Flyers survive unusual, 'rodeo' final 84 seconds vs. Avalanche

Flyers survive unusual, 'rodeo' final 84 seconds vs. Avalanche

DENVER — There was one minute and 24 seconds left, with the faceoff in front of goalie Steve Mason, where a gassed Flyers team desperately clung to a 4-3 lead.

That’s when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare lost a draw to Matt Duchene. 

The puck would remain in Colorado’s end until the final whistle, while the Avs would attempt five shots — two of which actually reached Mason — while the rest were either wide or blocked.

Thing is, it was pure chaos because defenseman Andrew MacDonald broke his stick shortly after the faceoff. 

Bellemare gave MacDonald his stick and grabbed a right-handed stick from Wayne Simmonds.

“It was a rodeo after that point,” Simmonds said. 

That’s when all hell broke loose because Bellemare is a lefty and couldn’t use it against any of the six Avs pressing for a tying goal.

“We were essentially down [two] men,” said Simmonds, who stood and blocked people or shots with no stick, just his body. 

“I couldn’t take passing lanes away. All I could do was stand at the top and try to block a shot.”

Pucks were missing the net, the Flyers were chasing boards to boards, and when someone got a stick on it, the puck popped to Bellemare at the right half-wall.

All Bellemare had to do was clear it, but he muffed his clearing attempt because ...

“It could just have been a banana,” Bellemare said. “It was like the worst right-handed stick I could actually get. 

“It was chaos. A-Mac breaks his stick so I give him mine. And then I got Simmonds' stick and it’s 6 on 4. ... We were able to touch the puck at the right time.”

Mason made saves on Gabriel Landeskog in the low slot and Tyson Barrie at the point. The final 1:24 unfolded without a stoppage.

“We had a failed attempted clear on a wrong way stick,” Mason laughed. “It was a heckuva way to close out a game. It was pretty chaotic there.”

By surviving it, the Flyers have their longest win streak in 31 years (see story) — 10 games — and they’ll be looking for No. 11 Saturday afternoon in Dallas.

“I’m really proud of the way everybody in this locker room has performed,” Mason said. “We found different ways to win hockey games. Guys are still battling. That’s what we need.

“This team has so much character. When everybody is going, we’re a hard team to play against. Winning 10 in a row is quite an accomplishment and very hard to do in this league.”

Incredibly, the Flyers aren’t the only streaking team in the Metropolitan Division, otherwise they’d be leading the division instead of being behind Pittsburgh and the Rangers.

The Penguins became the first NHL club ever to have a seven-game win streak during 10 consecutive seasons with its overtime victory against the Bruins on Wednesday.

Columbus has won seven, as well. Washington has won five straight.

“Every single team is on a streak in our division,” Simmonds said. “We’re just trying to keep pace [with everyone else].”

Jakub Voracek, who fought Landeskog in the second period after a bad but clean hit on Michael Raffl, said the Flyers have earned these wins.

“We’re getting those bounces because we deserve them,” Voracek said. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy and we battled through and found a way to earn two points.”

For coach Dave Hakstol, he couldn’t say if this was the most satisfying win among the 10.

“A lot of little things I liked,” he said. “We go down 2-1 and answer back right away with a good transition play and great finish by Simmer. A disallowed goal (by Bellemare) that could have pushed ahead, but it was the right call (high-stick).

“We’re looking for different ways to push forward in the third period and Luby (Roman Lyubimov) comes up with a big goal, and Schenner (Brayden Schenn) makes an excellent play on his goal. A lot of guys are contributing in good ways.”

On to to Dallas to make it 11 straight wins.

No Johnny Boychuk drama, but Jakub Voracek, Flyers honest about their reality

No Johnny Boychuk drama, but Jakub Voracek, Flyers honest about their reality

The Flyers aren't fooling themselves.

There's a sense of reality setting in with the Flyers that they're running out of lives and postgame lines. They've lost four of their last six games after making a furious run from Jan. 14 to March 11, going 18-4-2 with a plus-22 goal differential.

To sustain such a pace over the final 13 games of the regular season would have been awfully difficult and the Flyers are noticing it, with another nail being hammered into the coffin Saturday afternoon courtesy of a 4-2 loss to the Islanders (see observations).

Inconsistency has reared its ugly over this 2-4-0 stretch, which has the Flyers seven points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot with seven games to go (see standings). In particular Saturday, the inconsistency bit the Flyers during the second period. They were outshot 15-5 and the Islanders pinned the Flyers in the defensive zone while taking a 2-1 lead.

Too often have the Flyers been burned by a poor period of play. Saturday was no different despite the Flyers tying the game early in the final stanza.

"Especially today, we were god-awful, oh my God in the second," Jakub Voracek said of the middle period. "I don't think we had a shot in the first 10 minutes. When they get zone time, they do a great job cycling us and keep the puck away from their net. I don't think we were moving well enough in the second period to give ourselves a chance to create something."

