Petr Mrazek

What just happened? Flyers embarrassed by Penguins in Game 1

What just happened? Flyers embarrassed by Penguins in Game 1

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins made a statement in Game 1 in the 2018 Battle of Pennsylvania.

The Pens scored three goals in the first 14:09 to seize a 3-0 first-period lead and they never looked back, cruising to a 7-0 win over the Flyers Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby led the way with his third career postseason hat trick.

Crosby’s linemate Jake Guentzel contributed a four-point night (goal and three assists) and a plus-5 rating.

Flyers starting goaltender Brian Elliott was pulled after surrendering five goals in the opening 29:01 of the game. Petr Mrazek replaced Elliott and stopped 12 of the 14 shots he faced.

Elliott has now lost his last eight playoff decisions dating back to the 2016 Western Conference Finals.

Pittsburgh took a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 Friday night in Pittsburgh.

• The Flyers' worst nightmare came true as the Penguins scored those three goals right out of the chute with the Flyers' top players on the ice for all three (see story).

• On the Penguins' first goal, Elliott had poor rebound control. Ideally, Elliott would have preferred to blocker Kris Letang’s shot to the far-side boards. Instead, it came out to Bryan Rust, who beat Elliott up high. Ivan Provorov could have stepped up on Letang to block the shot or possibly prevent it from being shot on net.   

• On the Penguins' third goal, Evgeni Malkin stepped out of the box and put on a clinic with no help from the Flyers defensively. Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux appeared fatigue after an extended power-play shift and neither guy provided Shayne Gostisbehere with any backchecking help. Couturier, Giroux and Gostisbehere all finished with a minus-3 rating in that opening period.

• I think there’s still some tentativeness from the core muscle surgery as Elliott still doesn’t appear to look completely comfortable in net. Guentzel’s power-play goal for a 4-0 lead was a play in which Elliott had just a slight hesitation in covering the far post. The season finale against the Rangers didn’t really test Elliott, and as much as the Flyers' defense didn’t help him out, the netminder couldn’t provide the big or timely save the Flyers needed.

• Quite simply, for the Flyers to have any chance in this series, their star players have to outperform Pittsburgh’s star players. On Wednesday, they weren't even close as Crosby and Malkin put on a dazzling display with some highlight-reel goals and open-ice moves that will leave Dave Hakstol with insomnia until the puck drops for Game 2.

• Crosby’s goals — batting a poorly struck slap shot out of midair to redirecting a shot from the slot — were just further proof of his impressive hand-eye coordination, while Malkin delivered a skating exhibition, darting in and around Flyers defenders. 

• Despite falling behind in the opening three minutes, the Flyers came out with a strong attack and early scoring chances. After the first 10 minutes, those scoring opportunities dissolved quickly as the Penguins were buzzing in the Flyers' zone and Hakstol's team couldn’t adjust accordingly. In the final regular-season matchup, the Flyers were able to break out of their zone successfully and create offense. They couldn’t generate anything in transition Wednesday. 

• The Flyers' fourth line generated the best scoring chances on Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, with some good looks from in the high-danger areas. Jori Lehtera simply doesn’t possess the quick release or the ability to jump on pucks fast enough to make that line a real scoring threat but credit its work ethic for making something happen. The problem is, when a fourth line is creating the best scoring opportunities, you’re typically doing very little offensively.

Flyers' huge rally evaporates in seconds during tough loss

Flyers' huge rally evaporates in seconds during tough loss

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — The Flyers will have to clinch a playoff spot on home ice with their final two games of the regular season at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Islanders outlasted the Flyers, 5-4, at the Barclays Center on Tuesday after the Flyers rallied to tie the game in the third period after trailing, 4-1, through 40 minutes.

New York captain John Tavares led the way with a pair of goals.

Claude Giroux topped the 30-goal mark for the first time in his 11th NHL season. Twenty-eight seconds after he scored, the Flyers surrendered the game-winner.

Five goals were scored by players under the age of 21 (Mathew Barzal had two, Nolan Patrick had two and Anthony Beauvillier had one).

The Flyers will host the Hurricanes Thursday.

• Ron Hextall mentioned Monday how well Shayne Gostisbehere’s defense has improved this season, which has even exceeded the GM’s expectations. “Ghost” was outstanding as he stripped Beauvillier and stick-handled around Barzal to lead a Flyers’ 3-on-2 for Wayne Simmonds’ 24th goal of the season. While Oskar Lindblom exhibited a good deal of patience and Patrick once again flashed tremendous stick work, Gostisbehere made the entire play happen to tie the game at 1-1.

