Panthers catch Flyers in trap game

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Flyers' Harry Zolnierczyk (left) and Florida's Filip Kuba (right) end up under leaping Panthers' goalie Scott Clemmensen in third period.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Flyers' Harry Zolnierczyk (left) and Florida's Filip Kuba (right) end up under leaping Panthers' goalie Scott Clemmensen in third period.
Posted: February 22, 2013

KIMMO TIMONEN said he has seen it "a million times" in his career. The Panthers, losers of five straight since their last "trap game" win in Philadelphia 2 weeks ago, saw it from a million miles away.

"You saw a tired Flyers team today," Timonen said. "We played a really hard, charged game [at Pittsburgh], got a big two points and got home at 2 o'clock [in the morning]. We had bad sleep [Wednesday] night. The hardest game to win is when you come back home after a road trip."

It's even harder, apparently, after knocking off one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference a night earlier. To a man, the Flyers were aware of a potential letdown against Florida. Coach Peter Laviolette made it a point to try and refocus his players before they even walked off the plane. It didn't work.

Despite the premonitions, no one could halt Florida's three-goal flurry in the first 11 minutes on Thursday, as the Panthers cruised to a 5-2 win over a sleepwalking Flyers team. For a consistently inconsistent team like the Flyers, it was an incredibly predictable result.

By the time it ended, a sea of empty red seats made the Wells Fargo Center look and feel like a throwaway game in South Florida instead of South Philly.

Danny Briere said failing to capitalize on two points against a struggling Panthers team made Wednesday's emotional high "feel like a waste."

"Everything we fought for [Wednesday's win], to come out today and have a game like this . . . ," Briere said. "We talked about coming out hard. It's a tough one to lose after all of the effort that we put in [against the Penguins], all of the battling. We had some mental mistakes that cost us."

With the loss, the Flyers failed to hit the .500 benchmark for the fifth straight time this season. They've been outscored by 20-9 in those five chances to crawl even in the standings.

In doing so, they also missed out on the opportunity to slide into a playoff seed with 19 points for the first time year - even though they've played more games than any team in the league.

"It is what it is," Laviolette said. "It was an important game tonight. It was evident in the first 10 minutes that [we] weren't as sharp, we weren't as crisp as we were [Wednesday] night. We didn't make a lot of mistakes early on, the ones we made they were point-blank."

Florida scored on three straight shots in the first period, including a penalty shot from 20-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau. He added a power-play goal midway through the second period to ice the game at 4-0.

Ilya Bryzgalov was yanked from the game after the Panthers' fourth goal, but it was more a sign of mercy than an indication of his play. He could have been better, for sure, but it wasn't his fault his teammates left their equipment bags in Pittsburgh.

After he was pulled, Bryzgalov angrily threw his stick down the tunnel toward the Flyers' locker room, kicking the walls with his skates in frustration. He said he was mad not because he was pulled from the game, but because he missed Huberdeau on a poke check - not that it would have mattered.

"You try to prepare yourself, you try to tell yourself everything is OK, everything is fine and you're ready to go," Bryzgalov said. "But when you step on the ice, everybody started to feel different."

Defenseman Nick Grossmann pinned the Flyers' obvious letdown on hubris.

"Just because you win a few games, you can't get carried away," Grossmann said. "You need to try to keep an even keel emotionally, even if you lost. Be humble and just keep working."

Easier said than done, apparently. All the warning signs in the world wouldn't have prevented Thursday's meltdown.

"Playing Pittsburgh is always intense," Claude Giroux said. "We have big games in Florida, but it's just not the same. We've got to find a way to make it the same."

Slap shots

In garbage time, Jake Voracek extended his scoring streak to four games. He has four goals and five assists for nine points in that stretch, leading the Flyers in overall scoring . . . Nick Grossmann needed repairs after his second-period fight with George Parros. His fisticuffs were about the only sign of life from the Flyers. Grossmann was also credited with five of the Flyers' 12 blocked shots . . . The Flyers outshot Florida and had an additional 23 shots blocked and 16 that missed the net completely.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: philly.com/FrequentFlyers

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