DETROIT — Flyers goaltender Petr Mrazek was asked before Tuesday night’s 5-4 shootout loss to his old team who had the advantage — the players who practiced shooting on him in practice every day for the last four seasons or the goaltender all too familiar with their repertoire.
“Every game is different,” he said. “I wouldn’t know who is going to have advantage.'”
At the end of the first period, it seemed it was advantage, goaltender.
Halfway through the second, that equation was flipped on its head. After stopping 13 Detroit shots every which way possible, Mrazek surrendered three goals in less than a four-minute span and was once again lifted in favor of Alex Lyon. “Not the way I wanted to end up a game like that,” Mrazek said. “I should have had that second goal. We gave them the momentum.'”
Lyon took it away. He stopped all but one of the 12 shots he faced in the 34 minutes and 36 seconds that followed, including Danny DeKeyser point-blank twice in overtime, and two of three in a shootout, once again facilitating a frantic Flyers third-period rally from two goals down that almost pulled out an unlikely victory but ultimately earned them an all-important point. “Whatever I can do to help the boys out,” he said. “But it was a disappointing result.”
Frans Nielsen’s shootout goal, the only one scored, gave Detroit a 5-4 victory that was built on their two-period dominance of the Flyers — and Mrazek’s latest uneven effort.
The Flyers had a chance to win it in regulation after Niklas Kronwell was sent off for leveling Travis Konecny in front of Detroit’s net with 34.9 seconds left. Sean Couturier hit iron, and Wayne Simmonds, after losing his feet, could not push a rebound into an open side of the net with just seconds remaining.
They also squandered well over a minute of power-play time remaining in the overtime. “We didn’t get a ton when we went to the 4 on 3 in overtime,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol. “We never really got to the inside. That was a real good opportunity for us to finish the game and unfortunately we weren’t able to take advantage of it.”
Scott Laughton’s wrist shot off Matt Read’s left knee pulled the Flyers to within 3-2 at 7:46 of the final stanza. It was Read’s first goal of the season. Then, with Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg off for high-sticking Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere found the upper corner at the 9:40 mark to tie it at 3 with his 13th goal of the season.
Dylan Larkin beat Lyon with a laser over his shoulder to regain the lead at 4-3 with just under six minutes remaining, but the Flyers erased that 28 seconds later on a fortunate bounce off Travis Konecny’s skate as he crashed the net.
His team outshot 22-14 after two periods, Hakstol scrambled his top lines in the third, with astounding results. The Flyers poured it on throughout the final period, outshooting Detroit, which had not won in 10 games, by a 16-4 margin. They buzzed Detroit starter Jimmy Howard’s net throughout, and twice over the last four minutes of regulation came close to winning the game.
Meanwhile, Mrazek’s fate in this game mirrored both his stint with the Flyers and his career overall.
He can be spectacular. But then comes the maddening soft goals, the juicy rebounds off manageable shots and a general inability to get a stoppage when his teammates are scrambling or tired.
Traded to the Flyers on for two draft picks, Mrazek’s success as a Flyer will dictate where the first of those picks land. Make the playoffs, and the Red Wings receive a third-round pick. If he wins six playoff games, and the Flyers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, that pick jumps to the second round.
The good news for Flyers fans is that the latter is becoming less likely to occur with each outing. It’s also the bad news. He is now clearly on a short leash with Hakstol, who has Michal Neuvirth traveling with the team and, it would seem, may return to action sooner than Brian Elliott does.
Meanwhile, Lyon keeps giving the Flyers what they need: A steady hand who can make the routine save and an occasional spectacular one, a goalie who has a hockey player’s mentality when it comes to getting a stoppage.
Keep it up, it’s likely to make him some real money down the line.
Mrazek? Not so much.