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Flyers Gameday: 3/4/21 @ PIT; Phantoms Update

March 4, 2021, 7:34 AM ET [406 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers (11-5-3) are in Western Pennsylvania the remainder of the week to take on Mike Sullivan's Pittsburgh Penguins (1128-1) at PPG Paints Arena. This is the second of three straight games in Pittsburgh -- the first time in Flyers' franchise regular season history that the club will play three consecutive road games in the same city. Game time tonight is 7:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, despite the absence of Sidney Crosby (COVID-19 protocol) from the Penguins lineup, the Flyers went down to a 5-2 defeat.

After a scoreless first period, Joel Farabee (9th goal of the season) gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead. The Penguins then surged for an even strength breakaway and a power play goal by Kasperi Kapanen (4th and 5th) and then a goal in front by Bryan Rust (7th).

Farabee briefly got the Flyers back within 3-2 with his second goal of the game (10th of the season) but a counterrack goal by Cody Ceci (2nd) just 1:08 later restored a two-goal margin for Pittsburgh. Mike Matheson (2nd) scored on a botched attempt to get an extra attacker out for a 6-on-5.

Carter Hart stopped 22 of 27 shots. Despite not facing an overwhelming number of shots, he was too often left to fend for himself on high-danger chances. The final goal came as he tried to leave the net for an extra attacker and got caught in no-man's land after the Flyers failed to get the puck in deep enough. Tristan Jarry denied 38 of 40 Flyers shots.

Travis Konecny returned to the Flyers' lineup in the game after exiting the NHL's COVID-19 protocol on Sunday. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was a healthy scratch.

On today's edition of Flyers Daily, Jason Myrtetus and I break down what went wrong on Tuesday, talk about the Flyers' issues on special teams (with a focus on the power play side), the mix of players on the Philadelphia blueline and whether a trade to rebalance the three pairs could help. To listen, click here.

Flyers Outlook

The Flyers had a puck possession edge for much of Tuesday's game but were undone by a series of costly gaffes -- brutal turnovers that turned into Pittsburgh goals or forced Hart to make very difficult saves, lack of coverage awareness -- and special teams. The Flyers' power play could not take advantage of Pittsburgh's struggling PK and the Penguins went ahead to stay at 2-1 by exploiting Philadelphia's own struggling penalty kill.

Both halves of the Flyers' top defense pairing of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere had exceptionally rough nights on Tuesday. They weren't the only culprits by any means but a much better night is needed from both players to get back in the win column.

Aube-Kubel may return to the lineup for this game. Brian Elliott, coming off a shutout last Saturday in Buffalo, figures to get at least one of the next two games with a back-to-back weekend set against the Penguins (away) and Capitals (home) forthcoming on Saturday and Sunday.

Penguins Outlook

After being held quiet in the season-opening two games in Philadelphia and most of the first period on Tuesday, Evgeni Malkin made his presence felt over the final 40 minutes of Tuesday's game. He tends to step up with strong performances, anyway, whenever Crosby is unavailable.

Mark Jankowski remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin remains on the injured reserve list, as do forwards Jason Zucker and Evan Rodrigues. Crosby will be unavailable the remainder of the week due to being in the COVID-19 protocol.

Ex-Flyer Mark Friedman, who was knocked around early and often by his former teammates on Tuesday but picked up an assist, seems likely to remain in the Pittsburgh starting lineup for this game.

Projected lineups


25 James van Riemsdyk - 14 Sean Couturier - 93 Jakub Voracek
21 Scott Laughton - 13 Kevin Hayes - 11 Travis Konecny
23 Oskar Lindblom - 28 Claude Giroux - 62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel
82 Connor Bunnaman - 19 Nolan Patrick - 12 Michael Raffl

9 Ivan Provorov - 61 Justin Braun
6 Travis Sanheim - 5 Phil Myers
8 Robert Hägg - 53 Shayne Gostisbehere 

37 Brian Elliott
[79 Carter Hart]

PP1: Giroux, Couturier, JVR, Farabee, Gostisbehere.
PP2: Voracek, Hayes, Patrick, Konecny, Provorov.

