NEWARK, N.J. – Claude Giroux said it wasn’t supposed to go this way.
He said this game was a must-win game. This was supposed to be the game that catapulted the Flyers back into the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
This was supposed to be the turning point.
And yet, it wasn’t.
The Flyers gave up three first period goals – one on the power play, one even strength and one shorthanded – and never rebounded, losing a game they wanted to win so badly 5-2 to the New Jersey Devils.
The first period was a downer for a team that seems to play based on their emotional level, and the Flyers never recovered.
And to be honest, it’s become somewhat commonplace against the Devils, who seem to know how to knock the Flyers completely off their game.
“This one hurts,” said Scott Hartnell, who scored the second of the Flyers goals in the waning minutes of the game, with the outcome all but determined. “ It stings. You can use any adjective you want. But, tomorrow is a new day and we have to come to the rink with a working attitude. We’ll get through this.
“It seems the Devils have just stymied us the last couple years and it’s frustrating when you can’t figure it out. It’s not like we’re not trying. It’s just that everything we do… you pick your head up and there’s a defender right there, right in your face. That’s frustrating hockey.”
And it started on the first shift.
“Usually the first shift of the game sets the tone and we had the puck in our end and after 40 seconds I iced the puck,” Hartnell said. “It was a brain cramp, but it kind of started from there.”
The Flyers briefly tied it on a power play goal by Jake Voracek courtesy of a sick feed from Wayne Simmonds, but the era of good feeling lasted all of 36 seconds, as Adam Henrique scored on an easy wrister that went off of Bryzgalov’s blocker pad and then caromed off of the backchecking Matt Read’s leg and into the net.
“To be honest, I don’t know what to say,” said Bryzgalov, who was visibly exasperated after the game. “I’m just tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. I have nothing to say. It’s another disappointing loss. “
The Devils really put the Flyers in a bind later in the period when Read was unable to keep the puck in the offensive zone at the point on the power play, and was caught flat-footed by Ilya Kovalchuk who then scored top shelf over Bryzgalov’s glove on a shorthanded breakaway.
It was the eventual game-winner and it zapped the Flyers energy.
“It was a little dead inside the room here,” Hartnell said. “But we’re all professionals and we know what we have to do. We have to go out and skate… It just seemed like there were some mental breakdowns by everybody.”
The second period was better, as the Flyer limited mistakes, but another odd-man rush ended with a dazzling dangle by Andrei Loktionov that forced Braydon Coburn to slide out of the way and then beat Bryzgalov under his pad for 4-1.
Henrique scored a second goal on a power play to start the third period, and that put a nail in the coffin for the Flyers.
“There’s things that we’re doing where we make mistakes and chances come back in our direction and they end up in the back of our net,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They’re mistakes that we shouldn’t be making.”
And yet they have, and it’s a pattern that is aggravating the team more than anything.
“It’s not fun losing, that’s for sure,” Hartnell said. “We get that a big win and then we lose a couple then we win a couple and then it’s three or four losses. That’s not fun hockey when you’re like that.
“We have to get our swagger back and get our mojo back somehow. It’s not just [Giroux]. It’s not just Danny [Briere]. It’s 20 guys that need to compete every night.”
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