Flyers stand still as Islanders pass them by

Posted: March 29, 2013

KILLER INSTINCT. Some teams have it. The Flyers have none.

The Flyers are finding new ways to lose - even against the Islanders, a team they have dominated at a clip of 29-3-2 since 2007. It has been apparent that the Flyers struggle to claw back into games; they are 0-12-0 when trailing after the first period this season.

Their latest setback came Thursday night, when they managed to turn a 2-0 second-period edge into a 3-2 deficit in a period's worth of work. If not for Scott Hartnell's point-salvaging whack with 30 seconds remaining, their 4-3 shootout loss would have felt a whole lot worse than it already did.

"It sure feels like a loss," Hartnell said after posting his first two-goal game of the season. "We came out to a 2-0 lead and it seems like we just freeze and stop moving. That's when their skill kicks in, when you stop moving and you stop finishing checks."

The Flyers were pinned in their own zone for minutes at a time. They should consider themselves lucky to have earned even one point, which will do little but collect them fewer ping-pong balls in the NHL Draft lottery. The Flyers will need a record somewhere along the lines of 12-2-1 to qualify for the playoffs at this pace.

A team half as talented but doubly motivated than the Flyers, the Islanders pulled into a tie with their cross-town rival Rangers for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

Thursday night's loss was the Flyers' third overtime loss (11-0-3) this season when leading heading into the third period.

"The third period was bad," Kimmo Timonen said. "We were standing still. When we stand still, we're not a very good team. Every time we start standing still, there's open holes, open men and we break down really easily."

Until a strange penalty call sent the Flyers on a power play with 1:34 to play, it seemed like they were willing to roll over and let the Islanders walk without a fight. Even when captain Claude Giroux was drilled with a questionable check, no teammate came to his defense. In years past, three Flyers would have dropped their gloves without question.

"That's something to do with the mental toughness," Timonen said of the Flyers' third-period woes. "Sometimes, we get lost and we think about something else. We come out with a 2-0 lead and we should get the next goal, but we never get it."

This season, it seems, they never will.

Coburn hurt

The Flyers' blue line is now home to an infirmary. After Nick Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros went down with injuries, Braydon Coburn left Thursday night's game with 7 minutes remaining in the second period. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Coburn suffered an "upper-body" injury.

Coburn is one of six Flyers to skate in all 33 games this season. The longest-tenured Flyer, Coburn has missed only eight games since joining the team in 2007 via trade.

The Flyers finished the game with five defensemen, including callup Erik Gustafsson, who rejoined the lineup once Meszaros went down with another shoulder injury Tuesday against New York.

DeKeyser hopes?

Perhaps a defenseman who could step right into the Flyers' bruised lineup is Western Michigan University free agent Dan DeKeyser, who is expected to make a decision on his future Friday morning.

How much do the Flyers want to land DeKeyser? Enough that Flyers chairman Ed Snider accompanied team brass to personally make a pitch to DeKeyser in Toronto on Wednesday at the offices of his agent, Don Meehan of the Newport Sports Group. The meeting lasted about an hour.

DeKeyser, 23, informed Western Michigan he will not be returning for his senior season. The Flyers were among the 20-plus teams to try to sway him to leave school last spring.

The Flyers never really have been considered a favorite in the sweepstakes for his services. For a Detroit native, the Red Wings - considered the front-runners along with St. Louis - will be hard to turn down. Edmonton also made a big pitch this week using former college free agent Justin Schultz. Tampa Bay, who has nabbed two important college free agents over the years, has been informed that they are out of the running.

Slap shots

Mike Knuble scored a goal in his first game back after sitting out the last eight as a healthy scratch. Knuble skated only one shift in the third period . . . Simon Gagne also had only one shift in the third . . . The Flyers are 4-for-4 on the power play in three consecutive losses. Go figure . . . As if there was not enough discord with the actual team, the Flyers suspended four members of their "Ice Girls" squad for violation of conduct.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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