Scratches: 56 Erik Gustafsson (healthy)

Injured reserve: 48 Morgan Frost (shoulder surgery).

COVID-19 protocol: 86 Joel Farabee


59 Jake Guentzel - 87 Sidney Crosby - 17 Bryan Rust
13 Brandon Tanev - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 42 Kasperi Kapanen
46 Zach Aston Reese - 19 Jared McCann - 18 Sam Lafferty
7 Colton Sceviour - 53 Teddy Blueger - 57 Anthony Angello​

28 Marcus Pettersson - 58 Kris Letang
5 Mike Matheson - 6 John Marino
52 Mark Friedman - 4 Cody Ceci ​

35 Tristan Jarry
[1 Casey DeSmith​]

PP1: Rust, McCann, Guentzel, Malkin, Letang
PP2: Angello, Aston-Reese, Kapanen, Pettersson, Marino​

Scratches:2 Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), 10 Drew O'Connor (healthy), 14 Mark Jakowski (day-to-day, upper-body).

Injured reserve: 9 Evan Rodrigues (lower body), 16 Jason Zucker (lower body), 50 Juuso Riikola (upper body).

COVID-19 Protocol: none (Crosby exited protocol after two days)


Phantoms Defeat Hershey, 4-3

1) The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (5-1-2) prevailed, 4-3, in a seesaw match against the archrival Hershey Bears (5-2-2) at the PPL Center in Allentown on Wednesday night. The Phantoms led by scores of 1-0 and 2-1, fell behind 3-2, and then rallied for two closely spaced goals in the third period to win the game. Veterans Cal O'Reilly (1st goal of the season) and Derrick Pouliot (1st) scored at 12:22 and 14:01 of the final stanza to turn the one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead that Lehigh Valley nailed down.

Swedish import Linus Sandin, who has started to settle into the North American game after an adjustment period and an injury, notched a goal (2nd) midway through the first period and assisted on the Pouliot game-winner. Tanner McMaster (1st) scored a rebound goal early in the second period to briefly restore a Lehigh Valley lead at 2-1. The Phantoms were nearly undone by allowing two shorthanded goals -- one on a 2-on-1 that saw Martin Fehervary finish it off and the other a breakaway goal by Axel Jonsson-Fjällby against former Västervik teammate Felix Sandström.

The Phantoms continued to get players back in the lineup after being decimated by injuries and recalls to the Flyers' Taxi Squad/NHL roster early in the season. Isaac Ratcliffe made his first appearance of the regular season after suffering broken ribs and a collapsed lung in the offseason. He made an impact on the game in the third period with a couple of prime scoring chances after earning the primary assist on McMaster's second period rebound goal. The Phantoms also got Flyers 2020 first-round pick Tyson Foerster back in the lineup from a shinbone fracture. Foerster was particularly good in the first period.

Samuel Morin moved back to defense in this game. It remains to be seen if the experiment with him at left wing is over but Morin played arguably his strongest game of the season. He also picked up his first point of the season, assisting on the O'Reilly goal that tied the score at 3-3.

Rookie winger Zayde Wisdom did not score a goal in this game but caused his usual havoc on the forecheck and got the other assist on the O'Reilly goal. Max Willman's goal and point streaks came to an end on this night, however. Rookies Tanner Laczynski and Linus Högberg got on the scoresheet with an assist apiece and veteran Garrett Wilson had two assists.

Sandström stopped 23 of 26 shots to earn the win. Apart from the two shorthanded goals, he was beaten on Shane Gersich on another play started by Sutter. Pheonix Copley saw just 19 shots for the game. The two teams combined for just eight shots on goal in the first period (five for the Phantoms) and 15 in the second (nine for Hershey).

Rookie Phantoms defenseman Egor Zamula, who was flying all over the ice from the outset of the game, subsequently took an awkward fall in the defensive zone and struggled to get off the ice and down the tunnel with a seeming lower body injury. He later returned. Laczynski was hobbled on a blocked shot but finished his shift and stayed in the game.
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