Flyers spoil Kreider’s third career hat trick due to undisciplined Rangers, Quinn plays favorites


This was the definition of ugly hockey played between old rivals. There was nothing great about the rematch the Rangers lost to the Flyers by a frustrating 4-3 score. It was not a Picasso by either side. In the end, the bitter rival was able to hold on for a one-goal win. That means it’s another one-goal loss for a team that can’t win these kinds of games.

In losing, they didn’t string together three consecutive wins. No winning streak for an inconsistent team that doesn’t have the look of a playoff one. They have a lottery feel to them again. Not to sound a broken record. But it’s getting tiresome. The lack of discipline cost them dearly. There were too many bad penalties and sloppy turnovers that led to either Flyers’ goals or odd-man rushes and breakaways.

The goaltending wasn’t good enough either. In spite of some huge saves, Igor Shestyorkin let in two stoppable shots including the back breaking Kevin Hayes goal that gave the Philadelphia hosts a 4-2 lead after two periods. The Flyers better than they were last time. They also weren’t awful like the Lake Tahoe humiliation against Boston. Bad news for the Blueshirts, who now must go to Boston and face those Bruins twice this weekend.

The Rangers spoiled Chris Kreider’s third career hat trick. He had his best game of the season by scoring all three of the team’s goals in similar fashion. By doing the dirty work in front to beat Brian Elliott on three rebounds. He gave up a bundle. But only Kreider was able to cash in for his sixth, seventh and eighth goals of the season. Suddenly, the streaky power forward has four in the last two games to surge ahead of both Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome for the team lead. He took no personal joy in the tough loss.

It’s hard to win any game when you take as many undisciplined penalties as they did tonight. The Rangers shot themselves in the foot literally. They took a ghastly eight penalties and turned it into a battle of special teams. Even though they connected twice on five of their own power plays, they permitted a pair of power play goals to the Flyers on those eight chances. Way too many for them to play a shorthanded Philly team at five-on-five. Something Kreider emphasized afterwards in the Zoom Conference.

They also never led. Coming out unprepared for some reason, they watched the Flyers get the first four shots on Shestyorkin, who bailed his flat team out. At one point, the shots favored the Flyers 10-1. The interesting aspect is he made some good saves including during a bench minor (one of two under the coach). But after a great kill and a splendid job by a tired third pair of Jack Johnson and Brendan Smith with the Kevin Rooney checking line not giving up anything, Shestyorkin let in a stoppable shot from defenseman Erik Gustafsson at 7:48. He picked it up late with maybe Libor Hajek bothering him. But he wasn’t fully screened.

With not much happening early, Mika Zibanejad drew a holding minor on Sean Couturier. It only took the Rangers four seconds to tie it up. Off a clean Ryan Strome face-off win back to Adam Fox, he passed across for a Zibanejad one-timer that rebounded right out to Kreider, who deposited goal number one. Just a simple play all started by winning a draw.

However, a slashing minor from Jonny Brodzinski resulted in the Flyers retaking the lead with 4:29 left in the first period. On a bit of a broken play, a Shayne Gostisbehere wide shot took a carom right back to the Flyers. With Nolan Patrick in the area, the puck came back to Gostisbehere, who fired it home for his first on the power play. The returning Claude Giroux picked up the second of three assists after missing extensive time due to COVID-19. He played very well in setting up three of the Flyers’ four goals.

The Rangers had a late power play opportunity of their own. But weren’t able to cash in. They went to the locker room trailing 2-1. They allowed 15 shots to an opponent who averages right around 23 for a full game. Not having K’Andre Miller hurt the defense. But the Flyers were still playing without Travis Konecny, Jakub Voracek, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom and defenseman Justin Braun, who didn’t play after just being taken off the COVID Protocol list.

Here’s the point. It would be easy for fans and the media that cover this team to make excuses for losing a winnable game. They are without Panarin, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, Jacob Trouba and now Miller. But let’s be honest. The Flyers were down even more key guys. They got 39 shots on Shestyorkin. That is unacceptable.

