Five minutes into the third period on Monday night, the Flyers got a power play that was really their best chance at tying the game. They did on a goal by Sean Couturier. And from there, the Bruins played knowing the importance of even just one point in that game.
The Flyers may have won that game in overtime on Monday night, but it was how they followed up on Tuesday night at home. It was an all too familiar formula. It wasn’t necessarily a slow start, but they fell behind on the scoreboard, requiring a comeback effort. They struggled in the special teams game. It produced another multi-goal deficit.
Then, the Flyers came out firing away and buzzing throughout the second period. They tied the game within the first five minutes. They had multiple opportunities to get the lead. They looked like the better and hungrier team.
So with 12:35 remaining in the third, when the Flyers were going back on the power play in a tie game, this might have been their best chance to get the lead and try to play from in front to get a regulation win. Instead, they got the most fitting of endings to this game. A shorthanded goal, another special teams blemish, did them in. It cost them this game, and it very well may be the final blow that knocks out their season too.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s 4-2 loss.
1. Bergeron Takes Charge
It’s almost to be expected at this point that when the Flyers play the Bruins, one of their big three will step up. Two especially did in this game. We’ll start with the captain.
Patrice Bergeron was everywhere on Monday night as it was. Not usually the shooter in these games, he finished with a goal and six shots on goal. But the play that was notable on his Monday night was falling down after losing an edge and being caught flat-footed on Travis Sanheim’s rush up the ice on the game-winning goal.
Bergeron certainly got the last laugh with this game.
He pretty much paced the Bruins through the first period. It wasn’t a period where either team truly stood out, but when the Bruins got chances, they were capitalizing. Bergeron’s first came as the result of a rebound, with him parking himself in the crease and waiting out Carter Hart as he sprawled out trying to make a desperation save.
Then on the power play, Bergeron was the third man into the zone that went right to the slot. His shot was one that Hart needed to have and didn’t. It came, once again, on the power play, just seconds after Scott Laughton was stopped on a shorthanded breakaway. That wasn’t the first special teams swing that happened.
Ultimately, the real last laugh came in the closing seconds of the third. With the Flyers net empty and in desperate need of a goal, the Bruins iced the game instead, and Bergeron finished off the hat trick. That’s the third hat trick the Flyers have allowed to a Bruins player this season and the sixth overall, by the way. It’s the first time the Bruins have scored three hat tricks in one season against one opponent in 76 years.
2. Shooting Gallery Second
After falling behind in the first period, 2-0, a common theme of late, the Flyers came out with a second period start that may have been their best all season. It took just 1:33 for the Flyers to jump on a turnover and score, as Travis Konecny set up Jake Voracek.
A common issue the Flyers have had this season is letting up briefly after scoring and letting the opposition come right back and get the goal back. Instead, the Flyers were the ones who made quick work, scoring again two and a half minutes later. This time, Shayne Gostisbehere was on the end of a feed from Voracek and scored to tie it up at two.
From there, the Flyers continued to pepper the net of rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman, in his NHL debut. The Flyers had 25 shots in the middle period, as well as a couple of attempts that don’t count, posts on shots by Kevin Hayes and Konecny. If only one of those had also found the net.
Despite that, it appeared the Flyers had momentum. They had allowed just 18 shots through two periods – seven total in the second – and increased their shot total to 38 through 40 minutes. At the very least, they were entering the third period without trailing. It set the stage for a third period they needed to win.
3. Locked Down
Before we get into the play that changed everything, a look at the third period as a whole. After taking 38 shots with their season on the line, the Flyers mustered just four shots toward Swayman in the third period.
That has less to do with what the Flyers did and more with what the Bruins did. Much as they have multiple times this season against the Flyers, the Bruins shut everything down. They limited opportunities. They seized the momentum. They closed out the game the way a playoff team should.
It didn’t require much in terms of offense from Boston to win that final period, but they were able to do it because of their relentless nature even down the stretch. You saw their physicality. You saw players sacrificing to block shots. You saw players checking and closing off lanes to prevent any sort of quality looks from the Flyers.
