PHILADELPHIA – Sometimes it’s called pond hockey. Other times, you might hear it referred to as a track meet.
Back and forth. Up and Down. Run and Gun. Whatever moniker you want to put on it, it’s a style of play that does not favor the Flyers.
The small and speedy Tampa Bay Lightning knew that and decided to try to goad the Flyers into playing that style.
In a wild and wooly second period that saw the two teams exchange seven goals, the Flyers got behind by two, cut it in half, got behind by two again, tied it the second time, and got behind by two again – all in a span of 14 minutes and change of a 6-3 loss that snapped the Flyers 10-game winning streak on home ice.
(Read the Game recap here)
When Flyers coach Craig Berube talks about the need for better discipline from the Flyers, he often is talking about a need to not take penalties – and while that is certainly something he preaches about, discipline, in his lexicon, also refers to playing a certain way and a certain style.
During this sensational run in which the Flyers climbed from the division basement to second place in the Metropolitan (although, via tiebreaker , they actually slipped to third Saturday) the key piece to the way the Flyers were playing was their discipline within the system.
The Flyers rarely wavered. They were very structured. Ahead, behind, it didn’t matter. The system was good. The system would provide chances. The system was what they believed in.
But Tampa has a way of quickly getting you off your game. They are a home run team. A gambling team who likes to stretch the ice and force you to have bad gaps in coverage, hoping for odd-man rushes.
Usually, when you give up a few odd-man rushes in a game, you put yourself in a precarious position and hope your goaltender can bail you out.
But, when you give up a few odd-man rushes in a period… well, that’s usually to big a self-inflicted wound.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” said captain Claude Giroux. “We left (Steve) Mason out to dry a little bit. I think we played good, we just had some times where we didn't play the way we should have.
"They're a fast team. They have a lot of forwards that can skate, and if you're not responsible defensively it's going to hurt us, hurt our team. If we play good defensively, that's when we get our chances. That's why we were able to come back a little bit in the game, but we got away from it."
They got away from it on practically every goal against.
Tampa’s opening goal in the first period came off a blind turnover by Nick Grossmann that was picked off by Alex Killorn. His shot hit off of Mark Streit’s stick and fluttered past Steve Mason, who didn’t have a good game, allowing five goals on just 17 shots before getting pulled.
The second goal, by Teddy Purcell was probably the weakest goal Mason has allowed all season – and there haven’t been many.
But a low wrister from the right circle caught Mason off guard and went right through the five hole to make it 2-0.
“I wasn’t very good,” Mason said. “I can do better than that. You have to find ways to make saves and I just have to make those saves.
“There was some back-door plays, but you have to find ways to make the saves you sometime should be able to make. But tonight I wasn’t able to come up with any big saves.”
Still, the rest of the goals against Mason came courtesy of break downs in front of him.
Andrej Meszaros got caught out of position at center ice, allowing for a 2-on-1 for the Lightning. Mark Streit took himself out of the play, trying to take away the pass from Nate Thompson, but Thompson waited out Streit’s desperate slide and slid a pass to Ryan Malone for a tap in goal to make it 3-1.
“In the past we gave the shooter a little bit too much time,” Streit said. “So, I tried to make a move and he made a good play. It’s always tough, a 2-on-1, but looking back, I probably should have stayed on my feet.”
The Flyers clawed back to tie it in a span of 3:21 including finally scoring on the power play at home after squandering a two-man advantage in the first period, but the Lightning took advantage of two more Flyers mistakes and regained a two-goal lead in 3:22.
The Lightning had a rush up ice and a shot by Killorn was stopped by Mason, but he gave up a juicy rebound and Steve Downie, who has struggled in his last few games, lost track of his man Valterri Filppula and Filppula just scooped up the rebound and flipped it past Mason for what would be the eventual game-winner.
Finally, a slow line change by Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux created a 3-on-2 rush for the Lightning and Tyler Johnson made a cross-ice pass to Marty St. Louis who one-timed it past Mason.
“I think we played like garbage defensively,” said Wayne Simmonds. “You never want to go run-and-gun. That’s not our team style of play, that’s not when we’re most successful. I thought we did well for the first 10 minutes of the second and then it seemed like, I think I’ve said it again this year, we wanted to be the Harlem Globetrotters and we want to start doing other stuff and we can’t do that or else we’re going to come out on the short end of the stick.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com
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