Flyers' loss has playoff implications

KIM KLEMENT / USA TODAY Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback makes a save in the third period.
KIM KLEMENT / USA TODAY Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback makes a save in the third period.
Posted: April 11, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. - Down the palm tree-lined street across from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the road-weary Columbus Blue Jackets were watching the Flyers' every move.

Already in town ahead of their own meeting with the Lightning tonight, the Blue Jackets' hopes of climbing in the Metropolitan Division rose with every blaring goal horn - which they could probably hear from their balconies on a gorgeous Florida spring night.

The Flyers will begin their quest for a Stanley Cup on the road.

That much we now know, following the Flyers' 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay last night in front of one of the best in-arena atmospheres in the NHL.

Where Game 1 of that first-round Metropolitan Division matchup is played remains anyone's guess. But it's looking more and more possible that the curtain on Broadway at Madison Square Garden - where the Flyers have not won since February 2011 - will open on a team other than the Flyers.

The Flyers' regulation loss, coupled with the Rangers' win over Buffalo, means Broad Street cannot catch Broadway for second place (and home ice). New York clinched home ice in the first round - even though it is four points up and the Flyers have four points still available - by virtue of tiebreakers.

"You've got to win on the road to win the Stanley Cup," Scott Hartnell said. "I think we're a pretty solid road team [17-16-7] when we want to play the right way. Whether it's New York, or Pittsburgh or Boston or whoever we end up playing, those are tough buildings to play in. We've got to get sharper."

Suddenly, the Flyers' recent lack of attention to detail has them in a situation where they could slide from third place into one of the East's two wild-card slots.

The Flyers apparently spent so much time focused on catching the Rangers over the past few weeks that they forgot to look in the rearview mirror.

Very quickly, the Flyers are now mired in a three-way tie with Detroit and Columbus. A three-game slide against the Penguins and Hurricanes to close out the season this weekend could very well pit the Flyers against Boston or Pittsburgh in the first round.

Columbus closes in Tampa Bay and Florida. Detroit hosts Carolina before finishing off its slate in St. Louis.

"This didn't help," Wayne Simmonds admitted. "I thought we played well for 40 [minutes] again but we were really hit-or-miss in the third period. We had so bonehead plays which cost us the game."

For the most part, the Flyers were sharp in Tampa Bay. They created so many quality scoring chances that Simmonds said he swore Lightning goalie Anders Lindback was "pulling pucks out of his butt."

Chances do not mean much, though, if not converted. Not in Game 80 of the season.

"I thought we were up today," coach Craig Berube said. "I thought we competed real hard. There were two mistakes that went in the net. I thought we were actually taking the play to them in the third period. I liked the way we played tonight. We didn't finish good enough, in my opinion. We had good chances."

Perhaps more alarming, though, is the Flyers' lack of consistency in third periods. The team with the most third-period comeback wins in franchise history has now been outscored in the final frame of five straight games.

"We're not playing smart," Simmonds said. "We're not keeping it simple. Obviously, we're not playing the way we were in the middle of the year in the third. Third periods are going to be huge come playoff time. It starts next game - I don't think you can really flip the switch [once you get to the playoffs]."

Dating back to February 2011, the same month that the Flyers' winless streak at Madison Square Garden began, the Flyers are just 1-6-1 in Tampa Bay. Maybe for the Flyers, then, it's a good thing that they hold the power this weekend to choose their poison.

"We've got to be playing our top hockey here right now," Hartnell said. "We've got two games to sort it out, to get on the right page with momentum moving forward."

Slap shots

Defenseman Erik Gustafsson played just his second game since Feb. 27. He replaced Nick Grossmann, who is healing up from a bruised right foot. Grossmann is likely to return to the lineup this weekend . . . Interesting for a player who spent his first two seasons in the Western Conference: Eight of Anders Lindback's 84 career appearances have been against the Flyers . . . The Flyers had just 13 hits in the game, their fewest since a season-low eight against Buffalo on Jan. 14 . . . Claude Giroux's assist pumped him to 82 points on the season, ensuring he finishes the year as at least a point-per-game player. He is fourth in the NHL's scoring race.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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