Wrapup: Trap Game Ensnares Flyers Again in 3-2 Loss to Toronto
Seven and a half seconds away from grabbing at least one point in the standings on a night where they were severely outplayed by the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs, the Philadelphia Flyers found a way to slink off with a 3-2 regulation loss on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
With the loss, the Flyers fell to 5-8-3 since Oct. 27 against NHL teams who were not in playoff position at the time of the game.
"It wasn’t a good game," a disgusted Steve Mason said. "It would’ve been great to get into overtime but at the end of the game, we got what we deserved for the effort that we had tonight."
Matt Read (power play) and Shayne Gostisbehere scored for Philadelphia. After Gostisbehere made an electrifying steal and rush to tie the game with 7:01 left in regulation, the game seemed headed for overtime. A Philadelphia icing, a lost faceoff by Sean Couturier and an unfortunate deflection off Michael Del Zotto's leg resulted in Toronto's Matt Hunwick scoring the game-winning goal at 19:52.
Toronto scored once per period. Roman Polak knotted the score at 1-1. Joffrey Lupul put the Leafs ahead at 15:10 of the second period. Winning goaltender James Reimer turned aside 31 of 33 Philadelphia shots.
Steve Mason stopped 32 of 35 shots in a losing cause. He also benefited from a disallowed Toronto goal at 9:00 of the second period on an initially offside rush. For the second straight game, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol issued a coach's challenge. This one was quickly upheld. Mason and the Flyers later caught a huge break on a seemingly sure goal where defenseman Evgeny Medvedev got his stick in the way just in time to knock the puck away.
The Flyers dominated the game in the opening minutes, quickly racking up 11 shots and taking an early 1-0 lead. Thereafter, Philadelphia got severely outplayed especially after the Leafs tied the score midway through the opening period.
"We got a little complacent there at the end and we can’t think like that if we want to be a playoff team," Gostisbehere said.
The Flyers put worth 20 of their worst minutes of hockey of the season in the second period and were very fortunate to get the game to the second intermission trailing 2-1 rather than 5-1. Doing very little right in the third period, the Flyers turned a single electrifying rush into a tying goal before their end-of-game letdown.
I didn’t think we were great even in that first ten minutes,” said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol. “I mean the shot clock was what it was but I just didn’t think in little areas we were very sharp right from the start of the night. You’re going to have those nights, we obviously have to and we will deal with this performance tonight but were going to have to do that and were going to have to do it quickly. We’re going to have to put it behind us and move forward.”
For most of the game, the Flyers did very little right. Their energy, attention to detail and competitiveness were lacking: bad turnovers, bad gap control, bad coverages, lapses in puck support, a decided majority of 50-50 puck battles lost, poor faceoff performance (Toronto won 55 percent of the draws, including the one that decided the game) and several bad penalties.
Was it a product an in-game energy lapse in the team's third game in four nights or a matter of simply not playing smart hockey?
“Little bit of both, maybe," Giroux said. "We know how we want to play. We know the system. We know how we want to win. That’s obviously not how we played tonight. But it’s not the time to hit the panic button. We are obviously not happy with the way we played. There is a lot of frustration right now, but we can’t let that frustration creep into our game. We need to keep rolling here.”
The Flyers' third and especially fourth lines were particularly bad on a night where very few players throughout the team put forth anything close to their best nights. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare took three minors, while Scott Laughton's line got torched repeatedly. Neither R.J. Umberger nor Laughton saw the ice in the third period. Hakstol also started the third period by flip flopping wingers for Claude Giroux and Couturier.
Philly got off to a dominant start and the Flyers second power play unit contributed the game's first goal. With the Leafs' PK trying to complete a personnel change, Medvedev made a gorgeous diagonal pass from the left point to the stick tape of a wide open Read cutting into the right slot from the circle. Read then finished off a backhander inside the left post for his seventh goal of the season and first power play marker. Medevev and Couturier got the assists at 11:06.
At the time of the Read goal, shots were 11-1 in the Flyers favor. Thereafter, Philly saw its energy and focus drop until late in the game.
The Leafs tied the game at 13:19, The sequence started with a 3-on-2 rush for the Flyers, as Read carried the puck up the left wing, joined by Scott Laughton and R.J. Umberger. Read seemingly had an open shot from the left circle but elected instead to try a cross ice pass to Umberger. The puck was a little bit behind Umberger and the Leafs countered 3-on-2 in the other direction.
“I was kind of looking at both [shot and pass options] and there was about a half a second late that the pass was open and after it got tipped I said I should have shot it, but can’t do it now," Read said.
As the Leafs countered, Mason made the save as Brad Boyes deflected a Peter Holland shot on the net and casually tried to reel the rebound into his pads from the crease. An unimpeded Polak, however, got to the puck first and poked it into net.
"I thought it was underneath my glove and I don’t know, he poked it out of there from underneath me. But I thought it was underneath my glove," Mason said.
The second period was all Toronto. After dodging bullets on the overturned off-side Holland goal (Boyes was the guilty party as the puck initially entered the offensive zone) and the the almost-miraculous goal-saving block by Medvedev on P.A. Parenteau, their luck ran out at 15:10. Lupul easily put a Dion Phaneuf rebound into a half-open net. Nazem Kadri got the second assist.
In the third period, the Flyers generated very little pressure until Gostisbehere took matters in his own hands. From near the top of the circles, the rookie defenseman intercepted a pass by Toronto's Morgan Rielly and carried the mail up the ice for what became a three-on-one rush. Momentarily looking off and freezing Reimer, Gostisbehere unleashed a wrist shot from the left circle that beat the Toronto goalie through the five-hole for an unassisted goal.
Shortly after that, the Flyers went on their third power play of the game but could not capitalize.
With time ticking down the final 10 seconds, Radko Gudas iced the puck. The faceoff came back to the Flyers defensive left circle. Couturier lost the draw to Bozak and Parenteau got the puck to the point. With Shawn Matthias jostling Del Zotto for screening position in front of Mason, Hunwick's shot hit off Del Zotto's leg and changed directions, going into the net at 19:52.
"We knew what their set up was going to be," Del Zotto said. "They win the draw back and go D to D after a point shot. I was tied up front with my guy. My stick was kind of tied up and unfortunately the puck takes a tough bounce off my shin pad and into the net and we lose the game off of it.”
With the regulation loss, the Flyers lost ground on pretty much every team they are chasing in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philly will go back at it again on Thursday, taking on their cross-state arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time in the 2015-16 season.