Sleepy of­fense takes the af­ter­noon off

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Rob Par­ent rpar­ent@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Reluc­tan­tSE on Twit­ter

It was an af­ter­noon of il­lu­sion at Wells Fargo Cen­ter, one that car­ried beyond the usual hockey player phe­nom­e­non of re­fer­ring to all day games as hav­ing hap­pened “tonight” in post-game in­ter­views.

Maybe that’s be­cause hockey is played in­doors with­out any win­dows to the out­side world. When play­ing the Tampa Bay Light­ning in re­cent sea­sons, how­ever, the Fly­ers have too of­ten been left in the dark.

In this lat­est let­down, a 3-0 Light­ning-fast loss in a mati­nee snoozer at Wells Fargo Cen­ter, the Fly­ers not only were sub­ject to the usual day­light-sav­ings il­lu­sion, they sounded al­most de­luded in go­ing through their post-mor­tum ex­er­cises.

“We had some chances there, and un­for­tu­nately the puck didn’t bounce our way on some plays,” goalie Steve Ma­son said af­ter los­ing for the ninth time in 14 ap­pear­ances. “I think to­day we were the bet­ter team, but some­times that doesn’t dic­tate the fi­nal score.”

“I don’t think we played that bad,” Jake Vo­racek added. “When you look at it we had a lot of chances. We just didn’t get them to end up in the net. Games like that hap­pen.”

As do losses that in the light of day might take on a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. The Fly­ers for the most part saw a hardy ef­fort against a true Stan­ley Cup con­tender — al­beit one miss­ing su­per­star Steven Stamkos (knee). They could even point to the score­board for sup­port­ive ev­i­dence ... if you look past what those bigger num­bers say, you could see that the Fly­ers had out­shot the visi­tors by 32-18.

But maybe that just sup­ports the the­ory that Tampa Bay backup goalie An­drei Vasilevskiy is as good as most team’s starters.

“We hit a cou­ple of posts and he made some big saves as well,” said Shayne Gostis­be­here, who was back af­ter a one-game bench­ing. “It’s frus­trat­ing to have a game like that, with how many shots we had and still get noth­ing out of it.”

But that’s where this game gets a tad il­lu­sory. This cer­tainly wasn’t a beat-down vic­tory for Tampa Bay (12-61), which un­til a pair of losses to the Fly­ers last March had been semi-suc­cess­ful in achiev­ing such easy vic­to­ries in too many Philadel­phia games.

In­deed, the Fly­ers seem­ingly con­trolled the play for the bulk of this day, un­til you re­al­ized that the vast ma­jor­ity of those 32 Fly­ers shots on goal (and 17 missed shots) came from out on the perime­ter, many of them while the Fly­ers were go­ing oh-for-5 on the power play. In ad­di­tion, the Light­ning blocked 21 shots, again, many of them on the power play.

The Fly­ers haven’t scored in 10 con­sec­u­tive man-ad­van­tage sit­u­a­tions, and Gostis­be­here con­tin­ues to strug­gle to get his usu­ally ef­fec­tive point blasts through as teams con­tinue to pres­sure him out there.

This might be just one part of the Fly­ers’ team trou­bles, but it has an im­pact when most of the Fly­ers’ scor­ing suc­cess is power play ori­ented.

“I’m pretty sure we’re (still) sec­ond in the league,” Ghost the un­happy power play quar­ter­back said, “but we can’t re­ally rely on our power play all the time; we have 5-on-5 to play.”

Not only from an of­fen­sive stand­point: The Light­ning scored two of their goals off bang-bang pays in tran­si­tion. A cov­er­age mis­take free­ing On­drej Palat to dou­ble the Light­ning lead at 7:40 of the sec­ond pe­riod, then Palat throw­ing an elite-level stretch pass off the boards and per­fectly onto the stick of streak­ing Jonathan Drouin, who slith­ered past Vo­racek and beat Ma­son for 3-0 4:26 into the third.

So who needs a ton of shots when you can take ad­van­tage of op­por­tu­ni­ties such as that?

“You don’t get points for win­ning at shot at­tempts or win­ning on the shot chart,” coach Dave Hak­stol said. “This is a tight hockey game against a good team. There were a lot of pos­i­tives in our game, but as I said, a crit­i­cal er­ror at the wrong time changes the out­come of the game.”

For this out­come, there were many more er­rors than the post-game score­sheet might in­di­cate. To Hak­stol, that isn’t much of an il­lu­sion.

MATT SLOCUM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Tampa Bay Light­ning goalie An­drei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves in a 3-0 shutout over the Fly­ers on Satur­day.

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