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5 observations: Noah Cates’ big moment, Flyers get 49 shots but find way to lose

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Noah Cates, Ronnie Attard, Philadelphia Flyers
Noah Cates (left) and Ronnie Attard display pucks from their first goal and first assist, respectively. Photo: Zack Hill.

If only Elvis would have left the building….

The Philadelphia Flyers dominated Tuesday’s game, had the better scoring chances, but were outplayed at the most critical position.

As a result, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Wells Fargo Center.

Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins, playing on back-to-back nights, badly outplayed Carter Hart to steal the win for the Blue Jackets, who were outshot, 49-30.

“I think it was just a phenomenal performance by their goalie,” Flyers interim coach Mike Yeo said. “That’s the story of the game.”

“That’s hockey,” said defenseman Ivan Provorov, who played another strong game. “Sometimes you outplay the other team, you outchance them, outshoot them. But at the end of the day, they got more goals in the blue paint than we did.”

With 6:44 to go, Hart couldn’t clear the puck and Justin Danforth scored from out front to snap a 2-2 tie. The Jackets added an empty-net goal and ended their seven-game losing streak (0-4-3).

Hart blocked a shot from the point on the game-winning sequence.

“I tried to get my body in front, and the rebound ends up in front and I go to try to swipe it away and I just missed it,” Hart said.

Hart has allowed 19 goals over the last four games. Yikes.

Here are five observations:

1. Noah Cates looks like he has a bright future.

I’m not saying that just because he scored his first NHL goal Tuesday, converting a slick pass from Patrick Brown to get the Flyers within 2-1.

“Obviously it’s super exciting,” Cates said. “It’s been a lifelong dream to score that goal, and it was pretty big for us. … Brownie made an awesome play” from behind the goal line. “Obviously a moment I’ll never forget.”

Cates, a former Minnesota-Duluth standout who has played in four NHL games, has a high motor, seems to always be around the puck, and has a hockey IQ off the charts.

He played left wing on a line with Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny, but his best position may be center.

Really like the kid’s two-way game.

2. The Flyers turned the Wells Fargo Center into a shooting gallery.

They had 20 shots in the first period, 18 more in the second,  and finished with a season-high 49. Provorov had six shots and added six blocks.

“We have to keep building on positives,” Yeo said. “The look of the game, the quality of chances we generated, the amount of puck possession we had tonight, those are all positives.”

Th Flyers’ previous high shot total this season was 43 in a 2-1 overtime win over visiting Calgary on Nov. 16.

The franchise record?

The Philadelphia Flyers had 62 shots in an 11-2 victory over Washington on April 1, 1976. Bill Barber had a hat trick and 11 shots on goal in that romp at the Spectrum. Reggie Leach had a pair of goals and eight shots.

3. Owen Tippett is adept at getting free on breakaways.

Tippett, acquired in the Claude Giroux trade, has had three breakaways in the last two games, including one on Tuesday. That’s the good news.

The bad news: He has been stopped in all three attempts.

Tippett (four shots) had another great point-blank chance but was denied by Merzlikins with 16:33 left in regulation and the game tied at 2-all.

4. Welcome back, Scott Laughton.

Laughton, who missed his previous 12 games because of a concussion, played with an edge that spread to his teammates. He excelled in the faceoff circle (7 of 9 wins), didn’t shy away from contact, and centered the productive third line, which had Cates and Konecny as his wingers.

With the teams tied at 2-2 and about 14 minutes remaining, Merzlikins somehow stopped Laughton on a rebound. Merzlikins took a 3.41 GAA and .902 save percentage into the game.

5. Ronnie Attard needs work, but shows the promise that made him a Western Michigan star.

Attard, a 6-4, 210-pound defenseman, probably could use a year in the AHL, but he is getting valuable on-the-job training with the Flyers. Yes, he made some mistakes that handed Columbus some scoring chances, but they were learning moments and will benefit him down the road.

He also collected his first NHL point when his shot was deflected into the net by James van Riemsdyk (18th goal), tying the game at 2-2 with 6:44 remaining in the second.

Attard, who said he jumped two feet in the air to celebrate Cates’ goal, said he is very aware of JVR’s net-front presence.

“I’ve watched him growing up, for sure, and I’ve seen his art in front of the net,” Attard said after playing in his third NHL game. “Whenever he’s there, you just try to get pucks through, and most of the time he’ll get his stick on it.”

Attard and his defensive partner, Keith Yandle, were each minus-2.

“I’m starting to feel more comfortable every game, but this is a great hockey league,” Attard said. “I just have to continue to learn every game, every shift. It’s nice we have great guys in the locker room who are mentoring us and helping us every day.”

Breakaways

Cam York played a team-high (and career-high) 25:07 and had eight shots attempts, including four on goal. … The Flyers were 0 for 4 on the power play and are 1 for 21 in their last eight games. … Atkinson and Columbus’ Jake Voracek, who were traded for each other in the offseason, were pointless. … Rasmus Ristolainen had seven hits. … The Flyers had their most shots since a game in 2019. … Carson Meyer, in his second NHL game, scored his first goal and added his initial assist for Columbus. In 2017, Meyer struggled while playing for Miami (Ohio), and it was discovered he had a 25-inch tapeworm that was causing the problem. 

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Tim Cahill

No chance Attard’s +/- was impacted by Yandle’s NHL-worst skill set. No chance at all.

Put the kids on with competent defensemen. Everyone paired with Yandle looks like they need work. This franchise is pure incompetence. There is absolutely no reason at all for Yandle to suit up again this season – none! If the team believes it needs to kiss Hayes’ rear end and play the guy, then all hope is lost.

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