Flyers come up short in shootout loss to Nashville

BY JAY BOEHMER, Staff Writer

With the Philadelphia Flyers as the picture of inconsistency throughout the season, they’ve looked pretty ugly since coming back from the Olympic break, though still scraping by with a record of 4-3-1.  This game was actually one of their best showings, despite the final result.

After a lackluster showing against rival New York Rangers on Sunday, head coach Peter Laviolette rested his team, calling their upcoming schedule, without a single two day break throughout the month of March, “ridiculous”.  It would seem his decision worked, as they started this game with all the energy they had previously lacked.

A mere 1:21 into the game, Jeff Carter put one of his patented wristers behind goalie Pekka Rinne after receiving a pass following a steal by Danny Briere.  That line of Carter, Briere, and Scott Hartnell was one of the Flyers’ most consistent on the night.  The threesome generated the majority of Philly’s chances.

Unfortunately, the Nashville responded with a quick pair of goals to create to a 2-1 lead less than six minutes after going down a goal.  At this point, Ian Laperriere challenged Jordin Tootoo to a fight to rile his team up, and it seemed to work.  They came back with a hard driving offense.

Things continued to go the Predators’ way, however, as Michael Leighton, starting a career high 14th straight game, left the game with a high ankle sprain.  Brian Boucher was thrown right into the mix, without even a warm up, and gave in a goal during a defensive collapse in front.  Down 3-1, the Flyers needed to respond desperately.

Throughout two periods, the Flyers outshot the Predators 29-15, and led in almost every statistical category aside from goals, still being down 3-1.  In the final frame, with 8:45 left on the clock, Simon Gagne rammed home a rebound after Matt Carle threw the puck out front to Danny Briere.

Having closed in to within a goal, the Flyers took their game to another level as the Carter line drew a penalty against the well disciplined Nashville defensive squad.  Chris Pronger took advantage of the power play and buried a shot from the slot off a feed from Mike Richards.

Tied 3-3, the game went into overtime, where Brian Boucher was heavily tested for the first time all night.  In the shootout that followed, the 6’5” Rinne clogged his net with ease, stopping all three Flyers’ shots, while Boucher gave up one to Martin Erat to seal a 4-3 loss.

Even though they left without the much needed two points, the Flyers finally seemed to bring energy for all 60 minutes (and then some) and were able to earn one point at a time in the season where each tally counts all the more.  Laviolette hopes that his team will be able to carry this through to the team’s next stop in Dallas against a stars team minus franchise player Mike Modano.

With a Montreal win, Philadelphia ends the night down 1 point and 7th in the conference, though with two games in hand.  Michael Leighton is listed as day to day, and an emergency goalie will be brought in to backup Brian Boucher, who will start for at least the next few games.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

Pekka Rinne: While many seemed quite unorthodox, the athletic Rinne was able to keep out the majority of Flyers’ shots, ultimately stopping 42 of 45 and keeping out all three shootout attempts.

Jeff Carter: Leading his line on a tear through the offensive zone, Carter ripped plenty of shots – a total of 11 – while only finding the back of the net once.

Special Teams: This Predators team has taken a significantly low number of penalties on the year.  And while they have a strong power play, they sport a dismal penalty kill.  The Flyers managed to not take a single penalty all night, while simultaneously cashing in on one of their two power play opportunities.

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