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Flyers’ Offensive Woes at Forefront of Another Loss, Fall to Penguins 5-1

(Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

It seems with every game recap that comes and goes, it can be summed up to one major theme: the Philadelphia Flyers offense can’t finish, they can create chances here and there, but for the most part they are absolutely abysmal.

Today was no different as the Pittsburgh Penguins took the victory by a score of 5-1, but the game was a lot closer than the score would dictate. The Penguins held a 2-1 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the third period and after the Flyers whiffed on back-to-back power play opportunities to tie the game, Pittsburgh took a commanding 3-1 lead off a very fluky deflection goal. They added 2 more quick goals at the end to make it 5-1 but Carter Hart did as much as he could to keep his team in the game until the 55th minute.

Rickard Rakell opened the scoring off a deflection before Kieffer Bellows tied the game as both teams headed into the intermission. Sidney Crosby scored a power play goal near the midway mark of the second period, giving the Penguins a slight edge going into the third period, while they outshot the Flyers 15-7 and out-chanced them 10-1 in the middle frame. Down by 1 goal, the Flyers had some chances to tie the game but none more opportunistic than 2 power plays midway through the third period. Owen Tippett – who was once again the best player wearing the Winged P – was robbed a few times on the man advantage and that was all Pittsburgh needed to take the game and ice it with several late goals. Jason Zucker deflected a Marcus Pettersson point shot that barely found its way into the net, Jake Guentzel scored an empty-netter, and then Mikael Granlund scored 42 seconds later.

Carter Hart made 25 saves on the first 27 shots before allowing 2 late backbreaking goals on his final 4 shots that he faced, Casey DeSmith made 30 saves for his 13th win of the season, the Flyers power play is now 3 for their last 38 over the course of their last 18 games, and they’ve also only scored 47 goals in their last 23.

This past week has been a roller-coaster ride for the Philadelphia Flyers after they bungled the trade deadline, got booed at the Town Hall meeting by season ticket holders, lost a few more games with their offense scoring only twice, and then firing their President and General Manager in Chuck Fletcher. With all the attention being focused on the front office and their happenings, sometimes you forget that the season still has 17 games remaining. However, as we usher into the Daniel Briere era – however long that may last with his current interim tag – the Flyers visited their intrastate rivals in Pittsburgh for just the second meeting this season with the first one taking place in late November when the Penguins won 4-1 at the Wells Fargo Center.

John Tortorella changed his lineup after another disappointing showing in their last game against Carolina. Scott Laughton was on the wing with Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett, Joel Farabee was on the wing with Kevin Hayes down the middle and Tyson Foerster opposite him, James van Riemsdyk, Noah Cates, and Tanner Laczynski formed the third line, and Nicolas Deslauriers, Elliot Desnoyers, and Kieffer Bellows completed the 12-forward set. Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers remained on the roster with Wade Allison and Brendan Lemieux on the mend and Justin Braun stapled as the 6th defenseman with Tony DeAngelo serving the second game of his 2-game suspension. Carter Hart returned in goal as he was still searching for his 18th win on the season.

As for the Penguins, they came in having won 5 times in their last 10 games, coming off a very important game against the New York Islanders their last time out but blew a 2-goal third period lead before falling in overtime, and have uncharacteristically struggled this season with the playoff picture tightening up. Sidney Crosby paced his team with 28 goals and 77 points in 64 games with Evgeni Malkin right behind him with 23 goals and 67 points. A lot of their stats are mid-table this season including power play (18th), penalty kill (17th), goals (14th), and goals allowed (18th). Nevertheless, they always pose a test to opposing teams whenever they can ice a healthy Crosby, Malkin, Jake Guentzel, and Kris Letang.


5:52 into the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins opened the scoring after the Flyers failed to clear the puck out of the zone. Along the boards, Ivan Provorov tried banking it out but it reached as far as the blue-line as Nicolas Deslauriers couldn’t push the puck out of the zone. The Penguins retrieved the puck and cycled around the net before newly-acquired Mikael Granlund sent a laser of a pass to the point to Marcus Pettersson whose eventual point shot was deflected by Rickard Rakell in front of a screened Carter Hart for his 22nd of the season.

Head coach, Mike Sullivan juggled his lines before the game and formed a make-shift trio of Granlund, Rakell, and Drew O’Connor, which evidently reaped its rewards.

By the midway mark of the first period, the shots on goal – 5-2 edge to the Flyers – were not indicative of the play on the ice as the Penguins were all over the Flyers to start this one. The cycle game for the hungry and aggressive Penguins was strong as the Flyers looked flat-footed and several steps behind.

John Tortorella entrusts his fourth line to spark his team when things are at a lull, and they came out with a strong shift where they fired a few shots on goal before Kieffer Bellows came down the wing and ripped a shot past Casey DeSmith, who looked bamboozled on the deep wrist-shot for his 2nd of the season with 9:56 remaining.

