Two nights ago, the Washington Capitals came into the Wells Fargo Center without stars Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green and marched out with two points after a shootout win. Last night, Pittsburgh limped into the same arena without studs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and charged out with an identical result. Chris Kunitz' goal in the shootout was the winner.
Four points were there for the taking for the Flyers and they blew it. Two home games, four missing stars. Last night, the Flyers tied a season low with 20 shots on goal, and their three power plays generated nothing. In fact, the best scoring chance came when Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had to stone Maxime Talbot on a shorthanded breakaway.
If this is the Flyers' way of getting ready for the playoffs, they'll be on the golf course quicker than you can say "first-round exit."
All is not lost, of course. The Flyers still lead Washington by two in the conference race and Pittsburgh by four for the division lead. They have nine games left and could have given themselves breathing room, but neither opponent would allow it - even without their superstars.
"They got a point tonight, but we made some ground and still have some games here to win," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We have them one more time in our building [Tuesday], so if we win we would be able to gain points and we need those."
The Flyers play at the Islanders tomorrow and host hard-charging Boston on Sunday before going to Pittsburgh. Crosby, who generally tortures the Flyers, is still battling concussion symptoms and will not play anytime soon. Malkin is out for the season with a knee injury.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was asked afterward whether the absence of Crosby and Malkin contributed to his team's lackluster play.
"I can't give you an answer as to why we weren't sharp, I can't give you an answer as to . . . " he said, collecting his thoughts. "I don't have it. I can't give it to you."
Granted, the Flyers were also minus their own piece of granite, as stalwart defenseman Chris Pronger missed his seventh consecutive game with a hand injury. But, unlike Tuesday night when they showed enough fortitude to come back from a 3-0 deficit, the Flyers were flat for most of the evening. At least the skaters were; Bobrovsky was terrific in net.
After getting yanked in the second period Tuesday night, Bobrovsky made 30 of 31 saves to get the Flyers to the shootout.
"It was a definition of a pro . . . responding extremely well," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "It was great to see. He got us that point tonight, and it should have been two." *