The Flyers' struggles at home (11-11-2) continued Tuesday night, as they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3. The team has now dropped three straight games, all on home ice.
A recurring theme heading into the evening had been the Flyers' inability to control or match the star power of opposing teams. On January 2nd, Connor McDavid torched them in a five point (1g, 4a) effort. On Saturday, Nathan Mackinnon added four points (2g, 2a) to his season total in a 7-4 victory over the club. Unfortunately, tonight was more of the same.
The Lightning struck first just 1:46 into the opening period, on a crafty redirection by Brayden Point. Rookie defenseman Matthew Crozier notched his first ever point in the NHL on the play with a shot-pass through the slot that found Point's stick.
Later in the period, Nikita Kucherov ripped one into the back of the net with a one-timed laser from the face-off circle, just seconds after a Flyers penalty expired. Kucherov would score again early in the second frame, this time on the power-play.
The Flyers would crawl back twice in this game. Cam Atkinson continued his hot streak (10 points in six games) with a tally mid-way through the second period to put the Flyers within two. Just five minutes later, Jamie Drysdale netted his first as a Flyer on a wrister that beat Andrei Vasilevskiy blocker side to make the score 3-2 (PP goal).
Tampa added a second power-play goal shortly after to stymie the comeback effort. Michael Eyssimont scored his eighth of the year and Kucherov added an assist in what would prove to be the decisive goal. The Flyers made it interesting after a Cam York batted-in goal brought them within one, but two empty net goals put the game out of reach. Kucherov would score the latter of the two to complete the hat-trick and net four points on the night.
It was pretty clear to John Tortorella what went wrong. "They're [the Lightning] not as deep as they used to be. They rely on their power-play quite a bit and we take two stupid penalties...and they make you pay. So we were chasing the game."
The Flyers can't afford to fall behind early to good teams like the Avalanche and the Lightning. They certainly can't keep putting those teams on the power play, even with their current second-ranked PK. As Mackinnon and Kucherov showed, the stars of this league will make you pay.
The Flyers were without goaltender Carter Hart, who took an unexplained and unexpected leave of absence from the team hours before puck drop, citing personal reasons. We will have to see how that situation develops. Cal Petersen was called up to provide backup duties.
Forward Olle Lycksell returned to the big club for the first time since 12/7 against the Coyotes. He saw 11 minutes of ice time and was a -1 in the loss.
Morgan Frost added two more assists, giving him right in 6 games.
Sam Ersson gave up four goals on 19 shots. It's hard to fault him, though, for any of the goals against.
The Flyers will face the Detroit Red Wings on the road Thursday night, hoping to end this losing skid before facing the Boston Bruins in their last match-up before the All-Star Break.