On one of the biggest days remaining in this NHL season, the Flyers let a crucial two points slip away to their instate rival. Coming into Saturday’s matinee at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers had gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 and was on an unforeseen surge into the playoff race. With a win today, the Flyers would have been right back in the wildcard as the 8th seed. The momentum was on their side and Pittsburgh came in losing 7 of their last 8 to Philly.
The game was physical right out of the gate, which was to be expected any time these two teams face one another. Sean Couturier, who is normally matched up against Evgeni Malkin, was instead matched up against Sidney Crosby as Malkin sits on the sidelines for the next 6-8 weeks with an upper-body injury. Within the first minute, the Flyers got what ended up being their best chance of the game on a 3-1 opportunity with Giroux feeding Schenn in front of the net and Schenn shooting the puck just wide. The Flyers did have the Peco Powerplay twice in the first but failed to convert, sending the game scoreless into the second period.
Again the Flyers came out strong to start the period and were rewarded for their effort two minutes in with a shot from the blue-line from apparent sniper Radko Gudas, who somehow made it through 4 players and behind Fleury, scoring his career high 4th goal of the year, and his 6th point in the last 7 games. After that the Flyers thought the game was over and went home for the evening. Penguin D man Trevor Daley scored just a minute later to tie the game, but the nail in the coffin came in the last 3:04 of the period when Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz both capitalized on turnovers to put the Penguins up 3-1.
The third period still saw the Flyers sitting at home watching the game as they were the flattest they have been all year, giving the rather bored Penguins goalie 8 more shots to worry about en-route to their 4-1 victory. The Flyers shot a season low 17 total shots for the entire game. They were physical and did win a large majority of the draws, but failed to get the Penguins to play their brand of hockey and simply gave up. Mason had a solid game, but no body played in front of him. Michal Neuvirth was originally the starter for today but told Coach Hakstol he did not feel good following warmups. Either way the outcome would have been the same.
For now, the Flyers have to turn their attention to Monday, where they head to Brooklyn to face the slipping Islanders, who have fallen down to the 1st Wild Card spot while Pittsburgh moves up to take the final spot in the Metropolitan Division.
The Red Wings did play this evening and won 5-3 against Florida, which would have bumped the Flyers back out of the final spot had they beat Pittsburgh but would have kept the differential at one point instead of three. New York was shut out against Dallas tonight, and currently sit 5 points ahead of the Flyers.
Now to look at the games remaining and at-hand. Detroit has 10 games remaining, which will be split 5 home and 5 away. (The most pivotal of which will be when the Flyers roll into town on the 6th of April, their 3rd to final game of the year.) Of the 12 left for the Orange and Black, only 5 will be played in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center. New York also has 12 games left, but will have home ice advantage as 8 of them will be played at the Barclays Center, two against the Flyers. (One Monday and the final game of the season that was postponed during the Blizzard of 2016.)
Claude Giroux said that they were not going to be able to win every single game left on the schedule, hopefully they can build off this game as a reminder that this is the playoffs before the playoffs, and ever point is essential.
Photo Credit: Len Redkoles – Getty Images