Thursday, April 03, 2014

Bobrovsky confounds suddenly punchless Flyers

Philadelphia, PA -- For one night at least, Sergei Bobrovsky proved why unloading him for a draft pick two years back and picking up Steve Mason from the Columbus Blue Jackets one year ago was an unwise decision.

In his first performance in front of his former home crowd, Bobrovsky came up with 37 saves as the Blue Jackets outskated and outscored the Flyers, 2-0, in a key Metropolitan Division contest on Thursday night.

"This organization means a lot to me. I appreciate them and what they did for me. It was special. I wasn't mad or anything but, it was a huge game. That's all I was focused on," Bobrovsky said of beating the club which gave him his start in the NHL with a memorable debut at Pittsburgh in October of 2010.

He raised his stick to the crowd upon being announced the game's Second Star.

Mason stopped 25 pucks, but shots by James Wisniewski in the second period and a deflection by Brandon Dubinsky in the third period eluded his grasp.

Bobrovsky failed to be broken, and as a result tied career-highs of 28 wins and his fourth shutout of the season. Columbus also pulled within one point of Detroit in the race for the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

"Shooting on him over the last couple years, you figure one of those would go in," said Scott Hartnell. "Bob is one of those guys who could steal a game by standing on his head, and he did it again tonight."

What's more, is the Jackets pulled within two points of the Flyers for third place and clinched the season series, 3-1-0 -- which will be deadly if a continued collapse forces a tiebreaker between the teams -- by claiming their first-ever victory here. 

Philadelphia wasted one of its two games in hand it holds over the idle New York Rangers, and the margin between them for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs increased to four points after Colorado's 3-2 shootout win against the Blueshirts later on Thursday. 

Craig Berube's club is also suffering through a scoreless streak which has stretched for 130:25 since Kimmo Timonen's late third-period marker in Sunday's shootout loss to the Bruins.

"We had chances. In the third period we stopped playing our game," explained Berube. "They came at us hard and it looked like we got frustrated."

It's the first time the Flyers have been blanked in consecutive outings since November 28-December 3, 2009, against Atlanta and Vancouver -- which effectively sealed John Stevens' fate as head coach.

Bobrovsky made 27 saves through the first two periods, and his teammates finally backed it up when Wisniewski's shot through heavy traffic in front at the tail end of a Sean Couturier slashing minor with 2:53 remaining before the second intermission gave the young Russian all the margin he required. 

The outcome was sealed just 3:20 into the third. Cam Atkinson's offering from the left circle near the boards ticked off the skate of Dubinsky and zipped past Mason for a 2-0 contest. A brief review confirmed the on-ice ruling that no kicking motion was made.

Even after Mason was pulled for an extra skater, Bobrovsky refused to budge, helped along by his defense and forecheckers who blocked shots, passing lanes and clogged up space for rebounds. Claude Giroux ended the contest in the penalty box for a slash with 23 seconds remaining.

"The guys are working hard but they're not finding the back of the net," offered Mason, though it looked suspiciously different at home than in Tuesday's 1-0 shootout loss in St. Louis. "We're aware of all the standings and every game is a must win because we're not gaining points. They found a way to creep up on us and now we're going to have to find a way to win in Boston."

Couturier had been pulled down from behind on a clear breakaway at the 8:37 mark of the second, but Ryan Johansen was merely given a hooking penalty. The hosts embarked on their fourth and final futile power play, and shortly thereafter the game was untied for good.

Mark Letestu was sent off after only 62 seconds, then two more Columbus infractions in a span of less than four minutes later in the first period all went by the wayside. 

Notes: Prior to tonight, Columbus was 0-5 with one tie in Philadelphia since entering the league for the 2000-01 season ... The Blue Jackets improved to 27-2-4 when leading after two periods ... After winning five in a row to begin this crucial late-season stretch, the Flyers fell to 1-3-2 with Saturday afternoon's tilt in Boston the final leg of the 12-game crucible ... The Orange and Black have converted only 7-of-50 power-play chances at home since returning from the Olympic break ... Mason was acquired at last year's trade deadline from Columbus for Michael Leighton and a third-round pick in 2015.

Post a Comment