Flyers' elation turns to dejection

Posted: November 07, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. - The puck bounced off the shaft of Scott Hartnell’s stick and he danced around the ice like it was his first NHL goal.

A celebration of that magnitude normally would have been reserved for a recordbreaking goal, like Wayne Gretzky’s famous trot after becoming the all-time leading scorer in league history.

No records were on the line. And last night was just the 14th game of the season, not the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals. But it felt almost that big for the Flyers. Yes, Hartnell’s deflection broke a scoreless tie. But it was his first point of the season; ditto defenseman Kimmo Timonen, whose blast on the power play (5-for-56 prior) set it all up.

It was, just maybe, the one spark that would finally alight the Flyers’ torpid offense.

“It was nice to score,” Hartnell said. “But we would have liked to have shut them down.”

All the Flyers would need to do is survive the final 3:58 of the third period, less than the time it takes to boil a package of ramen noodles. The road wasn’t daunting. The Hurricanes had the NHL’s 26th-ranked offense (1.93 goals per game); they’d lost five straight games; their nontraditional, Southern-market arena was neither full nor lively.

In many ways, it was a perfect storm for sloppy hockey.

The finish couldn’t have been sloppier for the Flyers. Jordan Staal snuck behind two Flyers defenders and scored the tying goal with 52 seconds to play, before Manny Malhotra squirted behind Mark Streit on a breakaway to give Carolina a jaw-dropping, 2-1 overtime win.

“It obviously leaves a sour taste in your mouth,” Hartnell said. “We couldn’t get the other point.”

The Flyers needed to stave off another anemic offense for fewer than 4 minutes to give Steve Mason his 20th career shutout. They would have had back-to-back, 1-0 shutout victories on the road, maybe ready to climb in the standings.

They couldn’t do it. Staal’s tying goal with 52 seconds remaining shattered a modest shutout streak of 133:44, dating back to the third period of their 7-0 whooping last Friday against Washington.

Instead, Carolina’s only two home wins of the season (2-3-3) are gifts from the Flyers.

Last night marked the first time the Flyers lost two games to Carolina in a season since they were the Hartford Whalers. Peter Laviolette, also a former Hurricanes coach, was fired after the Flyers’ 2-1 loss here on Oct. 6. New coach Craig Berube is now 4-7 at the helm.

“It’s upsetting,” Berube said. “The coverage was there. Everything was fine. We had to stay with our man and we didn’t, they ended up tying it up. Turnover in overtime, breakaway. It can’t happen.”

To go back and watch the video of Staal’s tying goal would be to encapsulate the Flyers’ entire season in one 5-second clip. Braydon Coburn was slow exiting the corner after a hit. Captain Claude Giroux didn’t slide down and pick up the open man.

Coburn sat in disbelief in the Flyers’ locker room long after the game had ended. Giroux was so distraught by the sudden shift of events that he left the locker-room area to complete his post-game workout routine by himself.

“I think so,” Giroux said when asked if the open man was his responsibility. “It happened pretty quick. The guy was in the corner there. I thought I was going to get closer to him \[on\] the other side. I was holding onto him at the front of the net and the pass just went right through.”

Streit called the overtime blunder an “unnecessary turnover.”

The Flyers have been outscored, 16-6, in third periods this season. Last night’s loss was shocking in many ways, but none more shocking than the speed with which it all deteriorated.

One minute, the Flyers appeared to be on their way to a possible breakout. A shutout, with Hartnell, Timonen, and the entire power play possibly getting back on track. Less than 7 minutes later, the Flyers were skating off the ice in defeat, again.

No celebration. Just disbelief.

“I think we played a lot the same way we did in New Jersey. We were patient, we were smart with the puck, other than a few shifts,” Hartnell said. “Then, at the end, we were tired. We were swinging our sticks.”

Vinny Lecavalier returned to the lineup wearing a half-shield visor and protective plastic piece to cover his mouth area. He also had a helmet with a full, metal cage ready in case he was having trouble seeing or breathing with his new setup, required with his facial contusion sustained Friday against Washington . . . Oilers GM Craig MacTavish and president Kevin Lowe scouted the game. The Oilers are on an East Coast swing and visit Philly on Saturday, but they could also be interested in swinging a deal for one of their young players. Edmonton is buried in the Western Conference after a poor start in a year they were supposed to contend for a playoff spot. MacTavish and Lowe were at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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