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Wrap: Flyers Tumble to Rangers, 5-2, Hextall on Roster Moves and WJC

January 5, 2017, 12:31 AM ET [667 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
WRAPUP: FLYERS TUMBLE TO RANGERS, 5-2

The Philadelphia Flyers' 10-game winning streak in December has become a fading memory. The team has posted a 1-5-2 record in the last eight games is winless (0-4-1) in its last five matches following a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.

The Flyers played a decent game through the first 40 minutes but could not solve Henrik Lundqvist, who authored multiple brilliant saves in a couple of Philly flurries and made 20 saves over the first two periods. The wheels fell off for the Flyers in the third period.

Philadelphia simply allowed too many odd-man rushes over the course of the game and Steve Mason allowed two stoppable shots on odd-mans to leak past him for a 2-0 New York lead. Thereafter, the Flyers stopped competing for awhile and then took some low-percentage risks that worsened their situation.

"it’s not baffling at all. That’s the game sometimes, but you have to control the things that are in your control. Tonight we had a winnable game going into the third period, we flinched first and we gave up the first goal, give them credit they made a good play on a two on one, but we pinched on a two on one and did not play it well for the first goal against," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said.

"But we had twenty some minutes to keep digging in and grinding, playing the right way to tie the game up, we didn’t do that tonight. We gave up the three easy goals, in my opinion, in the third period, plus the empty netter which was a bounce of the puck, but that’s my area of concern. ...In the third period when we gave up the second one, from there we didn’t play the game with a real purpose."

The Flyers' head coach was in no mood to hear about the Rangers' speed in transition or their shooting efficiency this season, both of which rank near the top of the league.

"I don’t evaluate how their team played, but I know when you give up six or seven two-on-ones, we’ll take the responsibility on that."

Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner (the latter an empty netter) each scored twice for New York, while Chris Kreider also tallied. Lundqvist stopped 30 of 32 shots to earn the win. Jakub Voracek scored a pair of latter third period goals for Philadelphia, one on the power play and one at even strength.

"You have to stick with it and you know we got scored on I think that third goal is a killer to be honest with you. I guess there’s not much you can do, try to fire a lot of shots on the net and we lost the game," Voracek said.

"I think we played one of our best games in Anaheim to be honest and it’s always those first games of the road trip it’s always a little bit sluggish but I don’t think we were that bad unfortunately like I said we made mistakes and they finished tonight.”

Despite the abundance of New York odd-man rushes, Mason took much of the blame on himself for goals he felt he should have stopped.
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“They come with speed and they come with odd man rushes. They were able to capitalize on it and I didn’t come up with the saves there," Mason said.

Asked if he felt tired, Mason instead responded, "It''s pretty simple. I wasn't good enough."

Mason made the game's first save, blockering a Nicklas Jensen shot from the deep slot out of play off a centering feed from down low. Giroux had a good wraparound chance before a Rangers' icing at 3:43. Shots were 3-1 in New York's favor through 5:40.

A Matt Read block and a couple of missed nets saved the Flyers' a heap of trouble as the team failed on a couple of clearing attempted and Radko Gudas received a jarring hit and turned the puck over.

A bit of indecisiveness of Shayne Gostisbehere behind the net got the Flyers in some trouble in their own zone and Gostisbehere eventually took a hooking penalty. The Rangers went on the game's first power play at 10:28.

Mason made an early stop on the kill and Ivan Provorov showed good poise under pressure on a clear. As Wayne Simmonds was unable to finish a shorthanded breakaway on Lundqvist, a slashing penalty from behind was called on New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The whistle blew on the delayed call at 12;00.

The Flyers generated very heavy pressure throughout -- and beyond -- their power play but Lundqvist was equal to five separate scoring chances including ones for Simmonds, Voracek, Gostisbehere and Brayden Schenn.

A communication lapse between Dale Weise and Sean Couturier on a puck dribbling out toward the defensive blue led to extended New York pressure in a long shift spent in the Philadelphia zone. With 28.3 seconds left, Lundqvist denied a Voracek scoring chance from center slot with Michael Raffl whacking away, looking to jam the puck through the goalie.

Shots in the first period were 9-8 in the Rangers' favor.

