Twice, the Flyers were whistled for defensive-zone faceoffs, as referee Rob Martell animatedly tried to threaten Laviolette's squad with a delay-of-game penalty.
Except, Martell and partner Chris Rooney had no case. Nowhere in the NHL's ever-changing rulebook does it say that the puck must progress from one zone into another to avoid penalization.
That was confirmed during a television timeout in the first period, when Rooney communicated with the NHL's "War Room" in Toronto. The Flyers were free to stay in their own end, without pressure to exit, as long as they wanted.
The Flyers won that battle - but lost the war. Plagued by a lack of chances, increased by limited offensive-zone time, Marc-Andre Bergeron knotted the game for Tampa Bay in the third period and Brett Connolly handed the Flyers a 2-1 overtime loss in front of a sellout crowd at St. Pete Times Forum.
"That's not hockey in my book," Pronger said. "Would you pay money to watch that? That was a [national] TV game, too. Look at the [offensive] players they've got there. Way to showcase the product."
For more than 45 minutes of last night's game, that cat-and-mouse game worked for the Flyers.
And then the Flyers scored a power-play goal in the second period, forcing Tampa Bay to change from a laid-back trap to an aggressive, two-man forecheck.
"Tampa thrives on turnovers and puck possession," Scott Hartnell said. "It's a tough system to get through the neutral zone. Obviously, we talked about it and had meetings about it. They eventually had to change their system, and that is something that we wanted them to do."
In the end, the opportunistic Lightning capitalized on two of 24 shots and the Flyers' game plan seemed to backfire as they were held to 15 total shots in 62 minutes and 30 seconds of play.
"They didn't want to pressure us and we didn't want to force anything," Matt Read explained. "We figured that we might as well have the puck in our hands as much as we want to. It was kind of frustrating - but we played well doing it - and it frustrated them, too."
The Flyers' 14 shots in regulation narrowly avoided tying a franchise low for shots in a game. The record is 13 shots on Dec. 11, 1990, in Washington.
Last night, the Flyers had more shots miss the net (19) than shots that connected with 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson (15). Jaromir Jagr's line alone, with Claude Giroux and Hartnell, combined for nine of the Flyers' 15 shots.
"There were not many scoring chances unless both teams were on the power play," Jagr said. "It was kind of like a chess match. They didn't have that many shots, either. It was one of those games."
Usually, a game like that would be left up to the special teams. And the Flyers' only goal - a Hartnell redirection off a Jakub Voracek point shot - came with the man-advantage. But it was their work on the penalty kill that earned them a point in the standings. The Flyers were twice penalized in the final 6:43, and Ilya Bryzgalov helped stave off a late Lightning rally in regulation.
"We didn't give up much five-on-five," Laviolette said. "It's part of the game. We were trying to figure out a way around [the trap]. Everyone coaches differently."
Laviolette is not the originator of the coy, "four corners" setup that tries to goad a trapping team into pressuring for a turnover.
Washington's Bruce Boudreau was the first to use the wait-it-out tactic against the Lightning, a division rival, last season. Laviolette followed suit last Feb. 15, coaxing Tampa Bay into taking chances, as the Flyers were able to capture a 4-3 shootout win and their only points in the four-game season series.
Rather than deciding to attack a Lightning team that was skating without two of their best defensemen in Victor Hedman and Mattias Ohlund, the Flyers sat back. And it cost them.
"It's part of the game," Jagr said. "We practiced for it the last 2 days. For part of the game, it worked for us. We just couldn't finish it."
The Flyers' 15 shots overall were their fewest in a game since Feb. 10, 2010, at New Jersey . . . Braydon Coburn rocked former teammate Steve Downie in a third-period fight and was applauded by his teammates slapping their sticks on the boards after serving the 5-minute penalty. Downie is one of the NHL's notorious trash-talkers and agitators . . . Matt Read (7-for-9 in faceoffs) returned to the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury . . . Jody Shelley was a healthy scratch for the fourth time this season.
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