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NEEDED A BIGGER BOAT

by Anthony SanFilippo / Philadelphia Flyers

PHILADELPHIA – Craig Berube made a very simple statement Thursday morning.

“Defense,” he said. “Is what wins you games in this league. It’s what wins championships. If we play good team defense we’ll be all right.”

For the first 20 minutes the Flyers did just that, holding the high octane San Jose Sharks to just four shots on goal. And although one of them went in the net, it was a flukey play and was immediately erased by two Flyers tallies and the orange and black led heading into the second period.

But then the defensive wheels stopped turning, the Flyers stopped competing and the Sharks turned them into chum.

San Jose scored five goals in the second period – three by Joe Pavelski – and got a pair of goals each from Logan Couture – who was playing for the first time since Jan. 5 – and two from Raffi Torres – who was playing for the first time in nine months – as the Sharks dismantled the Flyers 7-3.

Sean Couturier was one of the few bright spots for the Flyers in a 7-3 loss to the Sharks at Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

“We got beat in front of our own net,” said goalie Steve Mason, who was lifted after allowing four goals on 14 shots before returning to the game late in the third period. “They scored all their goals from 10 feet from the crease. We have to be a lot better in that area in order to have more success.”

And he’s right.

Torres scored the first goal by tapping in a loose puck on the doorstep. Pavelski tied it at two with a nifty play right in front of Mason catching a pass and then quickly converting from backhand to forehand for a stuffer on the power play.

The third goal by San Jose, also by Pavelski, was an adroit tip in of a Marc-Eduard Vlasic shot that sneaked under Mason’s arm and in the net.

The fourth goal – and the one that caused Mason to originally be pulled – was one Mason should have had as the original shot popped in and out of his glove and landed at the feet of Couture, who slid the puck home for 4-2.

Ray Emery replaced Mason and had no additional luck, as he allowed three more goals – a turn around shot by Pavelski and one more each to Torres and Couture – before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury that will be re-evaluated by Flyers doctors Friday.

“I think we got away from what we’re supposed to do, and when we don’t do what we’re supposed to do, I think that’s when we get in trouble,” said captain Claude Giroux. “Obviously the second period was kind of a disaster.”

It’s a shame too, because the first period was anything but as the Flyers dictated the tempo and frustrated the Sharks.

The period was highlighted by back-to-back goals 26 seconds apart by Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Schenn that gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead.

Meszaros goal came after he was found on a nice pass by Matt Read. His initial shot was saved but Steve Downie dug out the rebound and smartly slid a pass back to Meszaros for an easy goal. It was Meszaros’ fourth goal in his last nine games.

Schenn then gave the Flyers the lead when he threw a blind pass from behind the Sharks net to the front where it caromed off of Jason Demers’ skate and slid into the net.

But it all went downhill from there for the Flyers, who didn’t score again until late in the third period on a nice pass from Sean Couturier to Read to stem the bleeding and cut it to 7-3.

In all actuality, the line of Downie, Couturier and Read played really well in a game that wasn’t one for the memory banks.

However, Berube didn’t want to credit any of his players, pinning the loss on a total team effort – or lack thereof.

“[The defensive play was] bad,” he said. “Not competing around our net. That’s basically what it boils down to. We’ve got people there not getting sticks, not boxing people out, not being hard on people. It’s like I said, we didn’t compete hard enough to win the hockey game. Nobody [did].”

To contact Anthony SanFilippo email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers

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