Underwhelming Flyers fall to Tampa Bay

MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stops a shot from Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis with help from Nicklas Grossmann.
MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stops a shot from Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis with help from Nicklas Grossmann.
Posted: March 20, 2013

TAMPA, Fla. - That sinking feeling in the Flyers' stomachs on their charter flight home on Monday night was not turbulence. Perhaps it was their season slipping through their hands.

The Flyers will have 5 full days to digest their latest loss, a 4-2 fumble against Tampa Bay, thanks to an anomaly in this wacky, lockout-shortened schedule.

By the time the Flyers, who awake in 12th place in the standings, play again on Sunday in Pittsburgh, they could well be in 14th place and 10 full points out of the playoff race.

At least four teams they are chasing - New Jersey, Washington, Winnipeg and Tampa Bay - all play three times from now through Sunday.

"It sucks," Zac Rinaldo said. "It's not a good feeling at all. We have to keep going. We can't be negative. We can't be moping around, feeling sorry for ourselves. No one is going to be feeling sorry for us."

While the teams at the top of the East might be envious of the Flyers' 2-day break and 3 full practice days, the other teams zooming by them surely won't be feeling sorry.

Despite outbursts of strong play, the Flyers' lack of "killer instinct," as some players have put it, cost them a go-ahead goal in the third period. The Flyers have been outscored a total of 32-20 in third periods this season.

And that's just the first of a handful of alarming stats.

The Flyers have scored a total of four goals in their last three trips to Tampa Bay Times Forum, all of them losses. They're now 0-11-0 when trailing after one period; the Lightning improved to 12-1-0 when leading after the first frame.

All of that means the Flyers will need somewhere in the neighborhood of 26 points over their final 18 games of the season to even have a sniff at a playoff spot. Feel-good, moral victories don't count in the standings.

"It's been like this for a few weeks now," Kimmo Timonen said. "I don't think we played bad. It was a couple mistakes, a couple penalties. It seems like every mistake we make, it's going to be a goal. It comes back to 60 minutes, you've got to play hard."

It's not as if Tampa Bay is an imposing team. The roster is filled with rookie players; the team is missing captain Vinny Lecavalier. The Lightning was only 6-14-1 in its last 21 games before Monday.

"This was a winnable game," Timonen said. "I don't think they played that good of a game. It's not going our way right now. There can't be any games that go by where we're not ready to play."

Hartnell benched

After taking an unnecessary roughing penalty early in the second, Scott Hartnell found himself on the bench for most of the rest of the game. Peter Laviolette removed Hartnell from the Flyers’ top line, skating Hartnell only 4:01 — mostly on the power play — during the final 34 minutes.

"If that's the way it's going to be, that's the way it's going to be," Hartnell said. "I was finishing my check and hit him a couple extra times where I shouldn't have. It isn't 'Lavy' trying to send a message to me, it's him trying to send a message to the team."

The timing of Laviolette's discipline - in a near must-win game before a 6-day layoff - was interesting. It's thought to be the first time Laviolette has reduced ice time for disciplinary reasons this season. Instead, Laviolette plugged Zac Rinaldo and later Brayden Schenn with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.

Regardless of the penalty, it's hard to argue that playing Rinaldo with your top two players for nearly a full period is what is most beneficial for the team.

When asked about benching Hartnell, Laviolette said: "I'm not going to talk about that with you guys."

"You can't not show up to play," Hartnell said. "I was probably the biggest culprit tonight not doing that."

Slap shots

The Lightning recognized Kimmo Timonen during his 1,000th career NHL game on Monday night, which also fell on his 38th birthday. The Flyers will honor him before their next home game on March 26 . . . Former Flyers defenseman Sean O'Donnell, who lives in nearby Sarasota, attended the game in the press box. O'Donnell, 41, would like to get into scouting . . . Max Talbot and Claude Giroux had six shots each.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: philly.com/FrequentFlyers

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