Updated: Tuesday, January 2, 2018, 9:57 PM
Unlucky 13: Brian Elliott had played 13 straight games prior to Tuesday’s tilt with the Penguins, including three back-to-backs. He performed well in all three of those situations, and particularly in the second games against top-tiered teams.
So what happened – four goals allowed in Pittsburgh’s first 13 shots – could not have been anticipated. Elliott hasn’t looked that vulnerable in a long time.
He was replaced by Michal Neuvirth to start the third period. Neuvirth allowed a power play goal and made 10 saves.
It will be interesting to see how Flyers coach Dave Hakstol plays Thursday night. Does he finally give Michael Neuvirth, healthy since before the Christmas break, a start? Or does he treat last night as a blip and go back to Elliott?
It could be an indication of how Hakstol sees what he calls a “tandem’’ playing out for the second half of this season.
Good Travis, Bad Travis, all on the same play. Travis Konecny’s nifty moves often make some of the league’s better players look foolish, and such was the case with the game scoreless midway through the second period.
Konecny weaved the puck around Pittsburgh’s veteran all-star defenseman Kris Letang, who hooked, held and spun the smaller player to the ice.
No penalty call was made. Konecny, frustrated, swatted wildly at a puck while on his knees, taking the legs out from under Pittsburgh’s Daniel Sprong.
Guess who went to the box?
Guess which team scored the game’s first goal as a result?
Role reversal. Ivan Provorov is known as the steady defensive presence, Shayne Gostisbehere the risk-taking offensive threat. But twice in the game’s first four minutes it was Gostisbehere who rescued the Flyers from a dangerous situation with stellar defensive play and smart shot blocking.
During the game’s very first shift, Provorov, who has been paired with Ghost of late, twice lost the puck at his blueline. The second time produced a scoring opportunity for Pittsburgh’s dangerous first line, but Ghost got in the way of a pass across the slot. About three minutes later, defending a 2-on-1, Ghost prevented a pass across the high slot.
Later, during a third-period power play, Ghost made a tremendous keep on a puck lifted, playing a puck on the blueline while on all fours to keep it in the offensive zone.
Pad luck: As debilitating as those quick goals were, the Flyers could have easily emerged from the second down by one goal if not for some pad luck – bad pad luck if you’re a Flyers fan.
Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry was beaten by Michael Raffl on a breakaway. Jarry waved both pads desperately as Raffl backhanded the puck towards the goal. Had he succeeded in getting even a small piece, the puck would have bounced into the net and not have crossed through the goal mouth. Alas, he did not.
Later, Gostisbehere’s bomb from the point hit one goal post, slid across and hit the other, and bounced out.
Nolan hope: After two periods the Flyers scoring ledger was full of minuses. One name that had a plus next to it: Rookie Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick of last June’s draft.
Patrick played one of his better games this season. He seems to be getting quicker and stronger. His dirty work down low on the first Flyers goal occupied two Pittsburgh defenseman and allowed Jordan Weal to be unchecked in the high slot, redirecting a shot from the point by Radko Gudas.
Centering a third line with Weal and Wayne Simmonds, Patrick played 14 minutes, 54 seconds and 20 shifts – his most ice time this season.
The 19-year-old had a rough couple of games down in Florida. But in the few games before the Christmas break, his play had promise. Last night returned the hope that his second half will be more productive than his first.