The Flyers entered the contest winners of 13 straight against the Islanders in South Philadelphia. In fact, the Flyers had never lost to the Islanders at home under Laviolette, who took over as head coach on Dec. 4, 2009.
No matter the locale, the Flyers - who had won 26 of their last 28 games against the Islanders, a streak that spans the lives of three Islanders coaches over the last 5 years - were the closest thing to a Jimmy the Greek "stone-cold mortal lock" in recent hockey memory.
No pregame speech, for a team that has been so dominant against the other, would work.
"I can't give you an exact reason," Laviolette said. "It was unacceptable."
"I've seen it happen so many times," Timonen said. "I don't know why."
Last night, the Flyers were shut out, 3-0, over the first 51 minutes by the NHL's second-most offensively challenged team.
"We were warned against that," Danny Briere said. "We came out flat. It was a tough one to get out of the gate. I think we realized that they were a much better team than their record shows."
With the loss, the Flyers dropped the used-to-be "gimme'' points in the standings that would have cut the Rangers' lead in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference to two points.
It was the Islanders' first win in Philadelphia since April 7, 2007.
"We just weren't ready," Matt Read said. "It was unacceptable. There's no bad teams in the NHL. You've got to show up every night and bring your 'A' game."
The Flyers were playing from behind the eight ball early, as they gave up at least three shorthanded breakaways in one period alone. That's after Matt Moulson's goal in the first 7 minutes was disallowed because of a "distinct kicking motion" call.
Michael Grabner was stoned by Sergei Bobrovsky for the third time on a breakaway in a span of 7 days. Bobrovsky kept Grabner out twice at Nassau Coliseum on breakaways last Thursday, including once on a penalty shot.
Josh Bailey finally made the Flyers pay on a second-period shorthanded break.
"That tells you that I don't think we were into the game," Timonen said. "If somebody gets one breakaway in a game, that's enough. But three or four or five breakaways in a game, it's obvious that something is missing."
What was missing was the Flyers' passion, physicality and drive. Not even a Claude Giroux fight late in the second period could get them going. The Flyers waited until the third period to turn it on, when Read overtook the NHL's rookie scoring lead on a deflection with 9 measly minutes left.
By then, the Wells Fargo Center - once packed with 19,796 fans - was as empty as a frat house raided by police looking for underage drinkers.
"I think it was a lucky bounce there from my goal that got us back on our toes a little bit," Read explained. "We were on our heels pretty much the whole game."
The Flyers' solid run against the Islanders wasn't the only streak snapped. Sean Couturier's goal-scoring streak of five straight games ended, though his point streak did continue at six games with an assist on Read's goal.
As Grabner's empty-netter crossed the line as the exclamation point on a rough night, Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros took his frustration out on the post by slamming his stick. His reaction said it all.
"It's one of those games," Timonen said. "It's a long season. You don't want it to happen. But it happens."
Last night, Braydon Coburn became the 13th defenseman in the NHL to take a faceoff. He lost the draw . . . Claude Giroux' last fight came almost a year to the day, on Jan. 20, 2011 against Ottawa's Nick Foligno . . . Evgeni Nabokov is 7-1-2 lifetime against the Flyers . . . Enforcer Jody Shelley, who remained in the lineup for Zac Rinaldo, did not get to settle last week's score with Islanders defenseman Steve Staios for his dirty hit on Max Talbot. Staios was a healthy scratch . . . The Flyers, who posted 41 shots on goal, are just 8-8-1 over the last two seasons when breaking the 40-shot barrier.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at
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