Flyers Bowled Over by Sharks
Over the past several seasons, the Philadelphia Flyers possessed an ability to come back to win games after subpar second period efforts. On Thursday night, after six unaswered goals by the San Jose Sharks, any hope of that happening again was extinguished rather quickly.
A hat trick from American Olympian Joe Pavelski, two goals from Canadian candidate Logan Couture and two goals from Raffi Torres in his season debut crushed the Flyers in a punishing 7-3 rout at the Wells Fargo Center.
After a two week layoff due to the Olympics, zany occurrences due to rust were to be expected. That storyline unfolded to a tee.
Five goals in the second period, in the slot area or lower in the defensive zone, demolished the Flyers. Defensemen staring at forwards burying loose pucks in the goal mouth became the norm on this night.
In aforementioned zany fashion, the Flyers held a brief lead at one point in this contest. Two goals in 22 seconds courtesy of Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Schenn provided a spark after a sluggish start. That lead lasted into the intermission. Then, it vanished.
"Disaster," as captain Claude Giroux put it eloquently.
Being outshot 16-8 in the second period, and dominated in all facets of the game, did them in.
Pavelski added his entire hat trick in that second frame, with two of his goals resulting from goal mouth scrambles, and the other found its way past Steve Mason due to a deft deflection in the slot. That spelled the semi-end of the night for Mason, as Ray Emery took his place for 20 minutes before departing in favor of Mason again.
Pavelski's first goal resulted from a strange set of circumstances, leading the way for San Jose's surge. A line of Adam Hall, Zac Rinaldo and Michael Raffl took to the ice with 20 seconds remaining on a powerplay resulting from a Dan Boyle hooking call. Raffl missed an outlet feed and tripped Adam Burish, leading to a power play.
Pavelski scored, tying the game, swaying the momentum the Sharks' way.
Couture added his first goal of the night in the second period after a Nicklas Grossmann turnover. Patrick Marleau's point shot ricocheted off of Mason's glove and right onto Couture's stick. With nary a shove provided by Meszaros, Couture banged home the rebound to give the Sharks a 4-2 lead.
That was all they needed. They didn't stop.
"We got away from what we were supposed to do in the second period," Giroux said.
It truly was no contest once Torres scored his second of the night with just 2.2 seconds remaining on the clock. No energy existed inside the building, or in the body language exhibited by orange-clad hockey players.
Mason's post-Olympic stretch started in disappointing fashion. He allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, as a blocked shot found Torres' tape for the easy goal. It was his first of the year on his first shift, and his first shot.
Mason has now been pulled in three of nine games since signing his three year, $12.3 million extension. Defying expectation, he has a .910 save percentage in that span.
Couture capped off his return to the lineup with a shorthanded goal in the third period. Matt Read scored his 16th of the season late.
At the final buzzer, remaining fans at Wells Fargo Center booed their team loudly. This game proved to be a chance to gut out a big home win over a Western Conference powerhouse. Instead, it proved to be a resounding thud.
Three times on this night with a man advantage, the Flyers took penalties of their own, wiping out any chance of gaining any advantage. Special teams came up empty on this night.
Everything came up empty on this night.
With a Rangers win, it puts all the pressure on the Flyers to beat them on Saturday and close that gap. Otherwise the Rangers will create five points of separation between second and third place. It would also open up an opportunity for the crowded middle of the pack in the Metropolitan Division to move up.
Welcome to the stretch run.