The Philadelphia Flyers, who were playing the second leg of a back-to-back, hosted the New Jersey Devils at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. The Flyers would try to rebound from Monday’s deflating overtime loss to the New York Islanders, but could not handle the Devils in a crushing 4-3 loss in South Philadelphia.
The game would open with a Devils faceoff win and a short stint in the Flyers’ end before Justin Braun was given a questionable interference minor on New Jersey’s Travis Zajac, and Philadelphia would head to the penalty kill just 30 seconds into the contest.
Despite a couple good scoring chances, Carter Hart and the Flyers would kill off Braun’s penalty early in the first period.
The Devils would continue to pressure the Flyers after their failed power play opportunity, and with 10:08 to go in the period, Michael McLeod received a pass from Ty Smith on a 2-on-1 chance and danced around the sliding Hart to easily fire the puck home for a 1-0 New Jersey lead.
Philadelphia would earn their first power play just 2:01 after McLeod’s icebreaker, and the Flyers capitalized on it thanks to Joel Farabee. A Jake Voráček shot could not be handled by Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, and Farabee would have a few cracks at the rebound and finally connected as the puck trickled across the goal line, through a sea of white sweaters in the crease, and the Flyers tied the game 1-1 with 7:17 to play in the opening frame.
With just 1:26 to go before the first intermission, Travis Sanheim was called for holding against New Jersey’s Mikhail Maltsev even though Maltsev was holding Sanheim’s stick as the two players drove towards the Flyers’ net. To make matters worse, Kevin Hayes closed his hand on the puck and then played it, in which a couple Flyers’ sticks touched it and it wound up being an egregious turnover.
While a penalty and hand pass weren’t called on the sequence, Kyle Palmieri was the recipient of the loose puck and fired it past the blocker side of Hart to give the Devils a 2-1 advantage with just 5.6 seconds left in the period, and that’s how the first frame would close out.
The second period opened with a plethora of penalties. Ty Smith would take his second penalty of the game 51 seconds in for the Devils, and then Philadelphia would commit consecutive penalties at 3:09 and 5:37 at the hands of Sanheim and Oskar Lindblöm, both for tripping. However, none of the infractions resulted in goals on each teams’ man advantages.
Despite killing off the two minor penalties, the Flyers could not keep New Jersey at bay, and another error with the puck would cost Philadelphia on the scoreboard. Yegor Sharangovich would cash in on a pass from Travis Zajac after a terrible turnover by Phil Myers in his own zone and the Devils extended their lead to 3-1 with 10:28 to play in the second period.
The end of the second period would resemble much of the first as the Devils would score another backbreaker with time winding down. Smith found Zajac on the doorstep untouched and threaded the puck through a maze of sticks at the goal mouth to give Zajac an easy tap-in past Hart with 23.4 seconds to go. Again, Smith and Sharangovich were involved for the Devils as they picked up assists on Zajac’s 4th of the year.
The period would end with that 4-1 Devils lead, and a heavy chorus of boos rained down on the Orange and Black as they headed down the tunnel for the second intermission.
Philadelphia would begin the third period with some juggled lines in the hopes of mounting a much-needed comeback, and they maintained some decent time with possession of the puck and garnered a couple scoring chances early on, but to no avail.
Both teams would go back and forth with offensive opportunities that would be denied by Hart and Blackwood, but the Flyers could not generate anything substantial to shift the momentum in their favor as the final frame wore on.
Philadelphia finally showed signs of life with 8:23 to play as Sean Couturier ended his 9-game goalless drought and cut the Devils’ lead in half at 4-2. Travis Konecny delivered a beautiful feed to Couturier at the side of the cage and the reigning Selke Trophy winner rammed it home for his seventh goal of the season.
The Flyers would pull Carter Hart with 2:50 remaining, and after some strong pushes, Philadelphia would pull within one as once again Couturier would find the back of the net after a beautiful feed from Jake Voráček from behind the Devils’ cage found his stick. Couturier would fire the puck past the glove of Blackwood and the Flyers now only trailed 4-3 with 1:02 to play in the final frame.
But despite an intense showing of offensive pressure and a few prime chances after scoring, Philadelphia could not tie things up in the final minute and they ultimately lost 4-3 to the Devils.
- Carter Hart – Hart stopped 28 shots and was not at fault for tonight’s game. He made some important saves to keep the Flyers from trailing even more and did all he could despite the team’s turnovers that would plague him. His peripheral numbers from this game may not look great but he did all he could to give the team a chance.
- Joel Farabee – Farabee netted his 14th goal of the season in the first period, which now leads all Flyers. Farabee has now scored twice in his last three games and is now up to 26 points in 30 games. I’d be shocked if he didn’t win the Bobby Clarke Award for Flyers MVP at season’s end if he keeps this up.
- Sean Couturier – Couturier, still playing through a hip flexor injury, potted two goals in tonight’s effort. This was his first multi-goal game since February 7th at Washington, and #14 has now recorded 21 points in 20 games, good for being one of three Flyers who are maintaining a point-per-game pace alongside Farabee and James van Riemsdyk (30 points in 30 games)
- Phil Myers – Myers’ costly turnover lead to New Jersey’s third goal near the halfway mark of the second period that really sucked the life out of Philadelphia if the rest of the game hadn’t already. Myers’ turnover and the ensuing goal were even described on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s telecast as their turning point of the game. The Flyers are trying to crack down on bad puck management and that play certainly falls within that category.
- Travis Sanheim – Sanheim took two penalties in this game, one of which cost the team on the scoreboard. Sanheim’s play was not bad tonight but he can’t put himself in positions where he’ll be frequently sent to the box. That being said, his first penalty for holding was a bad call so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt there, but he still needs to stay on the ice.
- Turnovers – This has been a recurring theme for the Flyers in the last couple weeks: terrible puck management and costly turnovers that come back to bite them in games. Turnovers were the direct result of New Jersey’s second and third goals, and the Flyers just could not recover and that has seemingly been the trend since the beginning of the month. If they can’t figure out how to fix their issues, all I’m going to say is good luck trying to make the playoffs.
I really try to stay positive about this team, even in the middle of losing streaks and poor play, but the Philadelphia Flyers once again wilted and died on the ice in the face of adversity yet again, only to once again try and make things interesting and give us another sense of false hope. They lost another crucial game, this time to a team that coming into tonight sat 8 points behind them in the East Division standings and was 27th in the entire National Hockey League.
This was another embarrassing display that may come back and haunt them in May when we reach playoff time and they’re potentially on the bubble.
Philadelphia returns to the ice on Thursday night against the New York Rangers at Wells Fargo Center as they trudge on in the middle of this four-game homestand. Maybe they’ll get their act together, or then again maybe they won’t. The Flyers will probably find a way to make it more interesting than it needs to be though.