Emotionless game costs Flyers

Posted: April 04, 2014

BY THE TIME Steve Mason shuffled to the bench for an extra attacker, thousands of empty burgundy seats checkered the backdrop of the Flyers' third loss in a row.

Last night, the Wells Fargo Center might as well have been Columbus, or Florida, or any other struggling hockey market - fans streaming for the exits with minutes to play and no hope of another brilliant comeback.

When the final horn blasted, signaling the merciful end of the Flyers' 2-0 loss to the Blue Jackets, boos rained down from the few brave souls remaining.

They witnessed history: The Blue Jackets' first-ever win in Philadelphia in their 14-year franchise history.

Anyone who decided to beat the traffic actually missed the Flyers' best 2 minutes of the game. A switch was flipped, trailing by two goals with an extra attacker on the ice, for a brief second as the Flyers swarmed around Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

For a team that has had its switch flipped to "ON" basically since November, it was an uncharacteristic effort - and it just happened to come against the wrong opponent.

After collecting 10 out of a possible 12 points against the likes of Pittsburgh (twice), St. Louis (twice), Boston and Chicago since March 15, the puck dropped last night with that switch decidedly in the "OFF" position against the Blue Jackets.

"I don't know why this one wouldn't be as emotional as the last ones," Scott Hartnell said. "These guys are right on our tails. They've been playing really well as well. It's just disappointing. I don't think you can start pressing the panic button or anything like that, but we definitely need to get harder, especially in their own end."

The Flyers were shut out for the second straight game for the first time since Nov. 28 and Dec. 3, 2009. They haven't scored a goal in a startling 130 minutes, 25 seconds.

Despite the run of moral victories against impressive opponents, the Flyers are a surprising 1-3-2 in their last six games.

Their once-impressive power play - which was beginning to look a lot like a reverse angle of Washington's dangerous unit with Alex Ovechkin - has gone cold.

The Flyers managed only three shots on four power plays last night against Columbus. They haven't scored in 11 consecutive tries.

"If we weren't getting chances, then I'd be more concerned," Wayne Simmonds said.

Particularly troubling, though, was the response from the Flyers in the third period last night. A team that has a franchise record 11 third-period comeback wins this season - including one of the most impressive of the season against that very same Blue Jackets team back on Dec. 19 - played rather uninterested. The frustration from a lack of goals was apparent in their body language, from Claude Giroux through the rest of the roster.

"We did a lot of good things in the second [period]," Giroux said. "We got impatient and we started doing other things because it wasn't going in - but I wish we just kept playing the same way and kept forcing their team. But we kind of changed our gameplan here."

Put simply, the Flyers last night didn't even resemble the same hungry team that had run the gauntlet of the NHL's best and came out no worse for wear in March.

The Flyers finished with 37 shots on goal, but didn't really make Bobrovsky work incredibly hard for his eighth career shutout in his first game against his former team.

With six games to play, the Flyers have again made it interesting. Columbus used the four-point swing to claw within two points of the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The playoffs are still a near-certainty, but now the Flyers' seed and matchup is coming into question for the first time in more than a month.

You could argue whether falling into a wild-card spot - to face the Penguins instead of the Rangers - might be a good thing or not.

The Flyers swear they are not out of gas after an incredible slog. They've played the most difficult schedule in the Eastern Conference since the Olympic break.

"I don't think [we're tired]," Simmonds said. "Every team has the same circumstances. Every team is playing every other night."

The one scary thought is that it won't be getting any easier, if the Flyers are indeed skating with tired legs. They played Buffalo and Boston in back-to-back games this weekend, followed by a three-game road trip and back-to-back games with travel to end the regular season next weekend.

"It's been a dogfight all year, especially the way we started," Hartnell said. "I think we deserve all the credit, coming back to where we are now, putting us in a great position. But we need to keep winning games."

Slap shots

Claude Giroux was held without a point in his third straight game, the first time that's happened since October . . . Kimmo Timonen (upper-body) returned to the lineup after missing one game . . . Combined with their shutout of the Blues in regulation on Tuesday, the Flyers didn't allow a goal for a span of 136:02 until James Wisniewski scored a power-play goal in the second period . . . The Flyers won nearly 61 percent of their faceoffs.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

 

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