Flyers

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

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

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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 weekly observations: Something to think about with Alain Vigneault's system

Flyers weekly observations: Something to think about with Alain Vigneault's system

The Flyers went to the shootout two more times this week and stomached an 0-1-2 stretch punctuated by Saturday night's brutal collapse against the Islanders.

Twenty games into the 2019-20 season and the Flyers (10-6-4) are a complex group. Despite improvements under a new coaching staff with some new personnel, they are still the tough-to-predict Flyers.

Let's get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• When head coach Alain Vigneault's system is at its apex, all four lines are making an impact. Setting up shop in the offensive zone requires constant effort. The hard-on-the-attack, get-after-it premise can be taxing, so balance through the lineup is vital.

The Flyers haven't had that and their record reflects it. So, too, does their failure to close games. It's very possible they're running out of gas in the final 20 minutes.

The sharing of ice time can also lead to a style not conducive for high-volume individual point production. When everyone is going, the minutes and scoring can spread out.

Through 20 games, the production is down for Claude Giroux (13 points), Jakub Voracek (13), James van Riemsdyk (nine) and Kevin Hayes (seven). The Flyers don't need career years from those four; that probably wasn't going to happen. But the Flyers do need them for better balance or this team will have a difficult time finding consistency in Vigneault's system.

• On top of the way the Flyers want to play, their schedule hasn't been favorable — all of which could be having a negative effect on delivering knockout punches.

After playing in four different countries from Sept. 30 through October, the Flyers are in the midst of playing 16 games during November. They've already played five back-to-back sets out of 17 this season. In the second game of such situations, the Flyers are 1-2-2 and giving up 3.8 goals per game.

The Flyers have gone to the shootout seven times compared to just four times all of last season. Suddenly the start of games isn't an issue but instead finishing them has caused concerns.

Over the Flyers' last six games, they've been outscored 7-1 in the third period. Five of those six games have gone past regulation and at least three didn't have to.

“Not knowing exactly what we had to work with, I believe that we’re a work in progress and I really believe that we have steps forward to make," Vigneault said before Saturday night's game. "We’re not where I want this team to be, we’re not where I know our team wants to be. But we’re in a good place. We’re right there with a lot of good teams battling.”

• It's obvious by his faceoff work that Sean Couturier is still dealing with a shoulder strain.

The 26-year-old is one of the NHL's best in the dot but lost 12 of 13 faceoffs taken over three games this week. Last season, Couturier had 21 games in which he won at least 12 faceoffs.

He's clearly not the same guy in the circle. However, the injury hasn't stopped him from recording 10 points (four goals, six assists) and a plus-6 mark in his last 10 games.

“I feel better and better every day," he said Tuesday. "It’s more of don’t want to get it worse, want to heal it properly, don’t want it to last all year.”

The left-handed Couturier has limited his number of faceoffs and has even tried taking them right-handed.

“It’s something he’s worked on and it’s something that is pain-free for him," Vigneault said. "He does try it now or then. If the centerman gets kicked out, he’ll go in and try to win them on the side that doesn’t hurt. I hope he’s getting close because we need him to take draws.”

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Yikes! Flyers choke away 3-0 third-period lead for shootout loss to Islanders

Yikes! Flyers choke away 3-0 third-period lead for shootout loss to Islanders

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The Flyers choked away a 3-0 third-period lead Saturday night en route to a crushing 4-3 shootout loss at the hands of the Islanders.

The aftermath: an ugly and lost weekend.

Returning home to the Wells Fargo Center, head coach Alain Vigneault's team was in prime position to secure a noteworthy win following a befuddling letdown in Ottawa the night prior.

The Flyers wilted, though, in the final stanza, wasting away an opportunity for a quality win within the division. The Flyers (10-6-4) have lost three straight and gone to the shootout seven times this season because of blown leads and an inability to finish games.

After scoring two goals over their last two games, both losses, the Flyers were able to put up three on New York through two periods. The Islanders entered allowing the NHL's fewest goals per game at 2.29.

If only the Flyers kept their foot on the gas.

Give credit to the Islanders (14-3-1) for storming back and extending their point streak to 14 games (13-0-1). They took advantage of a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in the third period and completely had the Flyers on their heels.

• The Flyers are at the 20-game mark and this was not how they wanted to reach it. While they look different this season, they are still maddeningly inconsistent at times.

Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk and Kevin Hayes went scoreless against New York.

It's a good thing when others are producing, but the Flyers will need to get their big boys going with the others. It hasn't happened yet and the team's record reflects it.

• Brian Elliott came in and out of his crease quite often Saturday night. He had a weird game as he made some timely saves but fell flat in the third period.

That's when they really needed him.

• Oskar Lindblom has arguably been the Flyers' best forward 20 games into the year. The 23-year-old plays on both special teams units and has nine goals and seven assists.

Other NHL players with nine goals so far: Sebastian Aho, Filip Forsberg and Artemi Panarin.

Lindblom had a two-point effort Saturday, marking his third multi-point game of the season after having four all of last season.

He has run away with the opportunity given to him by Vigneault and company.

• The new line of Lindblom, Joel Farabee and Sean Couturier features plenty of intrigue.

The group opened the game's scoring just 1:38 into the action when Lindblom found Couturier, who had a two-point performance himself. The Flyers were 12-5-2 when Couturier had a multi-point game last season.

Lindblom, Couturier and Farabee combined for five points. It still wasn't enough, which is troubling.

• Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have been flip-flopping on the first and second power play units. Provorov was moved off the first group in Friday night's 2-1 loss to the Senators.

"Provy started off, he had three turnovers in the first 10 minutes, made a switch," Vigneault said before Saturday night's game. "Ghost seemed to me that he was playing a little bit better. If you want to play, you’ve got to make the plays."

Provorov made one on the man advantage Saturday to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead in the opening frame. He has four goals and nine assists in 20 games. Last season, he had four goals and eight assists through 40 games. The addition of Matt Niskanen has been huge for the 22-year-old defenseman.

• A little over two hours before puck drop, Vigneault said the Flyers had lineup decisions to make regarding some players nursing minor injuries.

The club's full roster took warmups. Afterward, Philippe Myers and Carsen Twarynski were the scratches as Robert Hagg and Chris Stewart played in their spots.

It's uncertain why the Flyers went that route. Vigneault said postgame that both Myers and Twarynski were healthy.

Myers will be back in the lineup. The 22-year-old defenseman has been great with three goals, an assist and a plus-7 mark in eight games since being called up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Twarynski, a 21-year-old forward, is in a more precarious spot with Scott Laughton (broken finger) nearing his return from long-term injured reserve. Laughton could be back as soon as next Saturday's game against the Flames.

• The Flyers rocked military appreciation jerseys during warmups.

• The Flyers are off Sunday and practice Monday at 11:30 a.m. in Voorhees, New Jersey, before traveling to Florida for a matchup Tuesday with Joel Quenneville's Panthers (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

 

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