Dwight King beats Ray Emery for the game-winning goal in the Flyers 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. (Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com)
The headline may sound foolish. The Flyers just played six games in 10 days against playoff opponents and not just any playoff opponents. Every team they faced is comfortably in the playoff picture.
The challenge in those games was different than the one they face now. When you're winning, it feels like everything is going your way. The Flyers had everything going for them from the beginning of this 12-game stretch. It's how they won the first five games.
But that five-game winning streak ended at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings with a 3-2 loss. Now the Flyers have to not only regroup, but respond. The response will be the challenge, especially after a friendly reminder that the next closest team in the standings is a loss away from jumping in front.
The New York Rangers sent the first message in their 4-3 comeback win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Getting two points moved them into second in the Metropolitan Division, meaning the Flyers now hold third place. For as great as they have been in the last six games, that would still force the Flyers on the road for the first playoff series.
Responding will be the key, and if anything, Monday's game showed the Flyers are not immune to stupid mistakes.
The 3-2 loss to the Kings was honestly something a long time coming for the Flyers. After wins on Thursday and Saturday, the Flyers continually talked about correcting mistakes. On Monday, there were still bad penalties, still poor puck control, defensive mistakes not seen in several games and missed opportunities.
"We had a tough time doing everything," Scott Hartnell said. "We were poor defensively, we took penalties, we couldn’t get a forecheck going and turned too many pucks over. It’s disappointing, how good we’ve played the last couple weeks to play so bad tonight."
Start with the obvious: Vincent Lecavalier was the difference on the scoresheet. He fanned on a golden opportunity in front of an open net, hitting the right post, crossbar, then left post. That missed chance proved to be the difference.
Lecavalier wasn't the only one to connect with the post. Claude Giroux and Braydon Coburn caught iron as well. Giroux's six-game point streak was snapped in the loss as well.
Jonathan Quick was beatable. The Flyers just couldn't always find a way to get the puck on net, like in the closing seconds when the stifling Kings defense closed all shooting lanes.
"We’ve come back a lot this year," Hartnell said. "You can’t do that every night, especially against a goalie like that, a team that can shut teams down like they do."
The somewhat questionable decision to start Ray Emery was hardly that. Emery fessed up to the second Kings goal, a wild rebound that was put home by Justin Williams. Aside from that, Emery was relatively helpless due to defensive coverage and if not for some great saves on his part, the Flyers wouldn't have been in position to win.
Jeff Carter, playing his first game in Philadelphia since being traded by the Flyers, scored while being left open from the left face-off circle. Dwight King scored the game-winner on a two-on-one where Kimmo Timonen was caught pinching.
The defense suffered mainly because the Flyers didn't get their legs until late in the second. That contributed to the Kings large lead in shots throughout the game.
"The first 40 minutes, we didn’t compete hard enough," head coach Craig Berube said. "We let them outwork us. That was the difference in the game."
The test is now the Flyers response. Luckily, it is a quick turnaround for the Orange and Black, who leave the comforts of home ice for one game to face the Rangers.
"I thought we were going to get the next one in the next couple minutes and be on our toes the rest of the third," Matt Read said. "Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. We’ve got to learn from this game and move on to New York on Wednesday."
A four-point game awaits, and the Flyers could jump back into second in the division with a win of any sort. But after flying high for five games, the excitement dwindles for a night. A win against the Rangers will re-energize all involved in this run to the playoffs for the Flyers.
Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.