Flyers - Pens Recap: Shootouts, Shootouts, Shootouts...
For the fourth time in a row, the Philadelphia Flyers saw their fate in a game determined by a shootout. And for the third time in those four games, the opposition came out on top. Thursday night, cross state-rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, were victorious in a battle in the race for the Atlantic Division title.
Thursday was another case of the Flyers not giving 100%. Everything seems so cliche with this team in the month of March. They look as though they are lacking motivation. Where have we heard that one before?
You can go back to probably the prior three seasons to see that it has been the same case for the Flyers consistently. Unless their backs are against the wall and they are playing huge games in April and later, they never really give their all. Is it an excuse? No. Is it acceptable? Of course not. But it's the reality for this Flyers team for whatever reason.
The Flyers did score the first goal of the game Thursday night. It was a bit of a fluky one. James van Riemsdyk threw the puck to the front of the Pittsburgh net, and Mike Richards awkwardly deflected it off of and over Marc-Andre Fleury. The Flyers held on to that 1-0 lead for the rest of the period.
But you are never going to beat the Penguins by scoring just one goal, and only one minute into the second period, that became clear. Andreas Nodl was still serving an interference penalty that he took late in the first period, so the Penguins were on the power play. Chris Kunitz sent a perfect cross-ice pass over to Tyler Kennedy for the tying goal.
That was all the scoring through regulation and overtime. The Penguins out-shot the Flyers 31-20. They out-played the Flyers through most of the game too, especially the third period. The Flyers were struggling to simply get the puck through the neutral zone. Their passing was off and their entry into the offensive zone was very bad. But luckily for them, Sergei Bobrovsky did his part to keep them in the game the whole time. Tuesday night's shootout loss to Washington was one of the best efforts from the Flyers in a long time. They played some great hockey, but the goaltending was not there. Against Pittsburgh, the roles were reversed. Bobrovsky was superb, but the offense was not clicking.
You hate to see any important game decided in a shootout, but that's what this game came down to. And unfortunately for the Flyers, they could not solve Fleury.
Leino and Giroux were the first two shooters for the Flyers and they both went five-hole, but Fluery shut the door. Chris Letang was the first shooter for the Penguins, and he missed the target completely. But after Claude Giroux's failed attempt, seasoned veteran, Alex Kovalev showed that he still has the moves. Fellow Russian, Bobrovsky really had no chance. It was then up to Danny Briere to keep the Flyers in the game. He took a risk going five-hole, but he went over to the right side and slipped the puck between the pads of Fleury to keep the game going. James Neal and Mike Richards were the next shooters and they both failed on their attempts. After Richards was stopped, the game was on the stick of Chris Kunitz, and he put the Flyers away.
You could just see the disappointment and frustration in the face of Sergei Bobrovsky. It's hard not to feel bad for him after all that he did through the whole game. It's just plain disappointing to see a game come down to a shootout. But it has been that way for the past six seasons.
The Atlantic Division lead for the Flyers is now down to just 4 points with one game in hand. The Flyers have 98 points while the Penguins have 94 points. It is going to be a tight race down to finish. These two teams face each other again next Tuesday. You can expect it to be another huge game. The race for the Eastern Conference is going to be just as competitive too. It cannot be stressed enough how much more the Flyers are going to have to give to win both the division and the conference. They are not playing terrible hockey, but they are also not playing as good as they know that they can. It is all up to the Flyers on who wins the East and the Atlantic. They are in the driver's seat as cliche as that may sound. It's hard to predict if they will indeed finish on top. They just have to want it more. Getting the first seed really does mean something. They Flyers have been on top since January, and to have it lost this late in the season would be a big letdown. And home ice advantage through the first three rounds is not overrated.