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Lightning 7, Flyers 6: What we learned from a hard-fought shootout loss

Flyers trade punches with NHL-best Lightning, but Tampa drops the hammer in the shootout.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers have been one of the hottest teams in hockey since the start of the new year, but they ran into the team that has been hot since the very start of the season in the Lightning on Saturday afternoon.

The high-powered Lightning rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits before downing the Flyers in a shootout to take a wild, 7-6 win. Steven Stamkos scored twice and added three helpers for his first career five-point game to pace the Lightning.

Claude Giroux’s tally with 2:53 left salvaged a point for the Flyers, who blew leads of 3-1, and 5-3 in the loss. The point draws the Flyers to a pseudo tie atop the Metropolitan Divison with the Capitals with 79 points, but the Caps have a game in hand to leave them still in first.

Without further adieu, here are six things we learned from the Flyers’ 7-6 loss in Tampa, in no real particular order.

The Nolan Patrick show

The Flyers’ prized rookie had himself a whale of a game on Saturday afternoon, perhaps the best of his young NHL career. Patrick found the scoresheet with a goal and an assist, but was robbed of at least two more goals by Tampa Bay netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy with phenomenal saves.

Patrick struck first, finishing off a nice feed from Claude Giroux at the 7:08 mark of the first to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. The rookie was parked in the crease and made himself available to the captain with his stick on the ice and in perfect position in front of the defense to deflect it past Vasilevskiy.

He’s thrived since being slotted in as the No. 2 center behind Sean Couturier and has rewarded coach Dave Hakstol with his burgeoning game as of late.

Patrick is the 11th Flyer to reach 10 or more goals this season; that mark leads the NHL at the moment. The rookie has settled into his role replacing the injured Wayne Simmonds on the power play nicely, with three power play goals in his last six games.

Turnovers kill, especially against the Lightning

The Flyers had some serious issues turning the puck over in every zone against the high-pressure Lightning on Saturday. Early on the Flyers got away with their mistakes on the puck, but as the game wore on the Lightning made the Flyers pay for their negligence.

Tampa Bay’s pressure on the forecheck is a lot for any team to deal with, but it’s especially difficult for the Flyers, who feature two defensive pairings that have issues executing consistent zone breakouts. (That’s, of course, the Andrew MacDonald/Robert Hagg pairing, as well as Radko Gudas/Brandon Manning unit.)

MacDonald setup the go-ahead goal for Tampa Bay at the 10:03 mark of the third after a failed backhand clear that found the stick of Steven Stamkos and then quickly to Victor Hedman and the back of the net behind Petr Mrazek.

Not to single out just MacDonald, however — given that at the time, the Flyers were just recovering from a turnover off a two-on-one from Michael Raffl and Robert Hagg that sent the Lightning down the ice the other way with a two-on-one with Nikita Kucherov and Stamkos. The Flyers didn’t capitalize at one end and the Lightning made them pay with a perfectly executed odd-man rush with Stamkos doing the honors as Mrazek had no chance.

Leads are hard to hold in the NHL, and even more so when you turnover the puck as much as the Flyers did (credited with 10 officially) against a team with the speed and firepower of the Lightning.

Power play ignites early, flames out

The Flyers’ suddenly-cold power play got off to a great start with the Patrick tally on their first chance, but that would prove to be it for the man-advantage despite four more chances the rest of the way.

The last of those was a golden opportunity in overtime, where a Kucherov penalty gave the Flyers a four-on-three and a chance to seal two points. Instead of capitalizing and finding a game-winning goal, the Flyers had an uninspiring effort in the extra session after a solid batch of initial chances. Shayne Gostisbehere let loose a pair of one-timers, but was bested by Vasilevskiy both times with outstanding stops.

Instead of more of the same, the Flyers tried to switch things up and got burned. Multiple times Voracek and Gostisbehere switched places with Voracek going to the point and Gostisbehere to the right circle, perhaps for a one-timer, but the play never materialized and the Flyers were turned away.

