Bolts Finish Flighty Flyers, 5-3

In a game the Flyers should have won, they dropped two big points to the eleventh place Lightning 5-3 at Wells Fargo Center, despite outshooting their opponent 38-15.  Players and coach Peter Laviolette were quick to defend their goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, saying it all came down to a few sloppy neutral zone turnovers and more than a dozen missed opportunities.

With six games remaining in the regular season, the Flyers are still in the hunt for home ice advantage in the first round, but they took a step back losing to the Bolts.  The Penguins stand in fourth place, four points ahead of Philadelphia with a game in hand.  The Flyers will need some help down the stretch if they want to catch them.

The home team was off to a quick start in this one, with the Flyers taking a 5-0 shot advantage in the first eight minutes of the first.  But with the Bolts Brett Connolly in the box for tripping, center Danny Briere turned over the puck in the neutral zone to Ryan Malone, who skated in alone on the Flyers net and fired it past Bryzgalov, continuing the netminder’s opening shot curse.

Laviolette felt his team came out and started the game playing hard.  “Guys came out attacking,” he said. “We had a tough turnover.  [They] came back, and they scored a goal from us.  After that, they went up one-nothing, I do think we went into a lull there.”

The goal was only the second short-handed goal scored by the Bolts 28th ranked penalty kill.  With less than two seconds remaining in the period, the Bolts made it 2-0, while their 24th ranked power play got on the board as well.

All game long, the Flyers looked like a team trying to be too cute in the neutral zone.  They finished the game with a total ten giveaways, and the Bolts had ten takeaways.  Philadelphia frequently lost momentum in the neutral zone trying to make touch passes that weren’t on the tape.

The Flyers were buzzing all around Bolt’s netminder Dwayne Roloson throughout the second period, and outshot the Lightning 16-2 in the second stanza.  It was enough for the Flyers to equal the score on goals by Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read.  Both goals were on give-and-go passes that were too much for Roloson to handle.

As close as the Flyers were to taking the lead in this one, mistakes continued, as early in the third, they gave up a stretch pass that found former Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis alone behind the Flyers defense.  St. Louis skated in alone on Bryzgalov, and didn’t miss with a shot upstairs.

More mistakes by the Flyers put the game out of reach.  Defenseman Matt Carle skated the puck behind his own net and allowed it to squib from his stick right out front where the Bolts checking forward J.T. Wyman tipped it past Bryzgalov who didn’t even see the puck a foot or two from him.  That proved to be the game winner.

All-Star Scott Hartnell blasted a shot through Roloson’s five-hole for goal number 36 on the season, but it wouldn’t be enough.  Tampa Bay sealed the win with an open-netter with 3.1-seconds remaining.

The Flyers spent this game in a mode of gearing up for the playoffs, using a new shutdown line of rookie centerman Sean Couturier, Max Talbot, and touch guy Zac Rinaldo, with defensemen Braydon Coburn and Nik Grossman.  The line was fairly strong during even strength, as they did not allow any goals against. Most of the line was on the ice when “Rocket” Richard Trophy favorite Steven Stamkos scored the power play goal at the end of the first period, giving him 53 on the season.

This was a game the Flyers should have won, but they failed to put the puck in the net enough times to take the win.  This is the first time in the last eight games, the Flyers netminder has given up more than two goals.  He’s been solid of late, and playing the best hockey of the season.  However, the Flyers starter has played 19 of the last 20-games for the team, accumulating a record of 13-5-1 in that time.

After the game, Bryzgalov was walking with a noticeable limp, and there were comments that the veteran goaltender would need a break before the playoffs began.

The Flyers lost a valuable two points in this one they should have taken, and they took a bit of a step back in their hunt for home ice in the playoffs.  They’ll need to take their remaining six games of the regular season if they want the playoffs to begin at the Wells Fargo Center.  Their likely first round adversary is the Pittsburgh Penguins, who they will face two more times this season, so they still control their own fate.

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