The Flyers went to the locker room feeling pretty good about the way they played against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight in what felt like a playoff atmosphere. Losses like this sting even more because the Flyers really should have won the game. They outplayed Phoenix most of the night. In a game filled with side stories (such as the penalty calls, and a controversial hit to Oskars Bartulis), the Flyers dropped a tough one to Phoenix in overtime 3-2. Phoenix won the game on the power play after a controversial penalty call by referee Francois St. Laurent.
The Flyers came forward with a great all around effort tonight, outshooting the Coyotes 39-29. Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was truly a difference maker. Ville Leino was able to score one early on Bryzgalov to put the Flyers up 1-0. It remained that way until early in the 3rd period when Eric Belanger netted the equalizer. Despite being outplayed by the Flyers, Phoenix found a way to take the lead on a very soft goal by Sergei Bobrovsky midway through the period. In what was a stunning finish, the Flyers then tied the game on a Claude Giroux goal with 1:13 remaining and the goalie pulled. The game had a thrilling atmosphere to it for a close, low-scoring game. The Flyers generated a lot of chances and even on the power play tonight they did a good job overall despite being 0-5.
Unfortunately, a hooking call on Kimmo Timonen in overtime was ultimately what decided the game. Peter Laviolette told reporters post game that he was not happy with the call by referee Francois St. Laurent. “I didn’t like it,” an obviously frustrated Laviolette said. “I didn’t like that one and a lot of others.”
Another controversial moment came 17 seconds into the second period when Scottie Upshall was whistled for boarding against Flyers defenseman Oskars Bartulis. It looked like Bartulis was stopped next to the goaltender’s crease and Upshall hit him shoulder to shoulder, launching him into the boards. According to Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, Bartulis will have an MRI tomorrow to determine the severity and they do not know anything yet. Asked if he had a problem with the hit, Holmgren didn’t shy from saying his piece. “Oskars is standing there minding his own business,” Holmgren said. “It was a late hit. I guess I had a little bit of a problem with it, yeah. It’s not like Scotty, though. Things happen.”
The Flyers had two games in hand on Pittsburgh coming into tonight with a chance to get some more separation in the division, which is key with Sidney Crosby still out. I asked Peter Laviolette if it’s tougher not to get the two points knowing that there’s a chance to add a little more separation between first and second. “Well, we put a little bit of distance there,” Laviolette said laughing. “Certainly not the amount of distance that we would have liked but like I said I’m always concerned about the way we play the game and how we attack the game. I’m not disappointed with that. I thought maybe in the third period we came out a little bit flat after they scored that goal. For the most part, I think we fired 75 to 80 shots on the net and we hit the pipe a bunch. It was just one of those nights where it wasn’t going in. You can’t seem to get it or put it away. Like I said, you feel like you earned two and your lucky to get one.”
The Flyers can take some pluses out of this game as they really looked like the better team here tonight against a pretty good Western Conference team. This was about as pleased as you can be without winning the game, which makes it an even tougher pill to swallow. The Flyers will now look to earn two on Thursday in what looks like a suddenly difficult home game against the New York Islanders who are playing very well as of late. We should know more tomorrow as to who will be in the lineup Thursday on defense as well as an injury update on both Oskars Bartulis and Sean O’Donnell.
Other Team Updates from GM Paul Holmgren:
Paul Holmgren spoke to the media following the game and gave updates on injured defenseman Oskars Bartulis as well as a surprising update on injured defenseman Sean O’Donnell. On Bartulis, the extent of the injury was still unclear. “We won’t know until tomorrow,” Holmgren said. “It’s a shoulder injury, we’ll get an MRI tomorrow to see what we’re dealing with.” When asked by a reporter who would be called up with two defensemen on the shelf, Homer’s answer surprised us. “Actually, Sean [O’Donnell] is a possibility for the next game. He got some good news. He had his MRI and it’s not a ligament problem we’re dealing with. He actually skated for about 40 minutes and felt pretty good.” When a reporter asked if there’s a backup plan should neither of those guys be ready, Holmgren replied, “We’ll talk about it tomorrow. I don’t know yet.”
Other Observations/Side Notes:
* The Flyers are now 2-3 in overtime for the season.
* The Flyers are a surprising 6-5-2 in games where they had 38 or more shots on goal.
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