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In his first game back in Philadelphia after being traded in the off-season, Scott Hartnell was all smiles as his Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Flyers 4-3 Friday night to snap a nine game losing streak.
Special teams was the theme of the evening as both teams combined for six power play goals. The Flyers’ penalty kill was beaten three times and looked out of sorts the entire game. They entered tonight 16th in the league shorthanded, much below standards they are accustomed. However, coach Craig Berube was not about to justify injuries to the defense as an acceptable reason.
“That’s no excuse,” Berube said. We have guys that can do the job.”
The game had a lackluster start as both teams’ struggled to establish any type of fluid offense. James Wisniewski opened up scoring for Columbus with a power-play goal. Claude Giroux would answer back for the Flyers with a power-play goal of his own but the Blue Jackets closed the first period scoring when Nick Foligno scored another power play goal to give Columbus a 2-1 lead.
Jakub Voracek evened things up early in the second on the man advantage as the Flyers looked as they got their skating legs finally under them. Columbus retook the lead mid-way through the period as Foligno potted his second of the game, showing great patience skating through slot untouched as the Flyers tumbled liked dominoes trying to block the shot.
The Flyers soon found themselves down two men as Jason Akeson and Sean Couturier took tripping penalties just 37 seconds apart and the Blue Jackets made them pay as Wisniewski scored again on Ryan Johansen’s fourth assist of the night to give Columbus a 4-2 edge.
Opening the third period on a power play of their own, the Flyers’ were able to cut the lead in half as Michael Del Zotto scored his second of the year just as the power play expired with just under 19 minutes left to play.
While normally the team who is trailing is often the aggressor in the period, it was the Blue Jackets who turned up the pressure and took it to the Flyers. Steve Mason was forced to make several big saves as the Columbus forecheck gave the defense fits. However, the game was nearly tied as Giroux ripped one off the crossbar. The home team made a last-ditch effort to tie the game with an extra attacker but could not come up with an equalizer.
Despite having five plus days off, the Flyers looked lethargic and struggled to consistently keep up with their opponents, despite the fact Columbus was without several of their best players, most notably former Vezina Winner and Flyer, Sergei Bobrovsky. Even so, the rested Flyers couldn’t take advantage of an injury-riddled Blue Jacket lineup and backup netminder Curtis McElhinney.
“Their speed really got to us. We couldn’t bring up the puck properly,” Berube said. “We just looked a step behind.”
The Blue Jackets won for the first time in three weeks and improved to 5-10-1 on the season. The Flyers had a three game winning streak snapped as they fall to 7-6-2. The Flyers are right back at it tomorrow night as they travel to Montreal to face the conference leading Canadiens.
The Flyers possession numbers have been a struggle all season and tonight was no different. The speed of the Blue Jackets was a big reason as Columbus out-attempted the Flyers 54-42 at even strength, led by Hartnell’s plus 15 Corsi. At the other end, Nicklas Grossmann and Wayne Simmonds were both a minus 11. Even Berube acknowledged the lack of overall shooting.
“We didn’t shoot the puck enough,” Berube said. “They were quick to get on us and we didn’t move the puck quick enough.”
Voracek is awesome and Giroux ain’t bad either
Voracek picked up another two points tonight in the form of a goal and assist. This gives the Czech 24 points in 15 games. Giroux matched Voracek’s scoring efforts tonight and has 20 points on the season himself. Quite the twosome.
Umberger and Lecavalier= Dynamic
Despite being given favorable zone starts roughly 75 percent of the time, RJ Umberger and Vinny Lecavalier’s line often found themselves pinned in their own zone and victimized by the Columbus forecheck. Lecavalier has looked a step behind all season and most fans are still waiting for Umberger to make any kind of an impact. Berube expressed his frustration with the line post game and it seems like some sort of shuffling will happen sooner than later. Expect Akeson to the be one who is initially moved off the line.
Cheers for Hartsy
Hartnell was given cheers and a loud ovation when a video tribute highlighting his Flyers career was played. No matter the city, #HartnellDown will always live on in the hearts of Philadelphians. Nice moment all round.
Final thought: Mason not the problem tonight.
Mason has not had the most optimal start of the season thus far and at one point found himself on the bench as the Flyers went with the stellar play of Ray Emery early on. Despite giving up four goals, Mason is not to blame tonight and in reality kept the team in it. Mason faced 31 shots at even-strength and made 30 stops, good for a .968 save percentage. Any goalie who has an EVSV% that high will more often than not have the favorable result.