TAMPA – It’s one thing when you lose a game because your team’s effort is lacking, or the team was lethargic, or they had an off night.
It’s something else entirely when you play a game the right way, you played better than the opposition and you still weren’t able to get the win.
The latter is how the Flyers felt Monday night.
It was another tight game – as many are going to be at this time of year - and the Flyers played a relatively strong game.
Yet, when time expired, the result was familiar, albeit unwelcome:
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Flyers 2.
“That was a winnable game,” said Kimmo Timonen, who played in his 1,000th career contest Monday. “I don’t think [Tampa Bay] played that great. But, it’s not going our way right now.
“We deserved at least a point. We hit a couple [three] posts there. We had a couple really good chances to score, but we couldn’t get it done… Today was a better effort than most nights and that kind of makes you mad.”
It also makes the Flyers mad that their power play, which entered play Monday ranked seventh in the NHL, couldn’t convert on four chances.
It makes them mad that they now have to sit idly by for five days and watch as the eight teams that are within eight points of each other between the No. 6 seed in the East and the No. 14 seed play a combined 17 games that will affect the standing while the Flyers are not involved.
“Obviously you’d rather be playing games and try to make a difference in the standings,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “But there’s nothing we can do about that.”
The only thing the Flyers can do at this point is right the ship, or slink further down the standings into oblivion.
After two days away from the rink to recharge, the Flyers will hold three successive practice days before beginning that final push toward the end of the season that the team hopes will still end with postseason games on the docket.
“We have to be confident even though these losses keep adding up and they hurt,” said Scott Hartnell, who saw a diminished role after taking a roughing penalty in the second period. “It’s frustrating because it’s not like guys aren’t trying, but it seems like our third and fourth line guys are playing their best hockey. It’s on us to be better, focus and be ready to work.”
And they’ll have to work harder than at any other point this season if they want to make up the gap that currently exists and could grow over the next five days.
“Any two points available we need it,” Timonen said. There can’t be any more games that go by where we’re not ready to play – or something like that. We have 18 games left and we have to win 14-15 of them. It’s going to be tough. But, if we put a 60-minute effort together every night we’re going to get some wins.”
And they thought they were getting one in Tampa, only to see it never come to fruition.
Tampa took an early lead on a goal by Ondrej Palat, who took a perfectly feathered pass from Dana Tyrell and slipped a shot through Ilya Bryzgalov’s five hole.
However Max Talbot had a dangle of his own that he was sporting and showed it off beautifully to answer Palat and tie the score with a pretty move a little over seven minutes later.
But a penalty by Braydon Coburn muffled that momentum and Tom Pyatt scored off a defensive breakdown soon after Coburn’s penalty expired giving Tampa a 2-1 lead at intermission.
The Flyers had a substantially better second period, and went into the third tied after Giroux picked off an Alex Killorn clearing attempt and snapped a shot past Anders Lindback for his ninth goal of the season.
The third period started off as the second had ended, with the Flyers buzzing and pressuring Tampa, however the Lightning had one shift in the third period where Steven Stamkos won a board battle, slid the puck to the point where Keith Aulie hammered it on goal.
On the way in, it deflected off the shaft of Teddy Purcell’s stick and past Bryzgalov for what would be the game-winner.
Stamkos added an empty-netter as the Flyers pressed for the tying goal, closing out the scoring.
“It’s just frustrating,” said Talbot. “I thought we played good enough to get the two points, but it just didn’t happen tonight. It’s disappointing because we competed hard tonight. We made two mistakes and they scored both times.”
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