The Flyers have tried wiping the slate and turning the page after each difficult loss, but players are human and realistic, as well. Saturday marked the Flyers' third straight loss at the Wells Fargo Center, which this team simply could not afford.

"It sucks, that's the feeling right now, they played better than we did the whole game," Robert Hagg said. "We didn't deserve to win today, so, right now, yes, I have a terrible feeling."

The Islanders stayed away from the drama and decided to instead get the best of the Flyers on the scoreboard. Johnny Boychuk and New York didn't seek retaliation for Voracek's interference two weeks ago, a play that didn't really warrant retaliation anyway.

But when Boychuk angrily called out Voracek after the collision during the third period of the March 9 game, an attempt at payback was possible Saturday.

"There was no talking about the Voracek thing," Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. "Those two will figure it out down the road, but Johnny is one of those ultimate team guys. He knows how important what we're trying to do is, he knows how important this game was. There was no 'me' in his thought process, it was all about 'we.'"

Boychuk was back in the lineup for the first time since the incident with Voracek. He had been mostly a healthy scratch, so it seemed like a not-so-coincidental return.

"I expected something was going to happen," Voracek. "It didn't. I'm not going to say I was unhappy about that. He played a great game.

"We just blew it."

No sugarcoating it, not with where the Flyers are now.

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Islanders 4, Flyers 2: Emotional loss the latest of crushing defeats

Islanders 4, Flyers 2: Emotional loss the latest of crushing defeats


This one had some extra sting for the Flyers.

Playing in total must-win mode over the final eight games of the season, the Flyers shifted all the momentum during the third period Saturday afternoon to only lose it late for another frustrating loss, this one a 4-2 decision to the Islanders.

Ten minutes after the Flyers (36-31-8) scored a 2-2 equalizer and even had a chance to go ahead on another power play, the Islanders stemmed the tide with two goals from Josh Bailey in the final four minutes.

The Flyers, barely holding on to postseason hope, entered Saturday five points behind the Canadiens for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. The Blue Jackets, who are one point back of Montreal, do not play Saturday, while the Canadiens host the Sabres at 7 p.m. If Montreal wins, the Flyers will be seven points out with seven games to go — close to impossible.

Coming into Saturday, gave the Flyers a 3.0 percent chance to make the playoffs, while had them at 1.6.

The Islanders (43-25-7), who had lost two straight by a combined score of 9-0, picked up a timely win as they continue to chase first place in the Metropolitan Division.

• The NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast showed Sean Couturier taking a hefty hack at something in the tunnel late in the second period after he left the ice. He had all the right to be furious as he was boarded by Matt Martin but no whistle.

Martin crosschecked Couturier right through his jersey numbers.

Couturier did not come out for the start of the third period, but when he did return, he quickly drew a penalty and the Flyers scored four seconds into the power play off a Shayne Gostisbehere missile from the point, tying the game at 2-2.

At the time, the Flyers seized all momentum, especially after killing a 5-on-3 moments prior to the goal, as Ryan Hartman was hit with a questionable interference call and then Jakub Voracek was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

• Carter Hart was given little help from the Flyers during the first and second periods.

The goal he allowed in the first was pretty unlucky as the puck ricocheted off of Radko Gudas' skate and was batted in out of midair by Brock Nelson.

The second goal came in the second period when it felt like the Flyers were on the penalty kill with how long the Islanders sustained time in the offensive zone and fired away shot after shot. Eventually, Nick Leddy found the middle of the ice and blasted a one-timer past the 20-year-old goalie.

Hart entered 2-1-0 with a 1.32 goals-against average and .966 save percentage over his last three starts. In the two victories, he was forced to convert 40 or more saves.

He was busy again Saturday with 36 stops. He's been having to do a lot. However, Bailey's game-winner was a stoppable shot and Hart couldn't deliver late.

New York thoroughly dominated the Flyers in the middle stanza, which has been a season-long issue for the Flyers — period-by-period inconsistency. Looking like gangbusters one period and looking overmatched another period has happened far too often.

• The officials riled up the Wells Fargo Center early in the game, too, by giving Robert Hagg a double minor for high-sticking Anders Lee. The problem with the call: Hagg didn't do a thing as Lee was actually struck by his own teammate Nelson.

It oddly worked in the favor of the Flyers, who fed off the crowd and were then rewarded by the hockey gods. Who else but Hagg put the Flyers on the board 6:39 into the first period with one of the wackiest goals you'll see this season.

• There was no extracurricular activity between Voracek and Johnny Boychuk after blood boiled between the two teams in the Flyers' 5-2 win on March 9.

That, of course, was when Voracek was whistled for interference on Boychuk, who pointed at the Flyers' winger like a madman as he left the ice with an injury. During the rest of the third period, the Islanders went after Voracek, who received a highly debatable two-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety.

This was an important game for both teams. Thankfully, they focused on hockey, not WrestleMania.

• The Flyers are right back at it Sunday as they visit the Capitals (12:30 p.m./NBC). They are 0-3-0 against the defending champions this season, allowing five goals in each of the three defeats.

Washington comes in having lost four of its last six games.

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