March 22, 2016
When you only have about 10 games left to play, losses like the one the Philadelphia Flyers suffered on Tuesday night could be the difference between making the playoffs and hitting the links early.
Giving away points is not an option, but that's exactly what they did in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With backup goalie Michal Neuvirth's season all but over, Steve Mason again got the start on second night of back-to-back and unlike the last time he faced his former team – Columbus recorded just 19 shots in his team's 6-0 win earlier this month – the Flyers goalie was tested early and often.
Still, the Flyers (35-24-12) were leading the Blue Jackets 2-0 with just over a minute to play. They were on the power play and, for the time being, things looked good for those hoping Dave Hakstol's team would come away with a win and climb back into playoff position.
But with 64 seconds remaining -- and their goalie on the bench -- the Blue Jackets finally got on the board with a deflection in front by Boone Jenner. Just prior to the goal, Wayne Simmonds iced the puck trying to score on an open net from inside the Flyers zone, which proved to be a costly error as Jenner's goal came on their ensuing possession.
Then, with about eight seconds left to play, Cam Atkinson scored from right in front of Mason as Columbus swarmed the net for one last rush.
After a frantic but scoreless overtime in which each team had a power play opportunity, the game headed to a shootout. And if you've been watching the Flyers with any regularity this season, you probably already know the outcome. Neither team was able to score in the first four rounds, but the guy who started the comeback, Jenner, finally broke through in the fifth to give Columbus a 3-2 win and drop the Flyers to 2-8 in shootouts this season.
Here's more from a loss that will be tough for Flyers fans to swallow:
• In a word, Mason was perfect ... for about 59 minutes on Tuesday night. When the
dust shaved ice settled, he had stopped 51 of 53 Blue Jacket shots -- a career high. He was brilliant all night, including overtime and the shootout, but it wasn't enough.
Mason still holds the Blue Jackets record for career shutouts (19), and nearly picked up a second straight against his former team.
Heading into play Tuesday night, Mason was 3-2-2 in eight career starts (21 GA, .909 SV%) against the Blue Jackets since being traded from Columbus to Philly in 2013. This season, he was 1-1-1 with a .933 SV percentage prior to his latest win. But thanks to all those saves, his save percentage against his old team improved to .944 (despite the loss).
• Speaking of Blue Jackets goalies, their current netminder is former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky. He's had more success against his former team than Mason, going 4-1 with a 1.80 GAA and .940 save percentage. Here's a look at how their numbers compare this season (prior to Tuesday's game):
Bobrovsky finished the game with 31 saves on 33 shots and stopped all five of the Flyers' attempts in the shootout.
• It was a reunion of sorts on the ice in Columbus, as the Flyers also faced former teammate Scott Hartnell. Prior to the game, he said his goal was to "disappoint" the surging Flyers.
"It's always fun playing against friends and a team that traded you," Hartnell, who is minus-8 in his last seven games, told the Columbus Dispatch. "For me, personally, it'll be a big night to try to get on the score sheet and get points and disappoint them." [via philly.com]
Hartnell finished the game with a plus-one rating and two shots in 18 minutes.
• Nearly as important for Flyers fans right now is how the teams ahead of them in the standings are faring, namely the Detroit Red Wings. The Flyers were just a point behind them (with a game in hand) prior to their loss the Blue Jackets. Had they held on to win, they would've moved ahead of the Red Wings, who lost to the Lightning, 6-2, on Tuesday.
The Flyers are also now just two points behind the Islanders, who they beat on Monday night. But the Islanders were off on Tuesday and currently have a game in hand over the Orange and Black.
• Captain Claude Giroux gave the Flyers the lead about 12 minutes into the game.
• Ryan White added the second goal for the Flyers in the third period, giving them a much-needed cushion as Mason continued to be pelted with Columbus shots. Brayden Schenn, who also assisted on Giroux's goal, picked up a helper on White's as well.
• Jared Boll was tossed in second period for this late hit on Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare.
Boll with a late hit on Bellemare pic.twitter.com/GUcbodHcaK— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 23, 2016
Boll was given a game misconduct — and likely a hearing to be announced at a later date -- which caused Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella to go absolutely nuts.
The Flyers were unable to take advantage of the ensuing 4-on-4 and three-minute power play.
• There was a Rare Ghost Bear sighting in Columbus on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, it wasn't on the stat sheet. Gostisbehere has been fairly quiet since his 15-game point streak came to an end.
In first 40 games, Ghost had 34 points, including 15-game point streak. That’s 0.85 PPG.— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) March 23, 2016
In 13 games since, he has 5 points … or 0.38 PPG.
That number fell to 0.36 PPG (5 points in 14 games) following another scoreless outing on Tuesday. He did, however, do this with about 30 seconds left in overtime, keeping the puck in the zone and giving the Flyers one last chance to win the game.
Every single night, Shayne Gostisbehere does something amazing. Every damn night. pic.twitter.com/pgGIIawZf7— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 23, 2016
The Flyers have two games left on their current four-game road trip. They'll travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche on Thursday and then Phoenix to face the Coyotes on Saturday. Their next home game is on Monday against the Winnipeg Jets.
Could that be the debut of Anthony Stolarz, who was called up to replace Neuvirth?
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin