Flyers take it on the chin

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kimmo Timonen is joined by his family as Flyers honor him for reaching 1,000-game milestone.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kimmo Timonen is joined by his family as Flyers honor him for reaching 1,000-game milestone.
Posted: March 28, 2013

WAYNE SIMMONDS fired the puck at the boards in disgust.

His lip already bloodied and swollen from catching an errant clearing attempt from teammate Luke Schenn in the second period, Simmonds and the Flyers battled back from an utterly lifeless two-goal deficit in the third.

Jake Voracek actually scored when redirecting a Claude Giroux shot off his face, to cut the New York Rangers' lead to one goal with more than 13 minutes left to mount a charge.

Seventy-four seconds was all it took for Rangers to wipe that pipe dream - and likely their playoff fantasy - from the Flyers' mental bank.

For most of the first 45 minutes on Tuesday night, facing a must-win game, the Flyers' effort was . . . effortless. It was mostly pain-free, as in unwilling to pay the price to win, except for a handful of players.

And after the eighth-place Rangers breezed to a 5-2 laugher, the Flyers will be feeling the pain of reality on Wednesday morning.

It all could have been a lot different if the Flyers hadn't stopped skating after New York pulled out to a 3-0 lead. Even after two fluke goals, they still couldn't pull it together - using their luck (and first even-strength goal in what felt like forever) as a jumpstart to pull even.

"Three-0? Maybe [we stopped trying after] 1-0, or 2-0 or 3-0," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said, on the night he was honored for having played his 1,000th NHL game. "We've got to find a better effort, across the board. It comes down to one-on-one battles and we didn't win many of them tonight. I think it was all Rangers. They were hungrier, they were better.

"We're here to win hockey games and that was horrible. This was a huge game to lose."

The Flyers aren't mathematically dead yet, but Broadway was happy to throw the first shovel of dirt on Broad Street's casket. For the Rangers, who have struggled in their own right, it was swatting off a pest that wasn't strong enough to do serious damage but lingering close enough in the standings to be annoying.

With their 11th loss in their last 12 games against the Rangers, the Flyers are a full seven points back of a playoff spot. They are closer to 15th place in the Eastern Conference than eighth place.

Tuesday was a four-point swing, in the opposite direction. With a win, the optics would have been completely different. The Flyers would have been three points behind with 16 games to play - with games in-hand on some of the teams they were chasing.

Now, Timonen said, the Flyers need to win all four remaining games on the homestand to even have a shot. Tuesday night wasn't so much about the lost points, but the way they were lost.

"There were too many times where we didn't do enough in puck battles," coach Peter Laviolette said.

"The losses are just a result of us not coming to battle shift after shift," Simmonds said. "To win games in this league, that's what you have to do. We're going to have to look within ourselves to find that out."

So, how is it possible that a team facing a must-win situation skates onto the ice flatter than Kansas?

"It comes down to individual preparation," Timonen said. "A lot of guys blame coaches, but we play the game, we're out there making plays. You're ready to play or you're not. We should go around the room and ask everybody why. I don't know. We have to find answers."

The Flyers were booed after each period - and lustily as time expired, by those masochists who remained in the Wells Fargo Center to watch the wreckage.

When it was all over, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov sat quietly in his locker stall. Half of his equipment was still on. He was in no rush to remove it, contemplating all that was wrong.

"We can talk all we want, we can watch tape," Timonen said. "But once we step on the ice, if it's not happening, it's not happening. That's our fault."

Slap shots

Tye McGinn, playing in his first game since fracturing an orbital bone in a fight with Toronto's Mike Brown on Feb. 25, started the game on the first line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. Max Talbot finished the game on that line . . . Andrej Meszaros hobbled off the ice and writhed in pain on the Flyers' bench late in the third period with an undisclosed injury . . . The Rangers were still without Marc Staal, who has not played since taking a deflected shot in an eye on March 5 at Madison Square Garden.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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