Mason stopped a pair of New York chances in close in the second period's opening minute. At the other end, Michael Del Zotto had a good look at the net on a pinch into the slot, but shot high and wide.

New York grabbed the game's first goal at 2:08. On a partial 2-on-1 rush off a Brandon Manning miscue high in the offensive zone, Kevin Hayes carried the mail and scored from the right slot. Michael Grabner and Brady Skej assisted on Hayes' 12th goal of the season.

Lundqvist made back-to-back 10-bell saves on Schenn, first on a wrister from the slot and then on a rebound followup try to keep the Rangers ahead at 4:19. Lundqvist then turned away a point blank chance for Boyd Gordon in close after a Flyers' faceoff win. Later, Lundvist did the splits to stop a tough deflection by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

Voracek's hard work along the walls created an Adam Clendening holding penalty and the Flyers' second power play of the game at 8:22 of the second period. Gostisbehere survived a horrid shift -- a missed net, a blocked shot attempt and then a neutral zone turnover that nearly led to to a shorthanded breakaway for New York. The second unit came out briefly with Del Zotto generating a point shot on goal.

In the final 90 seconds of the second period, Gostisbehere jumped for and missed an aerial puck at center ice, and New York broke in with the deadly Mats Zuccarello leading a 2-on-1. Mason broke it up.

The Giroux line pressed hard on the forecheck in the waning seconds of the middle stanza but could not get a puck on the net.

Shots in the second period were 12-9 in the Flyers' favor (20-18 Flyers overall through 40 minutes).

In the opening 2:30 of the third period, Mason denied a 2-on-1 Rangers rush and then swallowed up a Marek Hrivik perimeter shot for a stoppage of play. Del Zotto narrowly averted a giveaway directly in front of his net on the next shift but Philly worked through a subsequent neutral zone turnover. It was then Lundqvist's turn to step up, turning aside Simmonds from close range.

At 5:01, Kreider broke through the Flyers' defense on the rush, turnstiling Del Zotto, took a Derek Stepan pass from and wristed a shot through Mason's five-hole. Zuccarello, who triggered the rush with a great lead pass, got the secondary assist on Kreider's 16th goal of the season.

Down 2-0,the Flyers started forcing the play and inviting the Rangers to pick them apart.

At 11:33, the Rangers opened a 3-0 lead. Grabner broke out of a long goal drought with a tap-in goal at the end of a sloppy Flyers shift in their own end of the ice, starting with a Raffl turnover and ending with scrambled coverage. J.T. Miller and Dan Girardi drew the assists.

Stepan drew a high sticking penalty at 11:45. The Flyers promptly gave up a shorthanded 2-on-1, which Mason stopped on a McDonagh offering. The Flyers then got a lucky bounce at the other end to get on the scoreboard.

From a severe right side angle, Voracek put the puck in front and got a deflection off a penalty killer's skate for his 12th goal of the season. Giroux, who put the puck around the wall to Voracek, and Gostisbehere got the assists at 12:32.

Gostisbehere got caught deep in the offensive zone and had no chance to get back as New York broke out on yet another 2-on-1. Puck carrier Hayes again beat Mason from the right circle at 14:15. Miller got the lone assist. The Flyers challenged the goal for a potential offside. The on-ice call was quickly upheld.

Voracek got the Flyers back to within two goals with 2:42 left on a right point shot on crisp puck movement after a clean Giroux faceoff win in the right circle. Del Zotto and Giroux assisted on Voracek's second tally of the game.

With Mason pulled for an extra attacker, Provorov whiffed on a puck at the offensive blueline, In a flash, Grabner was past him and scored from the neutral zone into the empty net for his second goal of the game at 17:45.

Shots in the third period were 12-10 Flyers (32-28 Flyers overall).

The Flyers will take a complete off-day on Thursday. The team will resume practice on Friday before hosting the Tampa Bay Lightining on Saturday afternoon.

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HEXTALL UPDATES LYUBIMOV, ALT, STREIT AND WJC

Roman Lyubimov skated with the Flyers regulars during Wednesday's morning skate in Voorhees but was a 5 p.m. deletion from the Philadelphia lineup. Boyd Gordon, initially slated in the morning to be a healthy scratch, ended up in the lineup.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall explained after the first period of Wednesday night's game what had happened: the Flyers had no choice except to temporarily reassign Lyubimov to the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was not due to the salary cap but, rather, to the active roster limit.

