The Flyers suffered their first ever loss in regulation in Nashville tonight, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Predators. Nick Spaling grabbed his third-game winner of the season 4:30 into the final period, as Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn each had a goal and an assist in the win. Pekka Rinne made 36 saves for his fourth straight victory.
Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds each had a goal and an assist, as Ilya Bryzgalov dropped his second straight decision with a 21-save effort for Philly.
Minutes into the game, the Flyers nearly found themselves trailing 1-0 on what looked to be a garbage goal for Gabriel Bourque.
After looking shaky on a handful of shots early, and receiving a scare due to a turnover from Braydon Coburn to Erat at the Flyers’ blue line, Bryzgalov allowed Bourque’s chance to slip by. Luckily for Bryz, the boys in Toronto reviewed the play, during which a fan threw a catfish on the ice, and determined the goal was illegal due to a distinct kicking motion.
A shot from the Flyers’ blue line banked off the end-boards and hit the back of Bryzgalov’s net. As Spaling and Bourque whacked away at the puck, Bourque apparently kicked the puck off Bryzgalov’s leg pad and over the goal line.
The Predators’ sustained pressure in the Flyers’ zone eventually led to Harry Zolnierczyk hooking David Legwand with 1:43 left in the period. Less than a minute later the Preds had the game’s first goal.
Erat controlled the puck in the Flyers’ zone near the middle of the faceoff circle furthest from the benches and released two shots, the second of which reached the net. With the help of a screen from Patric Hornqvist, Erat’s shot beat Bryzgalov far side for his 10th goal of the season with 57.7 seconds left in the first period.
Philly led the shot advantage by a count of 15-12, but were getting outhustled overall as the Preds led the takeaway count 7-2 and blocked six shots to the Flyers’ two.
Early in the second period the Music City crowd jumped back to life when Simmonds carried the puck into the Predators’ offensive zone and was flipped over on a rough check by defenseman Ryan Ellis.
Controlling the puck, Simmonds tried to cut from the circle closest to the benches into the slot. In the process, Ellis came towards Simmonds, to which he responded by slightly jumping in the air to avoid the hit. Unfortunately, that evasive maneuver gave the defender leverage as he propelled Simmonds into the air and over the rookie for a monster hit.
After he just missed Matt Read with a centering pass, Couturier was robbed of a goal by a sprawling Rinne.
With the puck loose in the slot, Couturier grabbed control of it and let go of a shot from the top of the crease with Rinne out of position. Reaching out with his glove and left leg pad, Rinne made a ridiculous save to keep the game 1-0, as the puck flew to the side of the net.
But then, Brayden Schenn’s unfortunate series of plays helped Nashville gain the 2-0 lead with 9:24 left in the second period. In his defensive zone, Schenn turned the puck over in the slot to Bourque. The Predators’ forward turned with the puck and tapped it to Kostitsyn, who was skating into the slot behind Bourque. With several bodies in front of Brzygalov, Kostitsyn let go of a wrister that went top-shelf for his 10th goal of the season.
The deficit wasn’t two goals for long, as Couturier extended his goal streak to four games just 1:42 later.
Simmonds maneuvered his way through three Preds as he consistently moved the puck between his forehand and backhand before losing control at the top of the circle away from the benches. Reaching back, Couturier grabbed the loose puck and ripped a shot top-shelf to beat Rinne just inside the far post.
Couturier’s ninth goal of the season gave Philly a boost of energy, as the team started to buzz and put pressure on Rinne and the Preds. But the Nashville netminder remained firm, and the visitors entered the third period down 2-1.
Philly had the jump early in the third period, as Giroux and Talbot nearly converted on a chance to tie the game at two goals apiece in the first minute.
Entering the offensive zone, Giroux backhanded a pass to Talbot in the slot. Talbot caught the pass on his backhand and provided a weak shot on Rinne, who left a rebound in the crease. Giroux tried to put home the rebound by flipping the puck over the goaltender on the ice, but instead put the puck over the net before it was cleared out of the offensive zone.
Although the Flyers continued to dictate the play early on, it was the Predators who scored the game’s next goal.
Spaling started a rush into the Flyers’ zone and worked a give-and-go with Tootoo. But it was Spaling who had the puck bounce up and hit high on his stick in between his hands and slip through Bryzgalov’s pads for his seventh goal of the season to give Nashville a two-goal lead 4:30 into the final period.
The Flyers answered minutes later with a tally from Simmonds for his 12th goal of the season.
After a Coburn shot from the point hit bodies in front, Couturier wound up and let go of a slap shot from the circle furthest from the players’ benches that was blocked towards the corner. Read grabbed the puck before it went deep and threw a shot at Rinne that forced the goalie to leave a rebound out in front for Simmonds. As Ellis had the puck caught in his skates at the top of the crease, Simmonds smacked home a goal to make it a one-goal game with 10:05 left in regulation.
Philly started to buzz forcing enough pressure on the Preds that Colin Wilson committed a tripping minor 1:40 after Simmonds’ tally.
The Flyers couldn’t convert on their second power play of the night, and failed to score another goal for the rest of the game, as Mike Fisher put home the empty-net goal from the neutral zone with 40 seconds left to notch a 4-2 win for Nashville.
The Flyers didn’t finish their road trip as planned, but they did manage to grab two wins over the four-game stretch. With both wins being one-goal victories, the Flyers’ last four victories have all been one-goal wins. Philly’s last multi-goal win was a 4-2 victory against the Pens on December 29, when Max Talbot scored an empty-netter. It’s a sign that the Flyers are winning close games, but at the same time they aren’t dominating their opponents like they did during their seven-game winning streak to open the month of December.
Hopefully the Flyers bounce back on Tuesday, as they return to Philadelphia host the Minnesota Wild.
Notes: The Flyers haven’t won in Nashville since a 2-0 decision on March 21, 2000 posting two ties, two shootout losses and one regulation loss in their five games since then…Giroux hasn’t scored in his last six games, posting three assists and a minus-6 rating in the process…Tonight’s loss was the first time the Flyers entered the third trailing (down 2-1) since their 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay to the Lightning on December 27 (entered third period down 4-1)…This is the fifth game all season JvR has missed…With a save percentage of .875, tonight was Bryzgalov’s fifth game with a save percentage less than .900 in his last six decisions…In his first game with the Flyers since November 5…Gustafsson posted an even rating with no shots on net in 12:41 TOI. Philly is 3-2-1 with Gustafsson in the line-up and 23-11-3 with him out of the line-up…Andreas Lilja was a healthy scratch. Philly is 17-10-3 with Lilja in the line-up and 9-3-1 without him….The Flyers dropped to 0-1-0 against the Predators, 2-2-0 against the Central Division, and 7-2-2 against the Western Conference this season…The Flyers dropped to 26-13-4. They were 27-11-5 after 43 games last season.