It’s not the first time this has happened either. The Flyers are 1-4-2 against the Bruins this season. The score entering the third period has been as follows:
- Jan. 21 - Flyers 2, Bruins 0
- Jan. 23 - Bruins 3, Flyers 1
- Feb. 3 - Flyers 1, Bruins 1
- Feb. 5 - Flyers 0, Bruins 0
- Feb. 21 - Bruins 6, Flyers 2
- April 5 - Bruins 2, Flyers 1
- April 6 - Flyers 2, Bruins 2
In one instance, the Flyers had the lead and in three others the game was tied. The opportunity to win games against this team has been there throughout. The game the Flyers won was not the one where they led after two periods, but Monday’s game where they trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes. That’s one blown lead and two more where the Flyers did lead in the third period of the game, but didn’t close.
4. The Dagger
Now to the moment that will likely be the final bullet, the dagger that takes down the Flyers season.
For two periods, the Flyers worked their way back into the game, and in the second especially, the Bruins were really letting the frustration show. They were trying to stir the pot any way they could. As you might expect, Brad Marchand was right in the middle of it.
Following a strong second period, the Flyers had played a cautious third period until drawing a penalty just under eight minutes into the third. This was their chance.
Instead, another special teams swing with the death blow to their playoff hopes. Instead of scoring the go-ahead goal and giving themselves a chance to play with a lead and see if they could get that regulation win they so desperately needed, the Flyers made a mistake that can’t happen in that situation.
There’s honestly nothing wrong if the Flyers don’t score on that power play. There would still be 10 minutes to go in the third and perhaps some good looks could open things up and present the opportunity. The one thing you couldn’t do was allow the Bruins to have a shorthanded chance.
But off a lost battle, that’s what happened. Jeremy Lauzon got the puck and took off with Marchand by his side, skating ahead out of the reach of a diving Couturier. Lauzon was never going to take the shot here, not as long as he had a path to get Marchand the puck, which he did. Marchand gained control and didn’t release immediately, but cut toward the middle to open up Hart, which allowed him to slip his shot through the five-hole.
It seems fitting that two of the most notable areas of inconsistency and struggle – the power play and penalty kill – each played a role in this result. The Flyers needed to avoid the box and primarily did in the game, but that one goal by Bergeron late in the first sure loomed large. The power play’s ineptitude came through again, as Marchand came up clutch once again.
5. Season-Defining Defeat?
It seemed all too fitting that this is how the Flyers have essentially put their playoff hopes out of reach. It would have hurt to lose either game to the Bruins in overtime, given the structure of the standings, but it would have at least allowed you to keep pace. That was the significance of Monday’s win. It was a game that showed the Flyers can beat Boston and even though it required overtime and essentially was only a one-point win, it didn’t erase the fact that the Flyers were carrying the positive feeling into Tuesday.
A regulation loss though, that’s quite possibly the nail in the coffin. Boston now leads the Flyers by five points and with two games in hand, that could easily become a nine-point margin.
Perhaps the only way for the Flyers to make it to Sunday and their final game before the trade deadline still in the race is to win against the Islanders on Thursday while getting a Boston regulation loss to Washington, then beating Boston in regulation on Saturday. That would cut the margin to one point in the standings going into Sunday and make things a little more interesting.
But that’s precisely the problem. The Flyers can’t expect the scenarios around them to work out like this. They had a job to do and didn’t complete it. They didn’t get the win. They didn’t get two points. They didn’t close the gap, in fact, allowing it to open up more.
There may still be 18 games left in the Flyers season and that may leave 36 points up for grabs. A margin of five points will keep the Flyers mathematically alive well into May.
But this is the time when teams have to decide who they are and where the season is going. Requiring overtime on Monday wasn’t ideal, but the win put the funeral march on hold. It was going to take another win on Tuesday and at least one, perhaps two wins, in the next two games to make Chuck Fletcher at least consider the possibility of what an added piece could do for this team.
Now, you shift your focus to next year. Now, you shift focus to how you can get the right makeup of this team.
When it comes down to it, the loss that determined this perfectly defined the season – fall behind, rally back, struggle on special teams both ways, come up short. It should be no surprise that it was another loss to the Bruins, a team that has had their number all season and that has dashed their playoff hopes before, did it again.