Sloppy tie with Panthers does little for the Flyers Last-minute goal costs Flyers a win

Posted: April 09, 2002

The Flyers continued to stagger toward the postseason last night.

Playing Florida, which has seven rookies - including two junior players - in its lineup, they let a victory slip from their grasp. In the final 16.6 seconds of regulation, the Panthers' Pierre Dagenais scored for a 4-4 tie at the First Union Center.

For two games in succession, the Flyers have looked anything but dominant against teams with American Hockey League rosters. That includes Saturday's 3-1 win over Pittsburgh.

"Sixteen seconds left, it's pretty frustrating and disappointing," said Mark Recchi, who scored a goal and contributed two assists. "We still have three games left. It's definitely better than losing. The game in New Jersey is huge."

Be assured that the Devils, who have won seven of their last 10 games, will offer a much stiffer test tomorrow night at the Meadowlands.

"That could be a statement game," center Jeremy Roenick said, "a team that is going into the playoffs with that little edge. We don't want to go in there letting them know they can beat us."

Of concern last night was the eroding state of the blue line. The entire defense had breakdowns. Dan McGillis had his worst game of the season. Twice, Panthers went around him. Another time, he fell and gave up a breakaway.

The forwards also were beaten in their reaction on the transition - the Flyers had 17 turnovers. And captain Keith Primeau's line was minus-nine.

"We have to improve our defensive play in our own zone and in the neutral zone," Roenick said. "Right now, any little mistake ends up in our net. It's not one person's fault, it's everyone's fault."

If the defensive lapses weren't bad enough, goalie Roman Cechmanek (25 saves), making his fourth start since returning from a right ankle injury, did anything but inspire confidence, flopping around the crease, yet failing to make big saves.

Coach Bill Barber was asked who his goalie will be in the playoffs.

"We're going to take it one at a time and view it and then make a decision," Barber said. "When the time comes, you will know where it is going to go."

The bottom line: Unless the Flyers get their act together in the final three games, their postseason will last one round. Right now, they have no discernible edge, although their power play looks better. They were 1 for 5 on the power play last night.

They thought they had this game won, too.

Simon Gagne broke a 3-3 tie, jamming his rebound under goalie Wade Flaherty at 15 minutes, 33 seconds of the third period, breaking a seven-game goal drought with his 33d of the season.

But Dagenais' second goal of the game in the final seconds sent it into overtime. Sandis Ozolinsh got a wide-open shot from the slot during yet another helter-skelter scramble, and Dagenais tipped the trickling puck past Cechmanek.

"An assignment missed up top," Barber noted.

Mistakes ruled in the first period.

John LeClair's 25th goal at 8:33 gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead, but it lasted all of 47 seconds. Dagenais scored on his own rebound to tie the score, with Kim Johnsson and Eric Weinrich being beaten down low.

The Flyers had a chance to go ahead with a power play at 13:43, but that turned into disaster, too. Roenick made a nice pass from the left offensive circle to McGillis at the point. He inexplicably fell and lost the puck to Ivan Novoseltsev.

Novoseltsev's clean breakaway was broken up by Roenick's hook, which resulted in four-on-four play. With the puck at the Florida end, Weinrich tossed a poor pass back to the point that handcuffed Recchi. Olli Jokinen took off with the puck, Cechmanek came out of the net, and Jokinen's shot hit the crossbar, then the right post. The puck slid across the goal line and nipped the other post before a Flyer tipped it out of harm's way.

Less than a minute later, with the teams still skating four to a side, Kristian Huselius took a long, diagonal outlet pass from Igor Ulanov, dashed around McGillis along the boards, and ripped a shot into the far corner of the net for a 2-1 Panthers lead.

So, from the beginning of the Flyers' first power play, through the subsequent four-on-four, Florida generated three odd-man rushes and scored one goal.

Recchi's 21st goal, and second in three games, tied it in the opening two minutes of the second period. (This was only the sixth time this season Recchi and LeClair scored in the same game.) Again, however, the Flyers' concentration waned. Florida regained the lead 49 seconds later when rookie Stephen Weiss went around McGillis along the left boards and passed across to Ozolinsh, who beat Cechmanek from 30 feet, making it 3-2. Cechmanek's reaction time was slo-mo all night.

Just when it appeared as though the Flyers would collapse under the weight of their ineptitude, the Panthers took two bad penalties. As a result, the Flyers had a two-man power play for 1:45. Johnsson made Florida pay with his 11th goal, a one-timer from Recchi.

"We would sure like to not have [the tying goal] happen," Barber said. "We will take our point and run with it."

Contact Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or at tpanaccio@phillynews.com.

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