Ugly loss to Oilers knocks Flyers farther back in standings
Photo: Steve Kuzma/Flyerdelphia
Make no mistake about it, the Flyers controlled the second period of play on Thursday night. They really could have scored three of four times by the time Shayne Gostisbehere lost control of the puck at the blue line, allowing Taylor Hall to storm in on a breakaway and score the Oilers second goal of the game.
The Flyers were a shell-shocked team from there.
With several chances to scratch and claw their way back into the game, they let the game turn into one of their worst of the season, at least in terms of what the scoreboard showed after the game.
The 4-0 loss not only hurt the good vibes and strong spirit that the Flyers had shown in recent days. It proved to hurt in a place where it mattered much more: the standings.
By virtue of wins from Pittsburgh and Boston, the Flyers lost ground on two teams within reach in the standings. They trail the final playoff spot now by five points with just 19 games to play.
Sure, the Flyers can somewhat rest on the fact that they had a strong second period until it all unraveled with six minutes to play. They can take solace in the fact that on this night, physics wasn't on their side -- the Flyers hit the post three times.
"It just wasn’t a good game for us. We got to do better," Wayne Simmonds said. "We had a ton of chances. We just didn’t put them in the back of the net."
"Probably two things for me stand out. One, I didn’t think we matched their pace in the first period and for a team that hasn’t had a whole lot of success on the road they probably got out of that first period feeling pretty good," head coach Dave Hakstol said.
"Second thing to me that stands out is the second period. We had a lot of opportunities, we couldn’t buy a break around the net and they capitalized on the opportunities that they had, that’s the difference in the game. At least those are two things that stand out to me."
For this game, timing is everything. The Flyers were rolling through the second period when Gostisbehere's turnover and Hall's speed factored into a goal. The Flyers response was not good. The Oilers scored again 1:49 after that.
Prior to that chance, the Flyers had three power play chances in the period.
The Oilers won this game behind Cam Talbot, no question. His 35 saves were just another example of how the former Rangers backup continues to haunt the Flyers even while in the other conference. But the Oilers blocked 28 shots. They were 6-for-6 on the penalty kill, including a four-minute high-sticking penalty, where they actually scored a shorthanded goal.
By then, the game went from being a tough luck loss to an embarrassing defeat. There was no silver lining anymore. Now there was just the hope that a team that was firing on all cylinders and heading in the right direction just took a punch to the gut and fell backwards.
That's what the Flyers face when they get their last game against one of the NHL's bottom feeders on Saturday. After facing Columbus, the schedule gets tougher. Those three games against Pittsburgh loom. And while the chances are always good, the finish has to be there too. And the defensive mistakes, well, some of those were just downright inexcusable on this night.
"Some nights you get the breaks and you get maybe a lucky bounce and some nights you don’t," Mark Streit said. "I think that tonight it was the second period. I thought we deserved better. I thought we had a lot of action, a lot offensive zone time and played pretty good hockey. But then on the other hand they scored two goals and we got none. Frustrating but you know it’s one of those nights and we got to stay positive. Still a lot of hockey to be played."
It was as frustrating a game as this team has played in a long time, really only three or four games since the early portion of November where the Flyers have really just come out slow and sluggish and not performed well.
"It’s a tough loss and it’s frustrating," Michal Neuvirth said, "but you know, it’s already happened and we’ve got to make sure we are going to be ready for the next one."
"We’re not going to walk out of the locker room and just shrug it off, competitive nature doesn’t allow that to happen," Hakstol said. "By tomorrow morning it’s got to be in the back of our minds and put away and we have to move on to the next game."
This was one of those games. And it couldn't have come at a worse time for the Flyers.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.