Tampa Bay does many things well, but one of them usually isn’t killing penalties. They’re just 24th in the league killing at a 77.5% rate, and blown leads aside the Flyers could have easily skated away with a blowout win if they were more potent on the man-advantage.

Flyers fade, Bolts surge

Dave Hakstol’s club ranks fifth with 75 goals in the middle stanza, but the Lightning are the best second period team in the league (89 goals) and proved it on Saturday. The Lightning erased a 3-1 deficit before a late Jori Lehtera tally gave the Flyers back the lead at 4-3 just before the second intermission.

Tampa Bay turned up the pressure in the final 40 minutes, and it showed in the metrics. In the second period the Lightning posted a 56.67% Corsi For and followed it up with a 58.85% mark in the final 20 minutes. The good folks at NaturalStatTrick also had the Bolts with a 15-11 edge in scoring chances in the final two periods as well.

The Flyers did have a few great chances, but were met by the theatrics of Vasilevskiy in the Tampa goal over the last bit of regulation and in the overtime session.

Robert Hagg … snipes?

Look, we all know that Robert Hagg is the Flyers’ hits leader. Literally, the broadcast says it any chance they get. But Hagg is also slowly starting to get his offensive game together little by little.

He scored his third goal of the season here, but did a couple of things that he probably wouldn’t have done earlier this season.

First was a calm carry of the puck through the neutral zone, then the awareness to recognize the defense backing up and giving him more space with the puck. Instead of just dumping the puck in, Hagg took the space given and carried the puck.

Next the rookie shot his shot, literally. Using the defenseman as a screen somewhat Hagg ripped a wrist shot perfectly placed over the blocker of Vasilevskiy.

At many times this season Hagg has looked every bit like a rookie that struggles with the puck on his stick, but on this play he looked like a veteran that’s been doing it for years. I’m not so sure that Robert Hagg will ever have a high ceiling offensively, but he’s shown some growth with the puck on his stick through his rookie year and his confidence in that ability continues to grow game-by-game.

About those three blown leads

Since it seems like the Flyers do this all the time, and it sounds like a broken record, let’s go into each lead the Flyers had an exactly what happened after.

Robert Hagg scores a beauty late in the first and the Flyers start the second with a 3-1 lead. People always say that the two-goal lead is the worst in hockey and the Flyers made that hold up twice, starting with this one here. As we mentioned, the Bolts started to hum in the second and had the Flyers running around a lot. Victor Hedman throws a puck on net from a bad angle and it hits a body in front and gets by Mrazek. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a bad bounce that the Flyers couldn’t do much about.

The ensuing goal was the one you’d like to prevent. It was a bad turnover on a clear attempt by Ivan Provorov (perhaps his only mistake in the game) that kept Tampa on the offensive, and Dan Girardi made a veteran play and got a puck to the net with a screen in place and found the back of the net.

But the blown lead that really hurt the most was when the Flyers grabbed a 5-3 lead with a Provorov goal with 18:54 left in the third.

The Lightning pressed hard following the Flyers’ fifth goal and got help from some less-than-stellar plays from the Orange and Black. Tampa’s trio of Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde and JT Miller had a strong shift to force a turnover and quick transition to the Flyers’ blue line. Miller beat Hagg to the net and finished off the rebound for the goal. Two Flyers mistakes bite them there.

Next it was another Flyers turnover in the offensive zone, but this time off a two-on-one with Michael Raffl and Robert Hagg. Raffl tried to hit Hagg but the defenseman couldn’t make anything of the pass and sent Tampa the other way but armed with Stamkos and Kucherov in on MacDonald and Mrazek. Needless to say the Lightning didn’t miss their chance and got within one thanks to their quick transition game.

The goal that tied things up, Hedman’s second? Well, we covered the egregious MacDonald turnover in the above.

Blown leads are frustrating, but the Flyers can only point and look at themselves in the mirror as the culprits. That doesn’t make it much easier, but knowing that mistakes that lead to those blown leads could have been mostly prevented provides for a teaching moments going forward as this team tries to compete with the upper-echelon of the NHL.