It’s also unfathomable how many easy break ins they had. Shestyorkin may not have had his best game. But if it weren’t for him on some of these wide open scoring chances with no Blueshirt anywhere near a Flyer, this could’ve been more lopsided. Give Shestyorkin credit for making 35 saves including a last gasp pad stop to deny Giroux. He was a little shaken up after it. But he stayed in there. It was that big save along with an outright denial on Joel Farabee that gave the Blueshirts a chance.

There’s also this development. Given the current state of the defense, wouldn’t it help to have Tony DeAngelo still part of the mix? Instead, $3.725 of the $4.8 million is wasting away on the salary cap. Thanks to David Quinn not being able to handle the polarizing offensive defenseman. Nobody will tell me otherwise.

Not when this coach continues to send out Buchnevich and Brett Howden every shift. Both went unpunished for committing lousy turnovers. Buchnevich made many bad passes throughout including a mystifying one with under 10 seconds remaining when a shot on the shaky Elliott was needed. It summed up his night.

If you have a coach who’s going to play favorites and then complain about what his team didn’t do, he definitely deserves some of the blame. It’s always the same players who miss shifts when they screw up.

Brendan Lemieux didn’t because he’s been playing well. However, it’s hard to explain what he was doing out on the final shift. He mishandled the puck deep in his end to run some time off for the Flyers. It didn’t make sense. At least Alexis Lafreniere got a shift late. He was the extra attacker when Shestyorkin was lifted with a minute and a half left.

The penalty trouble continued to hurt the Rangers in the second period. A Brendan Smith hooking minor led directly to James van Riemsdyk scoring his ninth (seven PPG) by converting a perfect Farabee feed for a 3-1 lead at 4:05.

Even worse, consecutive penalties from Julien Gauthier (hi-sticking) and Buchnevich (delay of game) handed the Flyers a two-man advantage for 98 seconds. Astonishingly, they didn’t score due to Shestyorkin. He got the job done along with the penalty kill.

The Rangers were able to draw within one thanks to their own power play goal. On this one, it was another good play by both Strome and Zibanejad. Strome got a pass across for a Zibanejad shot that went right to Kreider for a tap in at 8:03 for goal number two. It was Zibanejad’s second assist. The first multi-point game of the season for him. He definitely felt better. It showed in his play. If they are going to do anything for as long as Panarin is out, it’ll fall on both Zibanejad and Kreider, who both played well. That is a positive sign.

I wish I could say the same for Buchnevich. He had a miserable game. Too many lazy turnovers. Not enough shots. Plus a clear into the empty stands that put them down two men. The ending one of mystifying proportion. But he never missed a shift. Of course not. There’s no consistency.

There also were chances created by Colin Blackwell and Strome. But neither could finish. Strome hit another goalpost. He does that a lot. He also sometimes over passes when he should simplify his game. He could have more goals. Blackwell works extremely hard. He is in the right spot a lot and makes things happen. But he too couldn’t hit the net.

That is why he’s not a top six forward. But he’s being used that way out of necessity. He flat out blew a great pass from Fox in the slot sending the puck wide. However, he would factor in on Kreider’s third of the game later.

With the pace of the game very fast, there was little defense. Each team traded chances. For a while, it felt like the game would be tied. Momentum was on the Rangers’ side. But a blown coverage during a Flyers’ transition allowed resulted in former center Kevin Hayes scoring his seventh with 6:23 remaining.

On the scoring play started by defenseman Philippe Myers, Giroux skated into open space and passed for Hayes, who had the presence of mind to catch Shestyorkin off his goalpost. He wisely fired a sharp angle shot high short side into the upper portion of the net for the game decider. A crusher for sure. He seems to always factor into the Flyers’ wins over the Rangers. The ghost of Purple Hayes haunting the Blueshirts.

The frustrating part is for as well as he played, that goal is the one Shestyorkin would want back. No screen. From a bad angle. He just wasn’t set. He’s given up such goals more often in his true rookie season compared to when he came up last year. It’s correctable. He will have to work on it with goalie coach Benoit Allaire.

The final period was another head scratching one. On good sustained pressure by the Strome line, an attacking Blackwell smartly threw the puck towards the net with both Ryan Lindgren and Kreider in front. The puck went off Lindgren right to Kreider for an easy put away to complete the hat trick at 3:27.

