PHILADELPHIA >> Before their series against the superiorly skilled Penguins, the Flyers had game-planned against doing exactly what they did Sunday. That would be giving the Penguins extra guys with which to utilize their scoring skills.
After limiting Pittsburgh to one power play goal in eight tries over the first two games of the series, the Flyers put the Penguins on the power play seven times Sunday, easily setting the stage for Pittsburgh’s 5-1 victory in Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center.
“With the penalties, we shot ourselves in the foot,” rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim said. “We can’t give them too many chances on the power play. we were excited to come back here. we knew the fans were going to be as loud as they were. It was disappointing with the outcome. We’ve got to turn the page and focus on Game 4.”
That comes Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center, which probably is going to sound and feel a bit more somber by then. Maybe a lower level of hype could work in favor of the Flyers, who buckled in a 7-0 loss amid the glitz of the series opener Wednesday night, only to turn it all around Friday in a less distractive Game 2 victory there.
The Flyers, who generally achieved a rather mediocre home record this season, do occasionally have trouble keeping their wits about them in front of the home folks. But they’re absolutely going to have to do that in Game 4 to have a better outcome.
“There was a lot of intensity at the start of the game,” Claude Giroux said. “It was pretty loud ... and we did a good job coming out in the first period. But they got that first goal (a wrap-around by Sidney Crosby, his first on a four-point day) and we had to play catchup. Then we had some penalites. ... It’s not good enough.”
“Four penalties in the second game, they didn’t score,” Jake Voracek said. “But seven is too many. It’s hard to play against that team if you don’t stay out of the box. In happened in Game 1 and happened in Game 3. They’re going to have momentum. The’re too good of a team not to create chances, not to create momentum.”
The Penguins did that and more amid a three-goal second period which was helped along by power play goals by Derick Brassard and Evgeni Malkin. They would be part of a 3-for-7 power play performance by the Pens on this day, something more representative of the NHL-leading 26.2 percent success ratio they had.
Against the Flyers in four regular season meetings, that number shot over 38 percent. Now that’s success.
“Thats the thing with that team, they don’t need many opportunities to score,” Voracek said. “A lucky bounce and they score the first one, and a couple of power plays and they score two goals. ... I don’t think hockey like that, like we did today, is going to win us a series.”
Voracek said he thought the Flyers were “careless” Sunday.
“We had three highsticking penalties,” said Voracek (though the Flyers were actually only tagged with two of them), and that’s too many.”
Voracek took two too-many penalites himself, including one of the highsticking calls just prior to Evgeni Malkin’s goal which gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead.
Watching all that happen before his eyes didn’t make Brian Elliott a happy goalie later.
“I don’t know if it’s frusttation or if it’s like, you get caught moving your feet and you’re reaching a little bit, and that’s what happens,” Elliott said. “You lose control of your stick a little bit and that’s when penalties are called. It’s definitely not an excuse. We did it to oursevles. We have to make it a focus not to take penalties like that.”
Although the Flyers’ penalty killers didn’t enjoy the success it had earlier in the series, Matt Read has done some good work in that situations in this series.
Read, the odd veteran forward out coming out of training camp, has enjoyed a late-season revival here after dutifully turning in a solid two-way season for the AHL’s Phantoms.
Back in the NHL fold, Read’s once somewhat prolific scoring touch didn’t return. But he impressed his bosses and teammates with his defensive work on the fourth line, showing quickness on his skates and grit in his checking game.
“Just doing the little things out there that give me success,” said Read, who was recalled from the Phantoms on March 8. The Flyers’ penalty killing improved over the season’s last month, though it finished overall at a suspect 29th ranking of the 31 NHL teams.
Yet Read found some old chemistry on that unit with Sean Couturier.
“He’s so smart. He’s easy to play with, he’s easy to read off,” Read said of Couturier. “Since the beginning of his career he’s always been that kind of defensive forward but this year his numbers took off. He has an offensive sense now, obviously.”
As for Read’s sense of offense on the NHL level, it essentially is gone. He scored one goal and no assists in his 19 Flyers games. But he found a way to utilize his talents.
It carried over into the first two playoff games in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins were held to one power play goal on eight tries. They scored three power play goals Sunday, though the first one came with a broken Flyers stick that essentially made it a two-man advantage, and the second one was on a four skaters to three advantage that gave Malkin all the room he’d need against Elliott.
On the one power play goal Read was on the ice for, he was the one who came up with a broken stick. Luck hasn’t been with him much in recent years, but he’s hoping it starts to turn in Game 4.
“I do out there and do my job,” said Read, who likely will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. “This is my last opportunity here to prove myself again. I’m not going to let it slip away.”
NOTES >> The Flyers were fairly dominant in the first period, but couldn’t put a puck in the net. Would have to think that should lead to Dave Hakstol finally moving Travis Konecny back to the top line for Game 4. ... Hello? ... Claude Giroux, when asked to comment on the faceoff he lost to Crosby that the Penguins captain quickly turned into a perfect tee-up for a Justin Schultz goal through Elliott’s legs: “Nice play by him.”