Justin Braun started the play from his own zone as he banked the puck off the boards that eventually bounced to Bellows before he finished it off. Braun recorded his 200th career point on the play as well.

The Penguins came right down the ice a few minutes later after Brian Dumoulin set up Jason Zucker for an abbreviated one-on-one chance but Carter Hart came up with the huge glove save to keep the score tied and Zucker off the scoresheet as he came very close to scoring his 23rd of the season. Then shortly after that opportunity, Flyer-killer Sidney Crosby jumped on a loose puck in the offensive zone after they poked it off the stick of Kevin Hayes, and ripped a slap-shot that was gobbled up by Carter Hart. With less than 20 seconds remaining, Owen Tippett split the defense from his own blue-line and came in all alone on DeSmith, but his shot was just stopped by the arm of the goaltender, keeping the game level.

The Flyers ended up doing a fantastic job in the latter half of the period clogging up the neutral zone and thwarting any chances the Penguins could muster up. They eventually outshot Pittsburgh 12-4 after Rakell’s opening goal as both teams headed into the intermission tied.


3:37 into the second period, Scott Laughton was whistled down for a tripping minor, sending the Penguins on the first power play of the game. The Flyers did a good job killing off their first penalty of the game but shortly after the expiration of Laughton’s minor, Tyson Foerster was found guilty of high-sticking and was originally awarded a double-minor before the referees reviewed the call – unfortunately it stood at the 6:11 mark.

In the early going of the power play, Owen Tippett blocked a heavy slap shot and went down immediately. Although he tried getting up, he was unable to, and the Penguins took advantage of the downed Flyer as Sidney Crosby wired a one-timer from the faceoff dot past Carter Hart for his 29th of the season, only 38 seconds into the first minor.

Hart was tasked on making 5 more saves on the second minor as the Flyers were scrambling with the Penguins finding their swagger back. By the end of Foerster’s double-minor, the Penguins had outshot the Flyers 11-1 in the first 9 minutes of the second period.

With 4:33 remaining in the middle frame, Mikael Granlund was called for a cross-checking minor on Foerster, sending the Flyers’ power play onto the ice for the first time today. The man advantage that ranked dead-last and entered today’s game 3 for their last 35, whiffed on another opportunity and the best scoring chance came from Pittsburgh’s Jeff Carter who jumped on a loose puck for a breakaway that was stopped by Carter Hart. Ivan Provorov lost the puck at the blue-line and Carter jumped on the opportunity, but his five-hole slide was shut down by the goaltender, keeping the deficit for the Flyers at 1.

The Penguins entered the second intermission leading 2-1, out-shot the Flyers 15-7 – also carried an edge in scoring chances, 10-1 – in the period, and were tied after 40 minutes at 21 apiece.


To start the third period, Cam York was whistled down for a tripping minor on Jake Guentzel after Sidney Crosby forced a turnover near the neutral zone, only 32 seconds in. Fortunately, the Flyers lived to tell the tale and then found themselves on a power play of their own 6:17 into the final frame of regulation after Marcus Pettersson was called for a holding minor.

Owen Tippett and Cam York created 3-4 dangerous scoring chances mid-way through the power play, including a Tippett rebound opportunity with a somewhat open cage that was paddled away by Casey DeSmith.

Then once again with 8:03 remaining, the Flyers’ power play was sent back onto the ice after Bryan Rust was nailed down for a tripping minor. Like a broken record, the Flyers were unable to take advantage and really struggled to set up or create chances in the first 70-80 seconds before firing 3 shots that were easily stopped by DeSmith.

With Carter Hart playing so well up until the latter stages of the third period, it was extremely unfortunate to see the third goal just barely trickle over the goal-line after he got most of the puck on the initial slap shot. The Penguins won the offensive zone faceoff and Pettersson absolutely ripped a slap-shot that was deflected by Jason Zucker at the front of the net for his 23rd of the season.

Hart initially made the save but the puck found its way through the wickets and barely crossed the line with 5:36 remaining in the third, effectively sealing the game with the Flyers anemic power play giving the Penguins all the momentum.

Jake Guentzel then iced the game with an empty net goal with 1:38 remaining after the Flyers lost the plot in the offensive zone and allowed Jeff Carter to corral the puck and bank it off the boards to Guentzel.

Then with only 55 seconds remaining, Granlund walked in on an odd-man rush and fired a shot off the wing that beat Hart glove-side for his 10th of the season and 1st as a member of the Penguins.

Dmitry Kulikov set him up perfectly with a stretch pass from behind his own goal that split the Flyers defense before the Finnish-forward beat Hart whose numbers once again took a toll after he played sharp for close to 55 minutes – he made 25 saves on 27 shots before allowing 2 goals on the next 4 he faced.


The Flyers return home to begin a seven-game homestand starting with a Tuesday night affair (7:00pm ET, NBCSP) against Jonathan Quick and the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights.

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