During the Flyers' preseason schedule in September, Lehigh Valley Phantoms-bound defenseman Mark Alt was injured during an exhibition game fight. The Flyers designated Alt as an injured, non-roster player during his absence. On Wednesday, Alt finally received medical clearance to play.

That created a numbers problem for the Flyers. Alt had to be placed on the Flyers roster temporarily as part of the process of sending him back to the Phantoms. On Thursday, he will be placed on waivers and, when Alt clears on Friday, he will be assigned to Lehigh Valley with Lyubimov being recalled to the Flyers. Essentially, these are all on-paper moves, although Lyubimov cannot practice with the Flyers until he is formally recalled.

The Flyers will have a salary cap problem, as well as a roster numbers issue, when defenseman Mark Streit (shoulder) is activated from long-term injured reserve, which Hextall said is a matter of days, not weeks. Streit will accompany the Flyers to their road game in Columbus on Sunday, although he may not yet be activated.

Hextall said he has not yet made up his mind how the necessary roster adjustments will be made at that time.

Asked if the team has noticeably missed Streit in his absence, Hextall gave a measured response.

“You’ve gotta be careful with things like that. I think Mark’s leadership, his voice in the room, he’s a veteran presence, and he’s a good player so yes, some ways you do. But you’ve also gotta be careful. Sometimes a really good player comes back and you don’t play as well as before," Hextall said.

"You can’t take a little point in the schedule and say you really miss Mark. But Mark does have a lot of intangibles that are good for our locker room and good for our team and obviously he’s a veteran presence on the ice.”

The GM said, for the same reason, he is not going to rush into an assessment of whether the Flyers will look to add pieces this season or potentially look to acquire assets for current players. He did repeat his usual mantra of having no interest in quick-fixes in exchange for young players or high-end Draft pick assets.

“The biggest mistake you can do is judge your team on short stretches. If you judge your team on 10 games or six, seven games since, you’re not going to make very good decisions so we’ll continue to monitor our team, where we’re at, and our strengths and weaknesses as we go along here. But I’ll say the same thing here. I don’t anticipate us adding something short-term," Hextall said.

The Flyers general manager also gave some assessments of the play of the nine Flyers-affiliated prospects who participated in the 2016-17 IIHF World Junior Championships.

The Flyers GM was asked specifically about the play of Team Russia forward Mikhail Vorobyov, who recorded nine assists in six games -- including one on Russia's first tally in Wednesday's thrilling semifinal game against Team USA, as well as a shootout goal. The GM said it was more than just Voroybov's offensive output that impressed him.

"He played very well. He’s a really smart player. He’s a big guy, plays a really responsible game, makes plays, but he’s always on the right side of the puck. He reads the game really well. He was impressive," Hextall said.

The Flyers GM also gave a small update on concussed Team Canada defenseman Philippe Myers.

“I actually talked to Phil two or three days ago before our game. He was feeling good. So far things are going well," Hextall said.

Hextall said he was unaware of whether Flyers 2016 first-round puck German Rubtsov, who left Russia's quarterfinal game after taking a stick to the face was also concussed; there has been speculation to that nature at the tournament. At the very least, the player appeared to have sustained a broken nose.

"His nose is smashed up a little bit so he’ll look like a hockey player now," Hextall said.

The Canada vs. Sweden semifinal game was ongoing while Hextall spoke. Flyers goaltending prospect Carter Hart, playing in relief of shaky starter Connor Ingram, slammed the door in stopping every puck fired his way. Fellow Flyers goalie prospect Felix Sandström (39 saves on 43 shots; Canada's final goal was empty netter) played well in his own right. Flyers defense prospect David Bernhardt was minus-one with two shots on goal in 14:40.

Canada and USA will face off for the gold medal on Thursday. Hart will undoubtedly be in goal as the starter. Myers' participation is doubtful. The availability of Team USA forward Tanner Laczynski, who sat out the semifinal game due to illness, is unclear. Russia will play Sweden for the bronze.
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