The Flyers have had success in the early season, but have also now been dealt a pair of shutout losses following their 1-0 loss to Nashville on Thursday night.
Pekka Rinne stopped all 28 Flyers shots he faced and Colton Sissons’ goal 3:49 into the third period held up as the game-winner to drop the Flyers to 4-3 through seven games. It ended the Flyers’ modest two-game winning streak to start their five-game home stand.
Michal Neuvirth was solid again between the pipes for the Flyers, stopping 23 of 24 shots in a tough loss. It’s the second time the Flyers have been shutout in starts of his this season.
Thankfully, the season series has wrapped up with the Predators, and the next time the Flyers would face the team that has downed them twice already would be in the Stanley Cup Final in the spring.
Travis Sanheim got a nice early chance on a feed from Valtteri Filppula off a Flyers breakout started by Wayne Simmonds. Rinne made the save, but left a juicy rebound next to him that the Flyers couldn’t get to before being cleared.
Some dandy passing from the Flyers’ top line resulted in a good scoring chance for Sean Couturier, who ended up deflecting a pass from Jake Voracek on Rinne in close. The veteran goalie made the stop but it was another great buildup from the trio that has shown incredible chemistry early on this season.
Nashville began to respond to the Flyers’ early push with eight minutes left in the period, creating a chance in front of Michal Neuvirth’s crease on an aerial pass but the puck fell wide of the net and was quickly cleared. The play started when the referee called off an icing call at the last second, surprising Radko Gudas.
Jake Voracek would draw the first penalty of the game with 2:48 left in the first as he was taken down along the boards by Colton Sissons. Neither unit was able to generate much of a threat at the net as the Predators penalty kill closed off shooting lanes and Frederick Gaudreau blocked the most promising attempt from Travis Sanehim late in the kill.
Though Nashville had the edge in shots in the first, the Flyers won seven of eight faceoffs and had the more dangerous of scoring chances.
Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton would hook up for the first scoring chance of the second, with Laughton hitting Raffl in the high slot for a shot on goal that was turned aside. The fourth line has been effective all season long and has really benefitted from Laughton’s growth.
On an ensuing power play with Anthony Bitetto off for tripping Valtteri Filppula, the Flyers set up shop in front of Rinne but managed just one shot on goal. The Predators’ penalty kill blocked a couple shots and cut down shooting lanes to stave off pressure and keep the Flyers scoreless six minutes into the period.
Nashville got a great chance off a four-on-two rush at the 9:40 mark, but the puck ended up on Matt Irwin’s stick and the defenseman found the outside of the post next to Neuvirth instead of the back of the net.
Not long after, Radko Gudas would send the Predators to their first power play of the game at the 10:10 mark of the period. Gudas got tangled up with former Flyers Scott Hartnell along the boards and got Hartnell up high with his stick.
The Flyers would kill it off thanks in part to a great individual effort from Travis Sanheim, who worked a puck free along the boards late in the penalty and cleared the zone himself. Sanheim showing the ability to be a reliable penalty killer will go a long way in helping the rookie get in the lineup on a regular basis.
With 5:10 left in the second Neuvirth would keep the visitors scoreless with a brilliant glove save to deny Craig Smith of what would have been his 100th career goal. Neuvirth was in perfect position atop his crease and made it look easy.
As they did in the first, the Predators really pushed play in the last five minutes of the period. A long shift for the Flyers’ fourth line ended up in a semi-breakaway for Calle Jarnkrok, who fired a shot high and wide without forcing Neuvirth to make a save.
Not helping matters late in the period was a loose stick along the boards catching Wayne Simmonds up high as he sat on the bench. The forward would head off the bench to get repairs but did return to the game.
The Flyers would steal back some momentum thanks to a penalty to Filip Forsberg for interference with 1:59 left. Despite good zone time for both power play units, the Flyers managed two shots on goal but nothing to pierce Rinne and break the scoreless tie after 40 minutes of play.
A couple early chances to start the third for the Flyers came courtesy of Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick, who worked a nice two-man game ending in a sharp angle shot for Dale Weise. The trio’s relentless work on the forecheck created the opportunity.
Colton Sissons would break the scoreless tie at the 3:49 mark of the third, giving the Predators a 1-0 lead. Wayne Simmonds pinched in from the neutral zone, but Kevin Fiala chipped the puck past him and created an odd man break that ended up on the stick of Sissons, who beat Neuvirth to the blocker side.
Pekka Rinne would come up huge with 5:40 left, stopping a dangerous wraparound chance from Claude Giroux with the teams at four-on-four. Giroux nearly stuffed the puck home but the lanky Rinne would slide across just in time to make the save and keep Nashville’s 1-0 lead intact.
So who thought Claude was declining? pic.twitter.com/96LGCNjSi2— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) October 20, 2017
The Finnish netminder would make another game-saver on Sean Couturier not long after, though the shot hit his left pad as he was sliding to the right to peek through a screen. Nevertheless, it was another close call for the Flyers, shut down by the Preds’ goalie.
With the net empty with just over a minute left, Claude Giroux was slashed by Viktor Arvidsson and the Flyers had one last chance to tie things up. As the Predators did in the game back in Nashville, the Flyers would leave the net open to gain an extra-man advantage.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, the result wouldn’t end the same as they were unable to solve Rinne with the two-man advantage for the final minute. After a solid build up a Sean Couturier pass missed Shayne Gostisbehere at the point and time ran out.
In the end the Flyers simply didn’t get enough pucks to the net early when Rinne was vulnerable, and as the game grew on the Flyers’ shot started to come from further and further outside.
Credit the Predators, too, who have a great defensive core even without Ryan Ellis. Mattias Ekholm was a beast all night shutting down passing and shooting lanes in addition to blocking a pair of shots in 26:09 of ice-time.
Next up: Flyers host Oilers at 1pm on Saturday from the Wells Fargo Center on NBCSP and 97.5 The Fanatic.