The Flyers discovered Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center why the Tampa Bay Lightning have the best record in the entire NHL.
The Lightning scored three of their goals in the second period to defeat the Flyers, 5-1. Vladislav Namestnikov scored twice for Tampa Bay. Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde and Ryan Callahan also scored for the Bolts. Callahan’s goal came shorthanded, the eighth goal the Flyers have surrendered on their power play.
Red-hot Travis Konecny lit the lamp once again. The Flyers’ second-year winger now has a goal in four straight games and also reached the double-digit mark with his 10th of the season. Konecny is one goal shy of last season’s total of 11.
Michal Neuvirth made 17 saves on 22 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy, the NHL’s best goaltender in the first half of the season, stopped 36 of 37 shots.
Despite the loss, the Flyers enter the All-Star Break having won eight of their last 10 games.
The Flyers will open the post-All-Star break portion of their schedule next Wednesday with back-to-back road games against the Capitals and Devils.
• I didn’t like how the Flyers came out to start the second period. Just seconds after killing off a Lightning power play, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux couldn’t corral a centering pass that led to a chain reaction in the Flyers’ coverage.
Robert Hagg vacated his spot in front of the net, which left a wide-open passing lane to Point. Giroux couldn’t get between Point and the net and Andrew MacDonald positioned himself perhaps a little too high to allow for an easy goal that should’ve never happened.
Two Lightning players outworked four Flyers to grab a 1-0 lead. Tampa came into this game with a 22-4-0 record when scoring first.
• Point was flying around the Flyers’ zone for much of the second period. Defensively, the Flyers gave Point too much freedom and space with the puck.
• The Lightning took advantage of the Flyers’ fourth line and their third defense pair, in particular Brandon Manning, who was stationed on the right side (which is typically Gudas). Manning, for whatever reason, glided over and left the right side of Neuvirth completely unmanned as the rookie Gourde capitalized and flipped the puck over Neuvirth for a 2-0 Tampa Bay lead.
• The disastrous second period continued as the Flyers’ power play coughed up its eighth shorthanded goal of the season. Jakub Voracek came up from near the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Once it got past Voracek, Couturier raced back to take away the pass, which left Shayne Gostisbehere to play Callahan 1-on-1. Callahan, with one goal in 38 games this season, completely wheeled around Gostisbehere and beat Neuvirth for the score and a 3-0 Lightning lead.
• The Flyers’ power play not only surrendered a goal, but failed to score for the fifth time in the last six games. The possession time is there and it has moved the puck, but it hasn't moved personnel around. Sometimes we’ve seen Giroux operate behind the net or “Ghost” position himself in the right circle. The power play also hasn't generated any quality scoring chances from in, around and below the hash marks. The Flyers’ PP has converted just once in the last 17 opportunities.
• Late in the third period, the Flyers finally found that open seam as Konecny worked his way into the slot in the middle of the Lightning’s four-man box. Voracek hit Konecny for a one-timer that beat Vasilevskiy. When you’re hot, you’re hot. Good to see Dave Hakstol reward Konecny with power-play time with that top unit.
• The Flyers held the Lightning without a shot for the first 7:06 of the game. While on the surface it would appear the Flyers were solid defensively, they were actually sloppy to start with early icings, sloppy puck play in the neutral zone and a failure to work the puck deep into the Lightning zone.
• However, I liked how the defense communicated and won the 1-on-1 battles. Hagg made a switch with MacDonald, who had the angle on Gourde and stripped him of the puck. After Ivan Provorov had a pass picked off, Gostisbehere erased Callahan with a solid individual effort. In both instances, the Lightning could have had quality scoring chances, but the defense stepped up.
• Michael Raffl committed the only penalty in the first period on a holding penalty he telegraphed to the referees after he raised his arms, which served as a dead giveaway. Tampa’s power play wasn’t able to generate a shot with the Flyers’ PK nearly creating a chance of its own, but Jori Lehtera simply couldn’t make anything happen that included a 2-on-1 with Gostisbehere.
• The Lightning look noticeably different without All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman with his 6-6 frame and long stick. In the final two minutes of the first period, the Flyers’ top line had sustained time in the offensive zone, cycling the puck and outworking Tampa’s defense.
Lineups, pairings & scratches
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Tyrell Goulbourne-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas
Scratches: Forwards Taylor Leier (healthy) and Dale Weise (healthy), defenseman Mark Alt (healthy) and goalie Brian Elliott (lower body).