PHILADELPHIA – Wayne Simmonds took a puck to the face – from his own teammate. Later, he caught a stick across the bridge of his nose. In both instances, blood spilled on his jersey and on the ice.
It didn’t stop him from scoring a goal.
Then there’s Jake Voracek, who had a slapshot catch him square in the neck, just centimeters from his Adam’s apple.
He too scored a goal – on that play.
They were signs of players desperate to try to pull the Flyers out of the malaise that has gripped them this season.
Unfortunately, their efforts weren’t matched with the same fervor by their teammates and the end result in what was a “must win” game was a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
“I think it always comes down to individual preparation,” said Kimmo Timonen. “You’re either ready to play or you’re not. A lot of people blame coaches, but we’re out there making plays and, like I said, you have to be ready to play. When you’re not ready to play you’ll lose one-on-one battles a lot.”
Timonen wasn’t the only one who felt the effort wasn’t where it needed to be in such a crucial game.
Simmonds, who had to get stitched up to close a cut above his lip after Luke Schenn cleared a puck from in front of the Flyers net right into his teammates mouth, agreed wholeheartedly with Timonen.
“I’ll second what Kimmo said,” Simmonds said. “The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift. To win games in this league that’s what you have to do and it just didn’t happen tonight.”
And Voracek agreed too.
“I think they’re right,” he said. “I mean for 30 minutes we played like crap and then the other 30 minutes I think we were a better team… Every guy knows how to prepare for the game. We weren’t ready to play. We got outraced on the pucks. We got beaten in the battles. It just can’t happen, you know?”
Yet, it did, and the Flyers now face an uphill battle to earn a playoff spot as they sit seven points out of eighth place with 16 games to play.
“We’re not going to quit,” said Claude Giroux, who assisted on both Flyers goals. “Our team’s going to battle every night. You know what? One game at a time and a few games in a row and you never know. We need to keep fighting and keep getting ready for these kinds of games.”
It started a bit sluggishly as the Rangers seemed to have more jump than the Flyers in the first period, but goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was sharp again and kept the game scoreless for awhile making several big saves, including a stellar glove save on Carl Hagelin on the first shift of the game.
But eventually, the Flyers fell behind.
It started on a nice bit of passing on the part of the Rangers with Derek Stepan, who had a huge night, eventually finding the cutting Rick Nash in the slot.
Nash put the puck top shelf over Bryzgalov, giving the Rangers the lead.
In the second period, things started to go awry for the Flyers.
Brad Richards scored a power play goal from the right wing, putting a one-timer over Bryzgalov’s glove for 2-0, and quickly thereafter, Stepan had a shot carom off his skate to his stick and he slid a backhander past Bryzgalov for 3-0.
The Flyers were able to answer with a power play goal late in the period as a pass from Voracek glanced off Simmonds skate and into the net, and Voracek cut it to 3-2 in the third period when a Giroux shot caught Voracek square in the neck before pulling a magic bullet-type of path through Henrik Lundqvist’s pads and into the net.
Yet, despite the Flyers getting back in the game, it didn’t take long for Nash to put the nail in the coffin, scoring on a wrap-around for his second goal of the game.
“It’s a disappointing night,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “We needed to compete better than we did and we didn’t.”
Which leaves the Flyers in a pretty precarious position as time seems ever shorter for the team to make a drastic turnaround to make the playoffs.
“There’s nowhere to go except to the rink tomorrow for practice, and to get ready for the next game,” Laviolette said. “Regardless of how the night went, the season’s not over. We need to win hockey games. The objective remains the same. Like I said, tonight we didn’t give ourselves an opportunity to do that. We need to go back and keep working on it. I’m not sure where else you go with it.”
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