PHILADELPHIA – The Flyers moved one point closer to a playoff spot Thursday, and yet the feeling in the locker room wasn’t too upbeat.
“It sure seems like a loss right now,” said Scott Hartnell after the Flyers fell to the New York Islanders 4-3 in a shootout. “You need to have a good start. You get a 2-0 lead and it seems like we freeze and stop moving.”
It was a case of a team not knowing how to keep their foot on the gas pedal, and coughed up a lead late.
In many ways it’s the same thing that happened in an overtime loss in Pittsburgh last Saturday.
And then there are the games the Flyers are unable to come from behind in – like their loss to the Rangers Tuesday.
No matter what the scenario, this young Flyers team is having a difficult time coping with the situation in the proper manner.
This time it was a two-goal lead that disappeared in a puff of smoke. And although the Flyers never quit and fought back to tie it again, the shootout – the bane of the franchise’s existence since it’s inception in 2005 – bit them again, and the Flyers left another crucial point on the table.
“It's the same story every game,” said captain Claude Giroux, who had two assists and a gorgeous goal during the shootout. “But they did a good job of coming back and tying it up. Then we did a good job of coming back and tying it up at the end there with Hartsy's goal. It was a good game. During the whole game I thought we were going to win but we couldn't control the game. We had a good second period and I thought we were going to have the two points there.”
For awhile it looked like the Flyers were going to get the two points.
Hartnell scored in the first period on the power play – flubbing a shot that handcuffed Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
It was the first of two power play goals for the Hartnell in the game as the Flyers were once again perfect on the power play.
It marked the third straight game where the Flyers were perfect with the man advantage, but the irony is they’ve only had four power plays total in those three games.
And that has frustrated Hartnell, who got into a fight with Colin McDonald after a questionable hit on Kimmo Timonen went uncalled by the men in stripes.
“I thought he had a high hit on Kimmo in the corner,” Hartnell said. “I don’t know what the replay showed but it’s just weird - we never get a call these days.
“He hit an all-star, one of the best defensemen in the league, no call. Giroux at the end, there’s no more boarding penalty than that - I don’t think - no call as well. The linesman had to make the call, on the faceoff, to get a 6-on-4 attack at the end. It’s frustrating that we are not getting many breaks that way, but they’re not going to hand games to us, that’s for sure.”
But the Flyers also got a 5-on-5 goal from Mike Knuble, re-inserted into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the previous eight games.
Giroux fed Knuble cutting to the net and he made a deft forehand-to-backhand move before sliding a backhander past Nabokov for 2-0.
But it all went downhill from there as the Isles posted three unanswered goals – two by McDonald – and had two of them deflect off Flyers defensemen.
“We haven't played with a lead well and that's why we are where we are,” Knuble said. “if you're running around and not taking care of the puck and let the ice tilt in our direction then we're back on our heels, it's really...you can't...i don't know, it's just the way it's going this year and it's why where we are where we are.”
The Flyers showed some resilience for once and were able to score with goalie Ilya Bryzgalov pulled and an extra attacker on the ice.
With Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Giroux and Matt Read poking at a loose puck during a scrum in the crease, they were able to keep it alive long enough for Hartnell to bank it off of Nabokov’s pad and into the net with 29.8 seconds remaining.
But the Flyers had to kill off a penalty in overtime, limiting their chances to win before the shootout, and then were only able to get one goal in the shootout – on a pretty dangle by Giroux.
But, failed attempts by Read, Brayden Schenn and Simmonds left Bryzgalov to have to stop Josh Bailey, and he couldn’t – leaving the Flyers with just one point, not two.
Now, the Flyers sit six points out of the final playoff spot with just 15 games to go, A gap that isn’t impossible to overcome, but is still quite the task.
“You show up and play hard for your teammates and doesn't matter what the standings are and you keep going,” Knuble said. “You got to be realistic too but as long as there is a chance, until the math eliminates you, then you keep going and you play hard for the guys next to you.
“If anybody in our room gives the idea they're shutting it down for the year then they'll hear about it. We don't do that and guys will keep playing and whoever is in the lineup that particular day will keep playing and if you're not in you wait for the chance to play but the guys that are in keep playing until the end.”
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