PHILADELPHIA – Scoring goals this season hasn’t been the Flyers’ problem.
Preventing them has.
Tuesday night’s game against the Wells Fargo Center offered a perfect example.
The Flyers ignited for five goals in the second period and appeared to have the game safely tucked away with a 5-2 lead.
So what happens?
The Flyers start playing fast and loose on defense, allowing the Florida Panthers to tie the score eight minutes into the third period.
It took shootout goals by Jordan Weal and Jake Voracek to finally put the game away for the Flyers, who came away with a 6-5 win.
They avoided the dubious distinction of becoming the first team in franchise history to lose its first three home games.
Philadelphia, now 3-3 has allowed 25 goals in its first six games, not exactly a formula for success.
What happened that allowed Florida to get back into this game?
“We didn’t play the right way in the first 10 minutes of the third period,’’ coach Dave Hakstol said. “And one Grade A chance from the slot. And that’s all it takes.
“To our players’ credit, they regained their composure in the last 10 minutes of the third. We got going again. The thought process, when you give up two breakaways in the third period, that’s not thinking the right way.’’
Hakstol wound up having to pull starting goalie Brian Elliott after the fourth Florida goal in favor of Cal Pickard, who gave up the fifth Panther goal but sparkled in the shootout, allowing just one goal in the 2-1 verdict.
The Panthers scored at 17:58 of the first period, making it six straight times the Flyers had allowed an opponent to score first.
But the Flyers came back with that five-goal burst in the second.
Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux each scored a pair of goals for the Flyers and they needed all of that offense by the end of the night.
Slow starts aren’t helpful.
“I just think we have to get the mindset that we can’t be messing around with the puck,’’ Simmonds said. “We have to establish our game right from the get-go. Just build on that.’’
Said Giroux: “Obviously, that’s not the way we want to win that game at home. Especially when we had the lead the way we had. Hopefully we can build on this. We have to be a tougher team to play at home. We just have to be a bit more solid.’’
Giroux was asked if Hakstol was sending a message to the team by inserting Pickard.
“I think it was a message,’’ Giroux said. “They get two breakaways like that. Not too sure how it happened. We have to look at it (on video) and be better.’’
Simmonds got things going the other way with his first goal at 1:18 of the second period, deflecting in a Travis Sanheim shot past Michael Hutchinson.
Weal’s first goal of the season at 5:54 made it 2-1 Flyers. Then Giroux connected at 8:50 when Sean Couturier pressured Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad into a turnover.
After Elliott misplayed a long dump-in, Frank Vatrano struck for his second goal but Simmonds came right back for his second at 15:29 off a nifty lead-in pass from Scott Laughton.
Then Giroux completed the onslaught at 17:03. Florida got one back on a power-play marker by Aleksander Barkov at 17:31.
The Flyers were outshot in the first period, 12-5, and didn’t show much energy. What changed in the second?
“The first period we really didn’t skate and in the second period we started getting our feet, ‘’ Giroux said, “putting ourselves in a good position to getting our forecheck going. When we got the chance to score it was in the back of the net. That’s always good.”
Florida made things interesting in the third when Evgenii Dadonov scored at 5:06 to make it 5-4. Hakstol decided to change goaltenders.
The Panthers tied it at 8:07 of the third when Barkov got away from the defense pairing of Shayne Gostisbehere-Ivan Provorov, raced the length of the ice and lifted a backhander over Pickard for his second goal.
In the shootout, Voracek and Weal sent shots past Hutchinson and Pickard allowed only a goal by Barkov.
Laughton acknowledged Hakstol’s comments.
“We sat too much in the third,’’ he conceded. “Kind of let them get speed through the neutral zone, they got chances off it. We definitely need to clean up some stuff.’’
Early in the day, forward Corban Knight (out three weeks with an injury) was activated and assigned No. 10. But he did not play. . .Defenseman Andrew MacDonald was a healthy scratch as the Flyers continue to rotate backline personnel out of their seven-man alignment. . .The Flyers return to action on Thursday at the Columbus Blue Jackets. . .Giroux needs three more games to pass Joe Watson for fifth on the Flyers’ all-time list and 10 to pass Chris Therien for fourth.
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