Against some other team, they may not have been the difference. Against the team with the best record in the NHL, they are deadly.
The Flyers established a defensive game that they wanted early, played physical and hung with the Anaheim Ducks all night. Yet, a mistake of awareness and an ill-advised pass would do them in ultimately in a 5-3 loss.
Steve Downie doesn’t stay high, gambles on a pinch, and it leads to a 4-on-2 rush that ends with a pretty connection from the dynamic duo – Ryan Getzlaf to Corey Perry.
Steve Mason never had a prayer.
But the Flyers were poised to overcome that, and down a goal had a power play in the latter half of the third period.
Kimmo Timonen made a bad pass early on that was intercepted by Getzlaf. Timonen recovered to break up the play, but then made the same bad pass a moment later only this time, he wasn’t able to atone.
Saku Koivu tipped the pass away and led a 2-on-1 shorthanded break. He fed Daniel Winnik who beat Mason with a pretty good shot. It was the ninth shorthanded goal the Flyers have allowed this season, tied for most in the NHL, and it was the dagger.
Take those two plays out of the mix, and the Flyers and Ducks played a great hockey game both ways. The game was chippy, intense, and played at a high level.
Kudos to the officials for letting the teams play at that level, and the result was a darn good hockey game.
The Ducks are masterful at getting traffic in front of the opposing goalies and a lot of shots were deflected, redirected, or screens were set making Mason’s job all the more difficult.
That’s why, despite him allowing four goals, he actually had a strong game in goal. Both of the other goals were off crazy deflections that he had no chance of stopping.
Aside from the goals, he made some nice stops, finishing with 27 saves.
There were a bevy of Flyers who played well. Mark Streit was most noticeable. He made a good play on the Flyers second goal to pick up an assist, but you expect him to play well offensively.
However on the defensive side, Streit played one of his better games as a Flyer. He broke up several plays and saved at least one would-be goal by knocking the puck away from the venerable Teemu Selanne with a wide-open net staring back at him.
Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson had a very good game for the third pairing. They combined for a pair of assists and were a plus-3.
Wayne Simmonds replaced Downie on the third line after Downie took a penalty at the end of the second period, a second gaffe following the misread on the play that led to Perry’s goal.
Simmonds was a minus-3, which is an unfair assessment of his game. He played with an edge all night and started the play that led to the Matt Read goal.
Vinny Lecavalier had a good game too. He scored the first goal on the power play and later had a chance for a second before being flat-out robbed by Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen with a sprawling glove save.
In short, the Flyers have to be happy with the effort. They played a very good game against a very good team. With the Los Angeles Kings on deck, a team that has one just once in the last nine, and then the San Jose Sharks who are struggling to score of late, the Flyers have a real chance to come off this killer road trip with a better record than most people expect.
NOTES: The Ducks blocked 21 Flyers shots, including six by Jake Voracek alone… Michael Raffl played his first game at center, and scored a goal in the final minute of the game… The Flyers scored a power play goal for the fifth straight game… Getzlaf and Perry have the most goals of any two teammates in the NHL.. Zac Rinaldo had three hits and drew two penalties in just 7:40 of ice time in his first game in three weeks, returning from a high ankle sprain.
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