Flyers' flirtation with disaster nets shootout loss to Islanders

ASSOCIATED PRESS Islanders' Brock Nelson celebrates his third-period goal, as Flyers' Adam Hall, Scott Hartnell look on.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Islanders' Brock Nelson celebrates his third-period goal, as Flyers' Adam Hall, Scott Hartnell look on.
Posted: January 22, 2014

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - For the last 3 weeks, the Flyers have flirted with fire. For the most part, they have remained unscathed.

Yes, the Flyers gained at least one point in each of their last four games. But they are 5-3-2 in 2014, relying more or less on smoke and mirrors - dangerous games on a wire that can't be tightwalked for an entire half-season.

The Flyers' crap blizzard that has been brewing for weeks unleashed an ugly fury on Long Island yesterday afternoon - with a track following the team back home.

"It's tough every game, knowing you have to [bleeping] score four goals because you know you're going to give up a few," Nick Grossmann said quietly in a corner of the Flyers' locker room. "That's not how we want to play.

"We want to be a solid, defensive, good hockey club. You can't build a house from the top. You need to have a solid base - and we haven't taken care of our own end."

The explosion happened in the final 15 minutes yesterday, with a 3-1 lead, leaving Ray Emery weathered and weary. The numbers tell a simple enough story.

In the final 14:10 of the third period, the Flyers were outshot, 14-1. They generated not a single stoppage of play in the Islanders' zone. New York won nine out of 10 faceoffs (the only Flyers win came in the neutral zone). The Flyers were credited with four giveaways - though that doesn't nearly paint a complete picture - and they were outhit, 7-4.

The result was a 4-3 shootout loss at Nassau Coliseum to an Islanders team that won only three of its first 17 games in the Metropolitan Division. With hockey's charity point, some games both teams leave the rink happy. There was no warm and fuzzy feeling for the Flyers from their MLK Day matinee.

The Islanders had more shots blocked (22) and miss the net (11) combined than the Flyers had on net (29). The only game the Flyers allowed more shots on goal (44 in Vancouver on Dec. 30), they had no business winning.

"We left Ray out to dry," Luke Schenn said. "We gave up odd-man rushes, all sorts of crazy plays. We were just running around, hemmed in our own end, turning the puck over and unable to kill their cycle."

Coach Craig Berube and captain Claude Giroux pointed to the Flyers' three third-period penalties, including a particularly egregious one from Steve Downie, as the reason for the loss.

"Too many, all game," Berube said. "You're asking for trouble."

Perhaps, though, the Flyers' parade to the penalty box was a result of their shoddy defensive-zone play - a chicken-and-egg conundrum they've yet to solve.

"I don't think we made very good plays coming out of our own end," Berube conceded. "Then we turned the puck back over on those plays, and got caught in there too long. The defensive zone tonight was caused from getting the puck and giving it back to them. We didn't do a good enough job clearing the puck."

The shootout loss marked only the seventh time (33-4-3) in their last 40 meetings - dating back to 2007-08 - that the Flyers failed to pick up the full two points against the Islanders. Kyle Okposo netted the shootout winner.

New York figured out the Flyers' secret - with their franchise record-tying ninth third-period comeback wins since Dec. 4.

"In some ways, it's easier to play from behind. You can go all out," Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey said. "It's pretty easy to say that's how you should play all the time. But it's tough to hold leads in this league."

One thing is clear: The need for these impressive comebacks means the Flyers have trouble playing complete games.

The Flyers have skated off a loser a staggering six times (15-2-4) in the 21 games this season in which they entered the third period with a lead.

They have a four-point cushion on a playoff spot, but the Flyers' facade is cracking - one that Grossmann acknowledges does exist. He said that "not everything has collapsed in the last 2 weeks," but that the Flyers "have a lot of things to clean up."

"I think both goalies probably have deserved better," Schenn said. "It it wasn't for our goalies, bailing us out a lot of the time, we wouldn't be where we are. Every night, I feel like our goalies come to play. I'm not sure why we're not more consistent and why we don't play for the full 60 minutes."

Kimmo Timonen took only six shifts combined in the last half of the third period and overtime because of what Craig Berube called a skate problem . . . With another goal, Wayne Simmonds now has 12 goals and 10 assists in his last 17 games.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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