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Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 2: Flyers fall to Columbus amidst some career firsts

Flyers’ season-high 49 shots are not good enough in Philly.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Despite playing one of their strongest games in what feels like months, the Philadelphia Flyers lost the first half of a home-and-home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets jumped out to a two-goal lead, which the Flyers erased midway through the second period, taking a tie game into the final stanza. They would outshoot the Blue Jackets throughout most of the game before Carter Hart allowed a somewhat soft goal to secede the lead, which they would never get back.

The Flyers will travel to Columbus to play these same Blue Jackets on Thursday. Ultimately, the Flyers fail to pick up any standings points, another successful volley in the battle for last place.

First period

The Blue Jackets made their mark on the scoreboard first, on a broken play where Ronnie Attard poked the puck away from an attacking forward on a zone entry. Brendan Gaunce scooped the puck up, just keeping it in at the line and slinging a cross-ice pass to Eric Robinson, who got a stick on the puck but did not finish. Gaunce then picked the puck up behind the net and wrapped it around to the front, taking a couple whacks at it and eventually stuffing it past Carter Hart’s pads.

Sean Kuraly picked up a tripping penalty on Travis Sanheim behind the Flyers’ net right around the 10:00 minute mark of the period, sending the Flyers’ league-worst power play onto the ice.

The power play actually looked pretty decent, putting four shots on goal plus as the penalty expired.

A few minutes later, an Oskar Lindblom point pass got picked off and Attard made an aggressive check attempt, which turned into a 2-on-1 of Zach Werenski and Carson Meyer bearing down on Keith Yandle. Yandle looked indecisive on covering the shot or the pass and Werenski was ultimately able to slide the puck to Meyer, who potted his first career NHL goal right after picking up his first assist on the Gaunce goal.

The Flyers again picked up a power-play opportunity immediately after allowing a goal, with Vladislav Gavrikov taking a penalty for holding Owen Tippett’s stick. The Flyers did not connect on the man advantage, but did score on the same shift, as Patrick Brown made a nice forechecking play and made a pass to an open Noah Cates, who scored his first career goal over Elvis Merzlikins’ blocker.

Meyer had a big opportunity for his second career goal with under 30 seconds left in the period, but he just barely whiffed on a puck with some open net showing.

Despite a hot start by Columbus and the two-goal lead at intermission, the Flyers outshot the Blue Jackets at even strength 14-7 in the first period and 20-8 at all strengths.

Second period

The Flyers opened the second period with several chances and eventually drew a penalty on Eric Robinson in front of the Columbus net. The Flyers once again looked active on the power play, with a few dangerous-looking plays, including a tip attempt from Cam Atkinson and shots from Morgan Frost and Ronnie Attard.

Attard would pick up his first NHL point, slapping a puck through traffic off the stick of James van Riemsdyk and into the back of the net, tying the game at two at the 6:44 mark of the period.

The Flyers again outshot the Blue Jackets in the period at even strength, this time 16-8, and at all strengths, 18-8.

Third period

There was some back and forth play to begin the third, with the Blue Jackets getting the better of ice tilt. A turnover from Jake Voráček sprung a Kevin Hayes breakaway, where he tried to throw a change-up at Merzlikins to no avail, but the Blue Jackets did take a penalty immediately after when Patrik Laine caught Hayes up high with his stick. The power play looked competent for a fourth time but, also for a fourth time, did not score, despite recording three scoring chances.

The Flyers finally took their first penalty of the game midway through the period as Joel Farabee slashed Laine coming through the neutral zone. The Flyers neutralized the Columbus power play, but gave up the tiebreaker shortly after, as Justin Danforth crashed the net off a Jake Bean shot and put the rebound under Carter Hart and into the back of the net.

The Flyers pulled Carter Hart with just under 2:00 minutes left, adding an extra attacker while down by a goal. Mike Yeo took his timeout with 89 seconds left to talk things over. The ‘Flyers' six-man unit kept good control of the puck, but could not get an unblocked shot through to the net, and eventually a stray shot ricocheted out of the zone and created a 2-on-0, with Sean Kuraly potting his second of the night on the empty net.

Stray observations:

  • I truly hate the term home-and-home. It makes absolutely no sense! Whose point of view is that coming from? For the Flyers, it’s a home game followed by an away game! And then for the Blue Jackets, it’s an away game followed by a home game. What other idiom switches perspectives halfway through? Sometimes hockey words are nonsense. Anyway, this game was the first of a home-and-home that’ll be completed on Thursday in Ohio.
  • JJ at one point at the start of the second period noted how old Jake Voráček was, and mentioned that Voráček probably wouldn’t be happy with him bringing up his age. Then he immediately mentions that he had a 10-minute misconduct and a turnover in overtime that lead to a goal last night. He probably wouldn’t like you mentioning that one either, JJ.
  • I realized midway through this game tonight that I didn’t really know what “blue jacket” is referring to—I thought maybe since their mascot is a weird bug that it might be a bug? But actually, it’s a Civil War reference. Their second choice was the Columbus Justice, which is, in my opinion, worse.
  • A nice, genuine celly from Noah Cates on his first career goal. A pretty good reminder that hockey can and should be fun sometimes. Hopefully, as the Flyers get younger we’ll be reminded of that more often.
  • Too many Elvis Presley jokes from the broadcast team, not enough Elvis Costello jokes from anybody. I’m not angry, just disappointed.

Stray stats:

  • The Flyers are now 16-15-3-8 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Columbus Blue Jackets, getting dangerously close to .500 against a recent expansion franchise.
  • Tonight was the second time this season that a game has featured a first career goal from each team with Noah Cates’ goal for the Flyers following Carson Meyers’ first. On December 28, Janis Moser scored his first for the Coyotes and Jeffrey Viel his first for the Sharks, as San Jose defeated Arizona 8-7.
  • Claude Giroux kept up his point-per-game pace with Florida, scoring his first goal since the trade tonight and adding an assist on a game-tying Jonathon Huberdeau goal, giving him 9 points in 8 games so far.
  • The last time Jake Voráček played a game in Philadelphia that Claude Giroux didn’t was on April 10, 2016. Voráček had an assist as the Flyers defeated the New York Islanders 5-2.
  • The Flyers’ 20 shots in the first period tonight was their highest single-period total of the season and their 49 in the game was their highest game total of the season, surpassing the 43 they put on net on November 16 against the Calgary Flames. The 76ers also recorded a box score high tonight, with their highest point total in a half—82—of the season. The Sixers won their game, though, 131-122 over the Indiana Pacers.
  • Jake Voráček has 5 goals and 46 assists for the Blue Jackets this season. There have only been six instances in NHL history where a player finished a season with more points than Jake Voráček currently has while scoring 5 or fewer goals. The most assists in a season with a goal total that low is 61 by Börje Salming in 1980-81. Quinn Hughes is also having a similar season this year, with 5 goals and 48 assists.

*All stats via Natural Stat Trick and Hockey-reference.