It was a good play from Blackwell, who continues to pile up points. Since joining the team, he’s recorded three goals and three assists totaling six points over nine games.

Sadly, that’s as close as they got. There were rebounds to be had. But Elliott made some good recoveries to prevent them from tying it. He also had to contend with a flying Kreider down the left wing making a bid for four. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. You had NBCSN commentator Keith Jones telling Brendan Burke that he couldn’t understand why Kreider doesn’t score 40 goals. Maybe if he paid closer attention. I’d settle for 30. Something he’s come close to, but never reached. Stick to the Flyers.

They got eight shots on Elliott. Only one went in. Shestyorkin stopped all 10 Flyer shots with none bigger than him getting across to deny Giroux after he stripped Anthony Bitetto of the puck in the Rangers’ end. Yikes. That is how I’d sum up the bottom four defensemen. They were bad. There was too much room and a lot of blown coverages.

You had a Howden pass to nobody except the opponent, who went the other way before the Rangers recovered. It was mind boggling. Of course, Howden never missed a shift. Quinn had to get him out there. Howden and his two glorious assists. I’m tired of it. He isn’t worth playing when the roster gets healthy.

If for some reason he plays over Blackwell, Rooney or Lemieux, Quinn should be given his walking papers on the spot. Stop trying to justify what’s been a lousy trade. He’s not any better than Lias Andersson, who does have a goal for the Kings in a similar role. What’s the difference? One is Canadian and the other Swedish. Maybe those getting excited for Nils Lundkvist shouldn’t. I’m more excited about Zac Jones.

What would it take for this organization to recall Tarmo Reunanen and just put Jack Johnson on waivers? It’s not like anyone will claim him. You can’t have only one defenseman able to create offense. That’s the dire situation without DeAngelo. What’s their record since he was dismissed? It’s not good. Neither is the offense. There isn’t enough coming from the back end. A team strength a year ago now an apparent weakness. Reunanen has offensive skills. Why not see what he can do?

It’s hard watching Lemieux fumble the puck around with the net vacated. It’s tough seeing Fox as the only defenseman this coach trusts to be out late trailing by a goal. It’s a lot to ask. He played an excellent game. His assist being his first point in seven games. He could’ve had more if Blackwell or other teammates buried their chances. But it’s not a winning formula.

Trouba is missed because despite some shortcomings, he’s a trusted top four defenseman who can log important minutes at even strength, play penalty kill and even the power play. Add Miller to that list and it becomes very hard to be successful.

It’s even worse when this team somehow takes a second too many men on the ice minor by getting caught with seven out thanks to Buchnevich. I have no idea why a rushing Buchnevich tried a low percentage pass to a covered teammate that allowed the Flyers to run out the clock. It’s exasperating. At times, he can play well and please fans.

Then, there are other instances where you question why they think he’s a top six forward. Would you sign him for the $5 million he’ll command this off-season? He only has four goals. The eight assists are nice. But he is too much of a one trick pony. I don’t think he’ll ever get it here. They should trade him before it’s too late. Get Vitaly Kravtsov signed.

Gauthier played a shade over seven minutes. Why even bother? I get he took a penalty. But it’s absolutely ludicrous the way Quinn handles him. He praises Gauthier when he does something good like score a goal or draw a penalty. But he rarely plays him. Why not? Is Phil Di Giuseppe better? Is Howden? Where is the logic?

The Rangers fell to 0-4 without Panarin. They’re 0 for 3 this season. There’s nothing else to add. Next up are the first place Bruins. They don’t care who’s out. They will show no mercy if the Rangers don’t bring their A game. They did play them tough in the first two at MSG. But lost. They only scored twice and were blanked by Jaro Halak last time. You better believe he’ll get one of the games.

THREE STARS OF GAME

3rd 🌟 Shayne Gostisbehere, Flyers (power play goal plus 🍎, 6 SOG in 9 attempts, +1 in 20:48)

2nd 🌟 Claude Giroux, Flyers (3 🍎, game high 8 SOG in 11 attempts, 8-and-3 on face-offs, +2 in 20:54)

1st 🌟 Chris Kreider, NYR (3rd career hat trick- 6th, 7th, 8th, two power play goals, 4 SOG in 19:32)

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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