We knew tonight had the potential to be a bit weird given that about 15 minutes before this game started, the Flyers' co-tenants in the Wells Fargo Center, the Philadelphia 76ers, actually won a basketball game. This is not something that happens frequently, so after that I was ready for pretty much anything to come from the late-night Flyers. And lo and behold -- "pretty much anything" is what we got.
The first period moved about as slowly as you could expect a period between two teams who don't know how to play defense to go. Neither team had a single shot on goal through almost the entire first half of the period, both teams finished the period with exactly four, and other than a few looks here and there on each side, not a whole lot of noteworthy moments transpired.
Then things got interesting, as the second period saw three goals by each team (including five total within a 5:24 period of game time). A ton of open-ice hockey, attacks in transition, laughably bad defense, and (on occasion) questionable goaltending led to some of the most entertaining hockey we've seen this season. Oh, and R.J. Umberger scored a garbage-style goal on the power play, which was also kind of entertaining in its own right. Through two periods, it sure seemed like the Ducks were getting the better of things as a whole, but it still was one that could have gone either way.
That fleeting feeling of hopefulness went away following an Andrew MacDonald penalty for puck over glass and an ensuing Pat Maroon goal (man, Pat Maroon scoring against the Flyers? Who could have seen that coming?) with about five minutes left, and though it wouldn't have been as heartbreaking as Tuesday night's loss in San Jose was, we looked well on the path to another demoralizing late-third-period loss in California.
So it was nice of Wayne Simmonds -- who looked great all game, near-missing on some chances in the first period before potting the game's opening goal in the second period -- to reward the faith of those who stayed up to watch the end of the game. An Andrew MacDonald point shot with about seven seconds left made it through to Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen, Scott Laughton put the ensuing rebound on goal, and Simmonds chased the puck down for two more chances, nailing home the second one with all of 1.8 seconds left on the game clock.
Hey! A point! The first one of those for the Flyers in nine days!
Then they went to overtime and traded chances and Matt Read was denied on a breakaway and then the Flyers went to a shootout and you can probably guess what happened from there. 5-4 loss, with only Sean Couturier scoring on his shootout attempt while the Ducks got both of theirs past Steve Mason.
But hey, they made it fun, and another potentially crushing loss turned into a ... well, a somewhat more expected and ultimately palatable loss. 1-8-2 in the last 11 games, so ... baby steps?
- Up until that fourth goal that put Anaheim ahead in the third period, I had thought that the Flyers' penalty kill, a sore spot for just about this entire season, seemed to be on the upswing. It snuffed out four Anaheim power plays in the first two periods, and while the Ducks' man-advantage has been struggling this season, they've got a lot of talent on the ice there. It was great to see the Flyers largely shut them down, with the PK looking like the successful version of seasons past. That is, of course, soured a bit by its lone appearance in the third period, but I think things might slowly be moving in the right direction here.
- Steve Mason played tonight, after having played a full game last night. I am not a fan of goalies playing on back-to-backs, and never really have been, but I guess Mason played ... OK? Maybe? I dunno. He made a number of big stops at parts of the game, particularly in the second period right before the floodgates opened. But there were at least two goals that he'd probably like another shot at (the first goal by Fowler was unscreened from distance, though it may have been tipped on the way; meanwhile, on Vatanen's goal, he was looking over the wrong shoulder and didn't get over in time to beat him to the post). And he (understandably, having played 125 minutes in two nights) didn't seem to have much left in the tank for the shootout, where he let the first shot dribble through under his arm and barely reacted at all to Perry's short-side look. Wouldn't pin the loss on him, but probably still would've prefered that they'd gone with Emery.
- We could talk about defensive breakdowns on either side of this game and who's to blame for them until the sun comes up, but I did think it was odd that on the Ducks' second goal, Jim Jackson and Keith Jones were pinning most of the blame on Brayden Schenn for turning the puck over basically in the far corner of the offensive zone. Schenn's move there wasn't great, but he recovered pretty quickly to try and seal off one of the Ducks' forwards on the 3-on-1 that ensued. I was more curious why Nicklas Grossmann was pinching down that far in the offensive zone in that kind of a situation.
- R.J. Umberger scored a goal hahahahahahahahahaha except this means he's going to keep getting power play time doesn't it aww maaaaaaaaaaan
- Brief observation on the opponent: Sami Vatanen, who scored Anaheim's third goal, is reeeeeeeeeeeeeeal good. Made a number of really impressive moves on the puck tonight.
- Michael Del Zotto and Vincent Lecavalier were scratched again. I don't have strong feelings about Lecavalier being out at this point, but it did seem like in a high-speed game like this one, Del Zotto's skating and playing style would have helped. We'll see if those decisions change on Saturday against a team that maybe relies a little less on speed through the neutral zone and a little more on working the cycle game in L.A.
COMMENT OF THE NIGHT:
Saying you're a flyers fan these days implies insanity.
California trip concludes on Saturday afternoon against L.A. Does anyone know if they have any former Flyers on their roster? I feel like I maybe heard about that somewhere. I dunno. Maybe. Go Flyers.