jakub voracek

Hurricanes 3, Flyers 1: Carter Hart suffers first benching of NHL career

Hurricanes 3, Flyers 1: Carter Hart suffers first benching of NHL career

BOX SCORE

Consider it the kid's first clunker.

Carter Hart stomached the first benching of his NHL career Monday night as he lasted just 22:19 and the Flyers fell to the Hurricanes, 3-1, on New Year's Eve at PNC Arena.

The 20-year-old Hart had made 100 saves on 109 shots over his first four starts but permitted three goals on 10 shots to Carolina and the Flyers couldn't dig out of the hole.

Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers' only goal and it came in the third period.

For the second straight season, the Flyers are in last place of the Metropolitan Division entering New Year's Day. 

Last season, they were 16-14-8 with 40 points and an even goal differential through 38 games. This season, the Flyers are 15-18-5 with 35 points and a minus-25 goal differential through 38 games. 

The Hurricanes (16-17-5), who came in 3-8-2 with eight points since Nov. 30, took Game 1 of the four-game regular-season series with the Flyers. 

• Hart, not looking sharp, was pulled by interim head coach Scott Gordon 2:19 into the second period after yielding a pair of goals.

Hart looked slow to react on both markers and the Flyers weren't great in front of him, either.

The Hurricanes scored just six seconds into the middle stanza after the Flyers actually won the period's opening faceoff. However, Travis Sanheim retreated for a brief second and it cost the Flyers as Jordan Martinook pounced on the puck, split the defensemen and beat Hart to give Carolina a 2-0 advantage.

Could Hart have stopped the shot? Sure, but the Flyers should not be burned down the middle after winning the neutral zone faceoff.

• A little over two minutes later, Hart was yanked when Andrei Svechnikov scored the Hurricanes' third goal on 10 shots. Radko Gudas attempted a stretch pass that was intercepted through the air by Clark Bishop, who quickly attacked the Flyers to create a 3-on-2 and found Svechnikov for the 3-0 lead.

Hart had been providing timely saves on visible, trackable shots. He simply didn't have that in his game Monday, and that's OK. Again, he's 20 years old.

• Hart hadn't allowed many soft goals this season but the one he gave up to Lucas Wallmark midway through the first period was more than stoppable.

Wallmark flung a relatively innocuous shot from straightaway with Gudas in coverage and no one near the net. It beat Hart top shelf on his glove side, almost taking him by surprise a bit.

Still, Hart has allowed just two first-period goals through five starts, which is a major positive. Prior to Monday, he had kept the team in games when things often snowballed on the Flyers before his arrival.

• To the Flyers' credit, they stayed out of the box, for the most part, allowing the Hurricanes just two power-play opportunities. However, the Flyers went 0 for 2 on the man advantage, which is 9 for 91 (9.9 percent) since Oct. 13.

Gordon may have to shake up personnel or positioning to somehow get the power play going.

• Michal Neuvirth took over for Hart and converted 23 saves. Gordon made the right call to pull Hart when he did because the Flyers were still in the game and it saved the rookie from a complete unraveling.

Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney made 22 stops and won his first game since Nov. 27.

• The Flyers are right back at it New Year's Day when they visit the Predators (8:30 p.m./NBCSP), who snapped a six-game losing streak Monday with a 6-3 win over the Capitals.

Tuesday's contest concludes a five-game road trip for the Flyers, who return to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday to again play the Hurricanes (7 p.m./NBCSP).

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Flyers are a hot mess — and everyone should be feeling the heat

Flyers are a hot mess — and everyone should be feeling the heat

EDMONTON, Alberta — Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher believes the answers for the team’s countless problems have to come in-house.

Right now, that house is on fire and nobody can find the hydrant to connect the hose. 

Friday in Edmonton, the Oilers poured more gas on the Flyers' blazing inferno of a season that continues to go up in smoke, winning easily, 4-1, at Rogers Place (see observations).

“It’s tiring to say we didn’t play that bad and maybe we deserve better,” Jakub Voracek said. “In the end, it doesn’t really matter. It sucks. It sucks for everyone here. There are no excuses. Nobody cares. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. You can fight whatever feeling you want. It doesn’t matter.”

To be clear, Voracek’s not saying that the Flyers don’t care, but rather the league doesn’t care about how poorly the Flyers are struggling.

Yet, here’s the disturbing part: opposing teams don’t need to bring their A-game to produce a "W" when a B-minus effort will get the job done. The Oilers were a tired bunch, having played the previous night in Winnipeg. They were also down two key defensemen and resorted to calling up a 21-year-old rookie making his NHL debut.

