Kings trump Flyers' magic

Posted: March 26, 2014

MARK STREIT held the puck on his stick at the blue line and tried to dance around a defender. Seemingly all 19,876 inside the Wells Fargo Center were screaming "Shooooot!" in unison - with 7, then 6, then 5 seconds on the clock - yet none of the Flyers on the ice seemed to hear them.

Streit dished to Jake Voracek on his right, who tried to sidestep one sliding Los Angeles King, before threading a cross-ice needle to the waiting stick of Claude Giroux. Sensing that time was running out, Giroux shoveled a half-hearted attempt at Jonathan Quick. He landed, face first on the ice, his arms and legs sprawled in sheer exhaustion.

On this night, there would be no last second laser for Giroux and the Flyers.

"You can't do that every night," Scott Hartnell said. "Especially against a goalie like that. Or a team like that."

For the 19 minutes before that, that third period magic the Flyers seem to generate as well as Walt Disney seemed palpable once again in South Philadelphia. Alas, erasing one two-goal deficit last night against Quick and the visiting Kings proved miracle enough.

The high from Jake Voracek and Matt Read's two-goal flurry in the first 10 shifts of the third period lasted a mere 2 minutes and 18 seconds, as Dwight King scored what ultimately ended up being the backbreaker in a 3-2 loss last night.

Behind goals from former Flyers Jeff Carter - in his first game back as a visiting player since his June 2011 trade - and Justin Williams, Los Angeles halted the Flyers' season-high win streak at five games.

"I think the first two periods, we didn't really play our game," Giroux said. "They are a good team. They win a lot of battles. They're a big team. I think we could have played better."

Coupled with a Rangers win over Phoenix, the loss - just the Flyers' third in regulation in 15 games - dropped them to third place in the Metropolitan division with 83 points. This sets up a marquee, nationally televised matchup between Broad Street and Broadway tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden, where the Flyers have not won since March 6, 2011.

The Flyers still have two games in hand on the Rangers. The winner of tomorrow night's test will have a long say in who will hold home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

If the Rangers were looking for any sort of blueprint to beat the Flyers, Kings coach Darryl Sutter offered a strong hint through the first 40 minutes last night.

Los Angeles' aggressive neutral zone play prevented the Flyers from gaining speed and broke up a lot of plays before they even reached the offensive zone.

"For the first 40 minutes, it was very tight," Voracek said. "Their 'D' were very involved. A lot of good teams - St. Louis, New Jersey - play that way. They were patient and waiting for opportunities."

The way Hartnell described it was "one frustrating 20 minutes, then another frustrating 20 minutes." Both Giroux and Hartnell said the neutral zone was just one of a few problems.

"We had a tough time doing a lot of things," Giroux said.

Defenseman Nick Grossmann said there was very little time and space for the Flyers to work. That had not been a problem for the past two or three weeks, as the Flyers skated through teams like Pittsburgh (twice), Chicago, Dallas and even St. Louis on their win streak.

The Kings traded those turnovers created in the neutral zone for scoring chances. Last night was just the second time in 31 games in 2014 that the Flyers allowed 40 or more shots.

"We didn't come out the way we wanted," Grossmann said. "We didn't manage the puck. We didn't play quick enough. A lot of things we did, we played the game into their hands. We were slow overall, we didn't play that fast game we've been successful playing. This was typical playoff hockey - a lot of teams play that way, chip-and-chase."

Starter Ray Emery, who stopped 38 of 41 bullets, was the only reason the Flyers had even a prayer for their 12th third-period comeback of the season, which fell short.

"We played very good for such a long time. Sometimes, you just don't have it," Voracek said. "I'm not saying that's an excuse. We just didn't have it for the first 40 minutes today. Sometimes, that happens - even against the best teams."

Slap shots

Jake Voracek and Matt Read both hit the 20-goal plateau in the third period. The Flyers could end up with six separate 20-goal scorers: Claude Giroux (24), Wayne Simmonds (24), Voracek, Read, Scott Hartnell (19), Brayden Schenn (18) . . . Jeff Carter has now scored a goal against all 30 NHL teams.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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