NHL playoff picture: The race is losing runway for Flyers, who fall in shootout to Islanders

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Jordan Hall
·5 min read
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Race is losing runway for Flyers, who fall in shootout and have tough position originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

What feels like tradition now, the Flyers and Islanders needed bonus time to declare a winner Thursday night.

With the race losing runway, the Flyers ended up enduring another frustrating loss, 3-2, in a shootout at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee were all denied in the skills competition.

In the same building five days earlier, the Flyers (18-15-6) lost in a shootout by an identical score.

What's even more frustrating for the Flyers is that they've played much better hockey in this crucial week but have a 1-1-1 record to show for it. With the number of goals they've allowed and the hole they've dug this season, at this juncture, you can't hang your hat on better hockey. And the Flyers know it; they know they can't afford many one-point results.

The Bruins beat the Capitals, 4-2, Thursday night. With 17 games left, the Flyers are six points back of Boston, which holds the final playoff spot in the East Division and has two games in hand on Alain Vigneault's club. The Flyers are in fifth place, a point ahead of the Rangers.

Since Feb. 1, the Islanders (26-10-4) have been the best team in hockey, going 23-6-2. They've taken the last four meetings from the Flyers, three of them after regulation. The two clubs have gone to overtime five times this season.

• Fans won't want to hear it and justifiably so.

The Flyers' process has been better.

However, the problem is the Flyers' 6-10-1 March derailed the team's chances so badly. In a shortened season with only 15 games after the trade deadline, they had to weather that storm last month and couldn't.

General manager Chuck Fletcher might be squarely in the middle between buying and selling on Monday. Not an easy position to be in because even selling just slightly can help you retool for next season, which is a massive one for the Flyers. But selling also signals a white flag on the season, which can really hurt motivation in the locker room when the season is technically not lost yet.

Jakub Voracek is heating up.

He knotted the game at 2-2 in the second period and has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) over his last 15 games.

Voracek now leads the Flyers in scoring this season with 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 36 games.

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The 31-year-old Voracek was also seen on the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast giving words of encouragement to the 21-year-old Farabee during the third period. Farabee, who has been in a scoring rut the last eight games (no goals, one assist), had a few chances in which he narrowly missed lighting the lamp.

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• After his mini, practice-oriented reset, Carter Hart has made 65 saves on 72 shots in three games.

Hart made 21 of those saves Thursday night. He denied four shots in the skills competition before Brock Nelson got him.

The 22-year-old goalie has looked much, much more like himself. Confidence and big saves.

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New York netminder Ilya Sorokin is 4-0-0 with 114 saves on 120 shots in his last four starts against the Flyers.

• Before the game was 10 minutes old, the Flyers were in a familiar 2-0 hole and had lost a defenseman.

After New York scored a pair in a span of one minute and three seconds, Samuel Morin was handed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for boarding Casey Cizikas. The shove by Morin was undoubtedly a penalty but it didn't seem like it had malicious intent or was egregiously bad.

Nonetheless, Morin got booted and will hear from the NHL Department of Player Safety.

"Obviously I don't agree with the call on Sam," Vigneault said postgame. "Referees see the game the way they see the game."

Update: Despite Morin receiving a game misconduct, no hearing or discipline was announced Friday as of 7 p.m. ET.

At that point, the Flyers looked like they were in serious danger of the game getting away from them. But they found a way to kill New York's five-minute power play and just over a minute later, the Flyers caught a huge break when Sorokin misplayed a shot into his net. The shot came from Nicolas Aube-Kubel and cut the Flyers' deficit to 2-1.

The Flyers have not held a first-intermission lead in their last 13 games, but being down 2-1 was a positive for them considering how Thursday night's contest started.

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• Robert Hagg, who missed 11 games with a shoulder injury, returned to the lineup and played in place of Philippe Myers. Vigneault said the 24-year-old Myers is going through a "learning curve."

Hagg played well in 22:03 minutes. You've got to think he earned himself another game Saturday.

"I felt great during the game," Hagg said. "I felt I was going to throw up after the first, but after that, I felt pretty good actually."

• Before Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, the Flyers have a back-to-back set over the weekend when they host the Bruins on Saturday (2 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Sabres on Sunday (2 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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