In a goal scoring bonanza, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 8-7, at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night. Both starting goaltenders were chased, passing lanes were exposed, but special teams proved the difference.
With every shot the crowd gasped, and on the few saves that were made, they cheered sarcastically. It was a wild game that saw the two teams combine for nine goals in the first period on 24 shots.
Tampa Bay’s starter Dan Ellis was pulled after allowing four goals on 10 shots. Ellis’ counterpart, Flyers rookie netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, was able to finish the first period after allowing four goals on 11 shots. Backup Brian Boucher, who hadn’t seen action since the Flyers’ loss to the Blue Jackets on October 25th, started the second and let in the first shot he faced.
Goals were scored in bunches with Andreas Nodl striking first at 4:21 of the opening stanza, and just 42 seconds later, Nikolay Zherdev added another. But at the 8:20 mark Steve Stamkos scored his first of the game, and Adam Hall tied it up just 16 seconds later.
The Flyers held the lead for most of the game — including three two-goal leads — until the third period when Brett Clark scored what would be the game winner.
“We came out with the right intentions,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “When you’re up like that, you expect to close the deal. It didn’t happen like that … It was one of those wild games. You don’t see 8-7 games in the National Hockey League.
“I don’t think you can dust it under the carpet, either. There’s things we have to take a look at. Too many goals we gave up were just prime scoring chances. We need better coverage on that.”
A key to the game was undoubtedly the special teams. The Lightning went 3-for-9, with deadly accuracy on the man advantage. They exposed passing lanes and fired pucks into the open net.
The Flyers power play on the other hand looked stale and at times had trouble getting setup in the zone. They went 0-for-4 on the night. When scoring on the power play, the Flyers record is 10-1. As opposed to when it stalls, they have a record of 2-5-2.
One issue that seems to have come up of late is Laviolette’s over use of his young netminder. Bobrovsky has started 12 straight games and a total of 16 this season. Twice he has played back to back nights including this past Monday and Tuesday, which ended the team’s hot streak in a 3-0 loss to the Canadiens.
“On one hand, physically it’s a little tougher,” Bobrovsky said via a translator after Monday’s win over Ottawa. “But on the other hand, with each game, you get into the game much faster. So I prefer to [play] as often as possible.”
The Russian goaltender has won the praise and admiration of anyone who has seen him play because of his quickness and ability to move east to west. But in the last few games he seems sluggish, allowing soft goals that he wouldn’t have allowed earlier in the season.
Having immigrated from the KHL, Bobrovsky has never played more than 35 games in a season. He’s said to have a great work ethic, but he’s on pace to play 66 games during the regular season alone. If fatigue becomes an issue then making the playoffs could be the least of the Flyers problems.
The Flyers have lost two in a row after they started the season with a 12-4-2 record. This is dangerously reminiscent of last season. Although it was an Olympic year and the crazy schedule played a small part in their streaky play, the Orange and black started out with a record of 12-5-1 in 2009-2010. They followed that up with a skid that took them to 3-13-1, and found them a new coach.
Stamkos had a hat trick on the night. It was the second of the season and third of his career. With his quick release and timing, he now has a commanding lead on the Rocket Richard race with 19 goals, as well as the Art Ross with 35 points.
Amazing as it may seem, Sean O’Donnell, senior member of the Flyers defense, quietly did his job. He was a +3 on the night and now leads the NHL in that category at +15.
The Flyers next travel to Washington to battle the first place Capitals. If they don’t tighten up the ship, a team as offensively potent as the Capitals could tear them apart.