Flyers Choke, Fall in Shootout
Before Wednesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers hadn’t defeated the San Jose Sharks in a decade. They still haven’t. They put themselves in an excellent position to notch two points and keep pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Atlantic Division race but they decided they would rather give a point away. In the deflating collapse, the Flyers lost a three goal lead in the third period and lost, 5-4 in a shootout.
In the first period of Wednesday night’s game, the Flyers held the advantage of almost every category over the Sharks. They played a disciplined period in their own end and had a few tremendous shifts, although they failed to notch a goal. One statistical category they failed to own was faceoffs won. Coincidentally enough, it cost them the game’s first goal. With seven seconds left in the opening period, the Flyers lost a defensive zone face off. It led to a Ryan Clowe deflected point shot goal with merely four seconds left in the first.
Although the team trailed, their decent play in the first period carried over to the second. First, Claude Giroux hammered home a rebound home to tie the score at one. Four minutes later, Ville Leino scored on an incredible spin-o-rama shot. Moments after Leino’s goal, Matt Carle found Nikolay Zherdev for another goal and it looked like the Flyers were going to skate away easily with a victory.
Six minutes into the third period, Scott Hartnell added the team’s fourth goal after another beautiful pass by Carle. The Flyers held a three goal lead with about fourteen minutes left in the game. Then, the wheels came off. Jason Demers goal helped the Sharks chip away at the Flyers’ lead immediately after Hartnell’s. A few minutes later, Logan Couture found the back of the net to make the score 4-3. That goal came on the tail-end of a brainless cross-checking penalty by Jeff Carter.
Not long after the Couture goal, another player in orange decided to participate in the penalty department. Daniel Briere was called for a tripping minor and the Sharks were in business. The Flyers failed to win the opening faceoff in the power play and Joe Pavelski scored two seconds into the man advantage to tie the game at four. In less than five minutes, the Flyers had managed to throw a three goal lead in the garbage. Their failure to win a defensive zone faceoff once again came back to bite them and in the blink of an eye a win turned into a possible collapse.
However, the Flyers wouldn't quit. They increased their pressure and actually drew a tripping call against Pavelski around the seven minute mark. It looked like the team could overcome their woes and manage to recapture victory from the jaws of defeat. That wasn’t to be the case for two main reasons. First, the power play continues to be beyond dreadful for the Flyers. They can’t enter the zone. When they do gain the offensive zone, they seem to have no idea what to do.
Secondly, Briere took a four minute high-sticking penalty which really put a damper on things. Somehow, someway, the Flyers managed to kill the penalty. But, by the time the power play had expired, the team had very little left in the tank to tally the game winning goal. The two teams would go to overtime.
Two minutes into the overtime, Kimmo Timonen and Douglas Murray took simultaneous penalties, and the final half of overtime was played of the 3-on-3 variety. After the teams traded some mediocre chances, the Flyers gained possession of the puck with a little under ten seconds to play. Mike Richards skated into the offensive zone and fired a wrist-shot that glanced Briere’s skate and found the back of the net as time expired. However, after further review the puck hadn’t entered the goal before time expired. Here’s a photo of the shot in question (Photo courtesy of www.the700level.com ):
Clearly, the puck didn’t clear the line in time. So, the two teams would head to a shootout. In the shootout, former Flyer Antero Niittymaki exacted revenge against his old team by stopping Briere and Giroux as Couture and Clowe scored to give the Sharks the dramatic come from behind victory.
For most hockey fans, it was an incredible game that will go down as one of the classics in the NHL this season. Don’t try telling that to Flyers fans.
The Flyers absolutely choked on Wednesday night and there’s not really any other way to articulate it any better. Not only did the Flyers hold a three goal lead, they dominated much of the game. To lose that lead and furthermore, the game, is completely unacceptable. To do it on your home ice is even worse. Perhaps the team will take the loss and feed off it against Toronto on Thursday. Maybe they’ll show up and feel bad for themselves and get pounded into the ice. Either possibility is completely fathomable for the 2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers.
In fact, they may even play great hockey for 45 minutes and then get pounded into the ice for the last 15 minutes.
It wouldn’t be the first time.