Quick observations: MacEwen’s fight awakens Flyers, but Pastrnak hat trick keys Bruins’ win
The Flyers’ losing streak stretched to six games as they dropped a hard-fought 3-2 decision Thursday to surging Boston at TD Garden.
Here are some quick impressions:
1. Give Zack MacEwen props. The fourth-line right winger tried to wake up the flat Flyers, and he succeeded.
About three minutes into the second period, with Boston having a 15-6 shots domination and holding a 2-0 lead, the Flyers were displaying all the energy of department-store mannequins.
Enter MacEwen, who dropped his gloves and pounded the Bruins’ Tyler Lewington.
The Flyers didn’t gain momentum until a few shifts later as Cam Atkinson scored on a power-play (team-high 15th goal) when he deftly tipped in Ivan Provorov’s shot.
The Flyers had several scoring opportunities in the next minutes and began controlling the play. The best chance was Joel Farabee’s four-on-four breakaway, but Tuukka Rask stopped his backhander.
Farabee made amends a short time later, getting around defenseman Charlie McAvoy and tapping in a sweet pass from Atkinson with five minutes left in the second, tying the game at 2-2.
It didn’t last long, however, as David Pastrnak completed his 11th career hat trick with a five-on-three goal, putting Boston ahead, 3-2, with 3:15 to go in the second. “Pasta” became the second player in history to have three hat tricks against the Flyers in a one-year span. The other? A guy named Wayne Gretzky.
“We have to play a more complete game,” interim coach Mike Yeo said.
Beezy making it look easy. #PHIvsBOS | #BringItToBroad pic.twitter.com/HDkkiOpAI7
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) January 14, 2022
2. The Flyers’ power play failed to come up big at a most opportune time. Again.
Trailing 3-2 late in the game, back-to-back delay-of-game penalties gave the Flyers a five-on-three for 51 seconds, but they failed to apply the needed pressure and fired blanks.
3. Before the game, Yeo said an important start was vital. “We need to come out strong because they’re a heck of a team,” he said.
The Flyers didn’t look like they got the memo as they allowed the game’s first seven shots, including two that got past goalie Carter Hart.
“Our execution wasn’t there; we came out sloppy,” defenseman Travis Sanheim said.
“That was definitely our worst period in a long, long time,” Atkinson said. “I’m not sure if it was because of the time off (for) the guys who hadn’t played for a long time, coming off COVID. But obviously there’s no excuses. We did the exact opposite of what our game plan told us to do. We got back in the second and third and guys started playing better.”
Pastrnak scored two goals in the first 5:27, staking Boston to a 2-0 lead. Just 1:51 into the game, a bad clear led to Pastrnak’s goal from the slot. He later added a power-play goal on a right-circle one-timer.
Pastrnak, of course, is a certified Flyers killer. He has 19 goals in 25 career games against the Flyers. Think about that.
4. The Flyers lost too many one-on-one battles in the opening period as they allowed the Bruins to set the tone.
That’s nothing new, especially at TD Garden.
Boston is 13-0-4 in its last 17 home games against the Flyers. Philly’s last regulation win at TD Garden was a 2-1 victory on Oct. 6, 2011. The Flyers’ defense in that game included Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros, Andreas Lilja, Kimmo Timonen, and Braydon Coburn, and the goalie was Ilya Bryzgalov.
Yeah, it’s been a while.
5. The Bruins, who have won seven of their last eight, were playing on back-to-back nights and for the third time in four nights. The Flyers were playing for the first time in five nights.
But the Bruins didn’t appear weary as they had a significant shots advantage (36-27), and early in the game the Flyers looked rusty from the layoff.
The Flyers had five players come off the COVID list who hadn’t played in a while, and it took them 20-plus minutes before finding their rhythm. The five returning players: Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, Provorov, and Justin Braun.
6. The most heart-warming development happened before the game. That’s when Flyers center Kevin Hayes was holding his two-year-old nephew, Beau, at the morning skate. It was difficult to tell which one had the bigger smile.
Beau is the son of Kevin’s brother, Jimmy, 31, a Boston native and former NHL player who died Aug. 23 with cocaine and fentanyl in his system, according to his widow, Kristen.
“Honestly, he was my biggest supporter,” Hayes said before the game. “It’s weird because he was still in the NHL when he was telling everyone how much better I am than him. It’s just a relationship that not a lot of people have.”
After the game. Hayes said, “I think it was the first time Beau went to a live practice. … I’m not sure how much he’ll remember, but he had a blast.”
Flyers prospect Noah Cates, a forward who was fifth-round selection in 2017, was selected to the U.S. Olympic team Thursday. He plays at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. … Pastrnak had 14 shot attempts, including eight on goal. … Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle had a pair of assists. … MacEwen hit the goal post midway through the third period. … Yeo pulled Hart — who kept the Flyers in the game with some key saves — for an extra attacker with 3:49 left. The Flyers put on lots of late pressure but couldn’t solve Rask. … Scott Laughton had four hits. … The Flyers fell 11 points behind Boston, which has the East’s last wild-card spot. The Bruins have two games in hand on the Flyers. … Provorov played a game-high 27:42 in his first game back from being on the COVID list. … Rask had 25 saves in his season debut. … The Flyers host the Rangers on Saturday night.