Inside the Flyers: Late-season swoon makes playoff chase a lot more tense

Posted: April 07, 2014

BOSTON - The Flyers have owned the third period in recent months, which is what made the last two games so puzzling.

In those two critical matchups - in Boston on Saturday and against visiting Columbus on Thursday - the Flyers were thoroughly outplayed in the final 20 minutes, leading to losses.

The defeats have reduced their chances to finish second in the Metropolitan Division - and gain home-ice advantage against the New York Rangers. Fact is, unless they string together some victories in the final week of the regular season, they will be fighting for their playoff lives.

"We didn't stick to the game plan," said captain Claude Giroux, referring to Saturday's third-period meltdown in a 5-2 loss to Boston. "We were impatient with our game. We need to trust the way we play and our system. I think we try to do different stuff when it's not going in."

It hasn't being going in much lately. Proof: No Flyer has more goals over the last three games than seldom-used Jay Rosehill, the enforcer who scored after a gorgeous move - really - late in Saturday's second period.

Rosehill's goal, just the fifth of his five-year career, tied the game at 2 and should have given the Flyers momentum in the third period.

Instead, Boston, playing its third game in four days, attacked in swarms over the final 20 minutes, outshooting the Flyers by 22-8 and sweeping the season series against them for the first time since 1989-90.

"With a period left, we should be the team that wants it more," Rosehill said. "It's a pretty big letdown. We allowed a lot of odd-man rushes and didn't follow our game plan. It was just wave after wave of odd-man rushes."

Boston won 13 of 18 faceoffs (72.2 percent) in the third period. "And they got shots off those draws and rebounds," winger Scott Hartnell said. "They have some of the best centermen in the league, and you have to be able to tie things up."

"We've got to come out and initiate in the third period, with the game on the line," coach Craig Berube said. "I thought we competed hard until then and were in good shape. But you can't sit back, and that's what we did."

Giroux is concerned about the team's fade but is not in panic mode.

"I really believe we did a lot of good things out there in the first and second period," he said.

They did. They matched the powerful Bruins in shots and hits. They won board battles, stayed out of the penalty box, and even got their first power-play goal in the last four games.

But if this team is going to do any damage in the playoffs - assuming it doesn't pull a '64 Phillies fold-up in the final week - it needs to play a hard 60 minutes; it needs to demonstrate that the locker-room sign that is displayed at home and away games is not hyperbole: "Every Day Matters, Every Shift Matters."

The Flyers have five games left: Buffalo, at Florida, at Tampa Bay, at Pittsburgh, and Carolina. All are winnable with a 60-minute effort. All are losable if a period is taken off.

"Every game is a must win," Giroux said. "There's a lot of teams behind us trying to make the playoffs. We know we've played good enough to be in the position we are right now, and we can't forget that. We have to remember we're a good team, and we're in this position because we did a lot of good things this year."

The Flyers have lost six of their last seven, including the last four. Two of the last four defeats were in shootouts to league heavyweights Boston and St. Louis.

"It's four games, but it doesn't feel that way to us," Rosehill said. "We've played some good games."

He should have said some good partial games, a trend that will make the last week of the regular season a lot more tense than it should have been.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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