PITTSBURGH – So, after talking a good game about smart hockey early in the day, the Flyers went out and produced something quite the opposite.
It was bad from start to finish and when it was over, when the Flyers had been utterly embarrassed in a 7-0 Game 1 loss to the Penguins on Wednesday night, there really were no words to explain this dumpster fire.
Everything broke down.
There were multiple ill-timed penalties. Poor positioning at even strength. A weak goaltending effort from Brian Elliott.
It was the worst playoff loss for the Flyers since April 21, 2001 when they were eliminated by Buffalo in Game 5 of the first round, 8-0. And it was the worst Game 1 playoff loss in Flyers’ history.
One thing is apparent: The Flyers better make some quick adjustments before Friday night’s Game 2 at PPG Paints Arena or this best-of-seven series is in danger of being over very quickly.
Simply put, the Flyers can’t take this firewagon hockey approach for the rest of the series or they will be on the golf course in no time.
The Flyers said they really didn’t care about the final score. It’s more about the way they played that bothered them the most.
“It’s one of the toughest ways to start a playoff series, obviously,’’ Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The last time I checked, they have to beat us four times.
“They beat us 7-0. That hurts. Obviously it’s embarrassing. But it’s only 1-0 (in games). There’s a lot of hockey to be played.’’
Gostisbehere said the Flyers have to find a way to stay away from a wide-open pond hockey style of game.
“Yeah, I mean I think we kind of fed into their energy there,’’ he said. “We had a couple tough turnovers. I don’t think we were on our heels to begin with. I think it comes down to simple hockey, making the right plays. Don’t feed into their hand.’’
Added captain Claude Giroux: “It’s one of the worst games I’ve ever been part of. They make plays in tight areas and we just have to find an answer next game.’’
How do you come back from such a lopsided loss?
“We’ve been through a lot this year,’’ Giroux said. “I’m not worried that we can come back from that. We know we have to play better, play with a little more attitude.
“We have a day to think about it. We’re going to get out of this together. Win the next game and go back 1-1.’’
It didn’t take long for the Penguins to assert their authority.
Elliott gave up a bad rebound on Kris Letang’s routine shot, leading to Bryan Rust’s putback goal just 2:36 into the contest.
After Carl Hagelin made it 2-0 at 10:07, Evgeni Malkin supplied the backbreaker.
Malkin finished up a penalty, jumped out of the box, took control just inside his own blue line, raced up the ice, dodged past Jake Voracek and Gostisbehere and sent a laser backhand past a stunned Elliott at 14:08.
In the second period, Jake Guentzel scored for a 4-0 lead at 7:50, then Sidney Crosby batted a puck out of the air on his backhand at 9:01 (the first of his three goals) and that was it for Elliott (five goals on 19 shots), who gave way to Petr Mrazek.
In fact, Pittsburgh only scored one power play in those first two lopsided periods but the effort to kill off four power plays took its toll on the Flyers’ energy.
The players in the locker room were more angry than disconsolate.
“Obviously there was some anger,’’ Gostisbehere said. “It’s one game. They could have beat us in overtime tonight. They beat us 7-0 it’s the same thing. It stings a little bit, you don’t want to get beat like that but there’s a lot of hockey left to be played.’’
Couturier experienced one of those rare nights when nothing went right.
“It’s playoffs, we’re down one, we just have to show up for the next game,’’ he said. “I don’t think we weren’t ready. Their best players were better than ours. We just have to be better.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol didn’t sound particularly upset at his post-game press conference. Like Gostisbehere, he believes the score didn’t really mean anything. It’s a fresh start in Game 2.
“That’s the truth,’’ Hakstol said. “There were a lot of things in this game we could have done better. At the end of the day, you have a short memory. This team has been able to do that at critical times this year. Short memory, but there are a lot of things that we can take and be better at. You can’t play in spurts against this hockey team at this time of year like we did tonight.’’
The Flyers have been a resilient bunch but right now they look overmatched. They’ve surrendered more than two dozen goals to the Penguins in five games this season and there looks like no end in sight.