Wrap: Jones Shines but Flyers Suffer 2-1 OT Loss in FLA
The Philadelphia Flyers battled gamely but went down to a 2-1 overtime road loss to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday evening in Sunrise. The Flyers clung to a 1-0 lead for two plus periods but couldn't add to it or nurse the skinny lead until the end.
Joel Farabee (5th goal of the season) got the Flyers on the board with the only goal of the first period. After a scoreless second period, Sam Bennett (PPG, 7th) tied the game just under four minutes into the third period. Aaron Ekblad (6th) scored the winning goal in overtime.
Martin Jones was peppered with 46 shots over the course of the game, stealing the Flyers a point as he stopped 44 of them. The team in front of him also blocked 21 shots. Sergei Bobrovsky got the win for Florida with 32 saves on 33 shots.
The Flyers were out-possessed and out-chanced for the lion's share of the game, although they battled for real estate and had some prime chances of their own. The team's struggles to finish continued, however.
With Derick Brassard unavailable due to a lower-body injury, the team recalled Morgan Frost from the Phantoms. With the Flyers mired in a deep offensive slump (1.67 GPG over the previous 12 games) and coming off a couple rough defensive performances as well, the team had four different forward line combinations and three different defense pairs than Tuesday's starting lineup:
28 Claude Giroux - 14 Sean Couturier - 11 Travis Konecny
86 Joel Farabee - 48 Morgan Frost - 89 Cam Atkinson
25 James van Riemsdyk - 21 Scott Laughton - 17 Zack MacEwen
23 Oskar Lindblom - 44 Nate Thompson - 71 Max Willman.
9 Ivan Provorov - 70 Rasmus Ristolainen
24 Nick Seeler - 6 Travis Sanheim
3 Keith Yandle - 61 Justin Braun
A transition goal by the Flyers at 7:33 of the opening stanza changed the momentum after a big save by Jones. Konecny hit Farabee with a stretch pass, and Farabee beat Bobrovsky through the five-hole for a 1-0 Flyers lead. Provorov got the secondary assist.
The ongoing absence of Ryan Ellis from the Flyers' lineup has had a cumulative effect that exeeds even what Ellis himself brought to the lineup in the brief time before he was lost to an ongoing lower-body issue (suspected but never officially confirmed to be a recurring groin pull). Losing Ellis in and of itself weakens the Flyers' breakout ability and up-ice ability to get shots through to the net. Meanwhile, it unbalances the blueline as a whole.
With both Keith Yandle and Nick Seeler struggling mightily, the third F pair became all but unusable. Meanwhile, although Justin Braun stepped up admirably for several weeks, the team was forced to burn the candle at both ends with him in a first-pairing role, whereas he's best suited for a third pair and PK role at this point in his career. Last night, the Flyers had to break up the pairing of Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen, which had mostly been a bright spot in recent weeks, to move Ristolainen up top to play with Ivan Provorov.
Up front, the goal scoring has dried up since Game 5. Even the primary offense sources were slumping heading into Wednesday's game, and there's been next to no secondary scoring all season after the first three games.
Last night, the new line of Farabee, Frost and Atkinson had about three scoring chances beyond the early Farabee tally but none resulted in goals. As a team, sustained offensive zone pressure has been very hard to come by. Until the last week or so, the Flyers tended to be the better team in first periods and to hold their own in third periods. Second periods (along with power plays) were the main issue.
More recently, entire games have felt like they have to be cobbled together. There's no margin of error for the goalies. Bottom line is that it's very hard to expect to win 1-0 or 2-1 every night; especially when you're defending much more than you're attacking.
There was nothing wrong with the Flyers' competitiveness level in Wednesday's game -- unlike the final 40 minutes of Tuesday's game in Tampa or the third period of Saturday's game against Boston. They fought for pucks and real estate, sacrificed their bodies to block shots and made second and third efforts as needed to help out Jones.
The bottom line, though, was that it wasn't enough. OT shots were 7-0 in Florida's favor. Yes, Atkinson nearly scored one-on-one with Bobrovsky. Yes, the Panthers got away with a stick slash that knocked the twig out out Farabee's hands leading up to Ekblad's game-winning goal. Yes, back in the first period, an erroneous offside call cost Frost a breakaway.
Ultimately, though, Florida was clearly the better team and deserved the win. The Flyers return to action on Friday, hosting the revenge-minded Carolina Hurricanes in the annual Black Friday afternoon game at the Wells Fargo Center.