However, Gostisbehere was also guilty of a couple of breakdowns, the most obvious one on Tavares’ second goal.  

• It’s hard to generate a shot when you don’t have the puck on your stick, which was the case for the first 10 minutes of the second period. The Flyers started the first 8:20 without a single shot on net, and were heavily outshot, 17-6, over the 20 minutes. The Flyers looked completely stagnant, while allowing the Islanders to dictate play to go along with second-effort opportunities. It may have been their worst 20 minutes since the 10-game winless streak. Dave Hakstol flipped his lines around unsuccessfully in an effort to generate something offensively.

• The Flyers were getting absolutely killed with skill. Tavares was given all the time in the world on the Islanders' first goal, a power-play tally. Defenseman Radko Gudas was way too over-aggressive in playing the puck along the boards. Calder Trophy favorite Barzal provided a dazzling top-shelf goal and 20-year-old Beauvillier stick handled around the entire Flyers defense to generate a shot that Petr Mrazek appeared to be screened on.

• Somehow the Flyers need to incorporate Patrick on that top power-play unit. He’s just too good and productive and proved so again Tuesday. Patrick provided a tremendous second effort in front of goalie Thomas Greiss to bring the Flyers within 4-2. Credit Jakub Voracek with a perfect pass that Patrick just had to redirect for the goal. Still, Patrick has been an absolute force when utilized on the No. 1 power play.

• In somewhat of a head-scratching decision, Hakstol elected to sit Scott Laughton, a player who actually delivered a solid game against the Bruins, creating chances and generating some speed playing on the left wing. With Michael Raffl ready to return, Laughton was the odd-man out as Hakstol elected to stick with the plodding Jori Lehtera at center, who had no shot of chasing down Barzal on the 5-4 goal. Against the uptempo Islanders, the Flyers needed all the speed they could get on the ice.

Flyers one step closer to playoffs with big OT win over Bruins

Flyers one step closer to playoffs with big OT win over Bruins

BOX SCORE

The Flyers on Sunday inched closer to securing a playoff berth following a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers extended their margin to eight points over the Panthers, who have played two fewer games.

Claude Giroux scored the game-winner with 1:21 remaining in overtime, his career-high 29th goal of the season and second of the game. The Flyers' captain established a new personal best with 95 points.

Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick also added goals for the Flyers, who never trailed in the game. 

David Pastrnak, Noel Acciari and Patrice Bergeron scored for the Bruins.

The Flyers play their final road game of the season Tuesday when they take on the Islanders at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Two-goal turnaround in seven seconds
The entire complexion of the first period hinged on a seven-second span as Petr Mrazek made a miraculous glove save on fellow Czech Pastrnak that would have given the Bruins a 1-0 lead. On the other end, Konecny set up Giroux’s one-timer that beat Anton Khudobin for the goal. Giroux did a terrific job of adjusting as Konecny’s pass came at Giroux’s back skate and the Flyers' captain had to make an adjustment on his off wing just to get a decent shot on net.

Konecny's wizardry
Mrazek’s save of the year nominee was perhaps topped by Konecny’s goal of the year nominee. Konecny’s 24th goal of the season completely made Bergeron, the three-time Selke Trophy winner, look completely silly. Credit a combination of Konecny’s terrific hands and elusiveness to work and weave between three Bruins defenders and then beating Khudobin between the legs. 

A big second-period momentum swing
The Flyers had an opportunity to take a commanding 3-0 lead as Konecny was able to break in all alone on Khudobin but then decided to unselfishly pass to Giroux. A bad decision on Konecny’s part as the Flyers never generated a shot. Approximately a minute later, the Flyers coughed up the puck in the neutral zone, which led to a Bruins goal, as Acciari fired a seed top shelf that beat Mrazek for the Bruins' first goal.

Hagg for Gudas? 
Radko Gudas had a bad second period highlighted by his horrific turnover right on the stick in the middle of the ice to Boston’s Ryan Donato, who seemed surprised to get the puck right in front of Mrazek. Gudas was also flat-footed in his own end on the Acciari goal, which leaves me wondering when do we see Robert Hagg instead of Gudas. Hagg can play the right side and has been better defensively than Gudas if Dave Hakstol elects to keep Brandon Manning in the lineup. 

Bruins owned puck possession 
At even strength, the Bruins may be the best team in the Eastern Conference in the way they pursue and pressure the puck without breaking down defensively. They had a lopsided advantage in shot totals and possession time. The Flyers were more opportunistic (see Patrick's goal below) and they have to feel good that they played two solid games against the Bruins over the past month.