UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The New York Islanders fans incessantly chanted “We want Playoffs” throughout the entire game Tuesday.
And although the Flyers players had the same craving coming into the contest with the Isles, it’s looking more and more like that hunger will not be satiated.
Oh, there is still hope, as the math declares there should be, but it’s getting to be a steeper and steeper hill to climb.
That became all the more of an incline following a crushing 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders, the team it appeared the Flyers had the best chance of catching coming into the game.
The final score is not indicative of how close this game really was, but close is not good enough anymore for the Flyers, who are now in need of a lot of help if they are going to avoid just their ninth non-playoff season in franchise history.
Asked if the team needs a miracle to make the playoffs, Scott Hartnell answered succinctly:
“Probably,” he said.
It’s because the Flyers couldn’t generate any offense after a breakaway goal by Jake Voracek 6:28 into the contest – and one that was a bit fortunate in and of itself.
Voracek snuck behind the Islanders defense and was hit in stride by Claude Giroux with a perfect pass. Voracek tried to shoot five-hole on the Islanders Evgeni Nabokov and the puck was under his pad, but defenseman Andrew McDonald, sliding to try to breakup the play, slid right into Nabokov, pushing both his goalie and the puck into the net.
It was a situation where with fresh ice, it was harder for both MacDonald to stop or Nabokov to hold his ground.
“I tried to square [Nabokov] up and slide the puck past him,” Voracek said. “I was a little lucky that it was early in the period because if it was at the end of the period I don't think he would have slid in with it."
After that play, Nabokov stoned the Flyers, making 26 saves in the process.
On the other end though, newly acquired goalie Steve Mason was making his first start as a Flyer and did more than an admirable job holding his own.
Mason finished with 28 saves, none prettier than a glove save on a breakaway by Kyle Okposo.
But, it was a pair of errors that cost the Flyers their early lead, and then an unfortunate carom that ended up burying them in the closing minutes.
The first came on a simple 2-on-2 rush up ice by the Islanders. Brad Boyes carried the puck into the zone when Bruno Gervais took one stride too many to the inside, letting Matt Moulson get around him and Boyes made a perfect pass for Moulson to get a wrister past Mason to tie the score.
The backbreaker though came late in the second period when Brayden Schenn failed to get a puck deep, allowing the Islanders to transition back the other way, and then he never recovered in time on the backcheck to mark Michael Grabner who took a pass from Colin MacDonald and blew a wrister past Mason from the high slot for 2-1.
“I never saw it,” Mason said afterward.
That’s because Luke Schenn went down to his knees to block the shot, but missed it and instead blocked the view of his goalie, resulting in the go-ahead goal.
Then, with 20 minutes left to try to get back in the game, the Flyers had a hard time generating pressure in the Islanders end, and frequently had to diffuse it in their own end.
It forced the Flyers to press a bit offensively, and an odd-man rush was generated the other way.
Moulson hit John Tavares with a pass right in front of the net, but Mason came up with another big stop. However, the puck sat free in the slot when Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson dove to deny Moulson from putting in an easy rebound.
He succeeded in thwarting Moulson’s effort, but in the process, he knocked the puck into his own net with his leg.
It was that kind of night. Heck, it’s been that kind of season. Effort is there. Results are not.
“It’s frustrating,” Hartnell said. “You can’t just expect to score one goal and win a game. You got to continue to push it. Mason played great for us. He was really solid back there.
“We’re trying to do the right thing by working hard and trying to create things, but there are times and places where… you need to make a smart play. It seems like when we do have a mistake it always goes in our net. We get frustrated, our heads go down and it all goes from there. “
Casey Cizikas added an empty-netter 28 seconds later, and that was all she wrote.
The Flyers (17-19-3, 37 points) remained five points out of a playoff spot, but with nine games to play are going to need help from other teams as well as they no longer control their own destiny.
“We have to win a lot of games in a row now,” said Claude Giroux. “We need to come together as a team and we know we can do it. It’s about putting the work in – the hours – and actually doing it right.
“We’re a good team. Maybe the standings aren’t showing it, but we’re a good team who can play against any team in the league… but we have to find a way to play better.”
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