line center. It presented clear matchup problems with the Penguins’ center combo of Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Derick Brassard. 

On a number of occasions, the Flyers would dump the puck in and the Penguins would retrieve it with no pressure. 

After falling behind early, Hakstol switched things up and moved Giroux to center with Jakub Voracek and Travis Konecny for a handful of shifts.  

• The Flyers desperately needed to have the better goaltending and that simply didn’t happen as Brian Elliott was pulled for the second time in four games after he allowed three goals on 17 shots. 

While the Penguins easily dissected the Flyers’ PK on their power-play goal, Elliott had enough time to deny Kessel’s goal as the puck slid through his pads. Kris Letang’s goal was deflected off Andrew MacDonald’s stick and Elliott was visibly frustrated as there was nothing he could have done. 

Hakstol had a quick trigger in pulling Elliott after three goals. In Game 1, Elliott wasn’t yanked until the Penguins made it 5-0.   

• Unquestionably, the Flyers’ best forward in this game was Nolan Patrick. The rookie center brought speed and a strong pursuit of the puck to his game that wasn’t matched by his teammates. 

Patrick finished with a team-high six shots on goal, while no one else on the Flyers’ roster had more than three.

Flyers need to capitalize on home ice advantage against Penguins

usa-travis-konecny-flyers-celebration.png
USA Today Images

Flyers need to capitalize on home ice advantage against Penguins

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers must fare better at the Wells Fargo Center than they did during the regular season to keep their momentum going Sunday against the Penguins.

The series returns to Philadelphia knotted at 1-1, putting the Flyers in position to gain the upper hand with home ice. Then again, they haven’t exactly dominated in their own building, particularly against the Penguins.

Though they had a winning record of 22-13-6, the Flyers finished with the fewest home wins of any playoff team in 2017-18. They’re also 2-4 against Pittsburgh at the Wells Fargo Center over the last three seasons.

Despite the appearance of any issues, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol didn’t sound concerned.

“We’re just going to worry about playing a good hockey game,” Hakstol said Saturday. “I think we had a winning record at home, didn’t we? So we were OK.

“I’m not real worried about what the regular-season record was or games that are passed.”

The Flyers have performed better at home of late, coming in with a five-game winning streak. And there’s no doubt the place will be ready to rock the moment the puck drops for Game 3.

The question is whether the Flyers are ready for the pressure of playing in front of their own fans.

“It will be another interesting challenge for our team, especially for our young guys to manage,” Hakstol said. “Can you harness that and use that in a positive way rather than have it weigh you down?”

For budding stars such as Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick and Ivan Provorov, this will be their first playoff experience at the Wells Fargo Center. While it’s difficult to put a finger on what exactly prevented the Flyers from owning home ice this season, youth is the one constant.

“Maybe it’s just the maturity of our team,” Flyers center Sean Couturier said. “Sometimes in front of your own fans, you try to put a show on, try to look good. Sometimes less is more.”

The Flyers have two playoff games under their belts already. They’ve had a chance to experience the level of intensity NHL fans come with when the Stanley Cup is on the line.

Of course, PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh is nothing like playing in Philly.

“I don’t think you can really compare to our building,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “Our building is pretty loud, and a 3 o’clock game, the people are going to be ready for sure.”

How the Flyers manage their emotions Sunday could go a long way toward determining the outcome of Game 3, not to mention the remainder of the series.