On a night when three different NHL teams rallied from three goals down to win, the Flyers once again looked deflated falling behind 1-0, which is pretty much all it takes these days — and their 6-12-2 record (23rd in NHL) when the opponent scores first reflects a spiritless attitude.

“When we get down, I don’t know what it is, but we get really down on ourselves and turn into a negative bunch,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. 

Edmonton tried to inspire the Flyers. Oilers center Drake Caggiula gifted the Flyers a four-minute power play with a high-stick to the chin of Nolan Patrick that could have swung the game in the Flyers' direction. Then again, an eight-minute man advantage against the 23rd-ranked penalty kill probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

No goals. No momentum. No chance.

“Lately, our power play — I mean all year — we’ve been doing nothing,” Sean Couturier said. “It’s horrible. Right now, we’re just passing it around and we’re not doing anything and it’s killing the momentum.”

Even Connor McDavid had a superstar night on the scoresheet without actually dominating the game on the ice. McDavid mustered just two shots on net — a bank shot off Anthony Stolarz from behind the goal line and a tap-in putt into an empty net. His first goal came off a hard forechecking play that made Gostisbehere look rather silly (see highlights)

“I should’ve made a better play,” Gostisbehere said. “I was at the puck first and should have gone D-to-D, but he picked my pocket to their guy and then shot from the corner. Best player in the world made a good play, but I should have made a stronger play.”

Flyers hockey is one hot mess with too many fires to put out right now.

And everyone should be feeling the heat.

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Jakub Voracek on Flyers' collapse: 'We got scared'

Jakub Voracek on Flyers' collapse: 'We got scared'

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It’s difficult to quantify what scenario is worse in hockey.

Having a team steamroll right through you in the opening 20 minutes like the Maple Leafs did last Saturday or suffering a remarkable collapse in the final 10 minutes on home ice against an inferior hockey team.

We’ve now witnessed both ends of hockey’s unbearable spectrum in a span of 72 hours.

It took all of five minutes and 29 seconds for the Senators to erase the Flyers' 3-1 lead Tuesday and take their first advantage with 2:59 remaining in regulation on their way to a 4-3 shocker at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

The Flyers' dressing room was simply stunned by what transpired.

“As soon as they got that second goal, we kind of got scared,” Jakub Voracek said. “Can’t do that. Every single team is going to jump on it. They gained the momentum and that’s what they did. It’s only one goal. It’s a one-goal game. I still don’t know what happened. I can't believe we lost that game.”

Voracek was brutally honest in his assessment of the Flyers' recent struggles, a 1-5-1 stretch over the last seven games and a team that has now plummeted to last place in the Eastern Conference (see standings).  

“I don’t think it’s focus. I think it’s the way things are going right now,” Voracek said. “Everything we touch just doesn’t work. But like I said, nobody gives a damn what kind of position we are in. Feels like we got scared. We started slamming pucks everywhere along the ice instead of holding it and making a hard play. We’re just whacking at it. It’s not a good thing.”

Certainly, the Flyers had a frail Senators team right where they wanted it with Ottawa having played the night before, losing, 4-2, to the Rangers. The Flyers entered well-rested with two days in between games. None of that really matters when self-doubt appears to have crept into the team’s overall psyche.

“I think these are mistakes by a team that doesn’t have confidence, which we don’t have right now,” Voracek said. “There’s nobody to blame but us. Up 3-1 against a team that played yesterday, no matter what kind of position you are mentally, you have to find a way to win that game. We didn’t.”

Until the final 10 minutes of the third period, the Flyers didn’t have to lean too heavily on goaltender Anthony Stolarz, who was making his first start in over 18 months. Two goals were deflections, one goal Stolarz couldn’t locate on his pads, and the game-winner was Matt Duchene’s impressive rebound backhand shot that Stolarz was slow to react to (see highlights).

“Usually, I always slide into the post like that,” Stolarz said. "You want to stay down in case the guy comes back at it quick. You don’t want to be on your feet and he’ll beat you low. Credit to him, he made a good play getting it back to the net. As a goalie, you’re going to want that one back.”

As a team, it’s a game the Flyers certainly want back, and one they desperately needed. 

The Flyers are a fragile team heading into Pittsburgh Saturday, and the thought of playing scared against the powerful Penguins should be frightening to every player in that locker room.

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