PHILADELPHIA – This was not a particularly opportune night for the Flyers to suffer an emotional letdown.
Fresh off an inspiring clock-running-out victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday night, the Flyers turned right around and laid an egg at home on Tuesday night against the slumping Montreal Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers looked lethargic in losing by a 3-1 score to a Canadiens team which had dropped five of its last seven games, including a recent 8-2 drubbing in Anaheim.
Goaltender Carter Hart wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in the 2-1 overtime victory at Pittsburgh but he couldn’t be faulted for this lackluster setback.
The post-game interviews centered around two questions:
>Why wasn’t there more desperation in the Flyers’ effort, particularly in the first period and into the second?
>And, do the Flyers think they are still in the playoff hunt, even though they are at least six points out with nine games to play?
As for the slow start, several players indicated the first period was sort of a “feeling-out process.’’
Really? This isn’t some routine game on a Tuesday night in October. Shouldn’t the Flyers have come out guns blazing?
“We needed this one,’’ admitted Claude Giroux, who then alluded to the slow start in the first period: “We didn’t have a lot of energy. We were going through the motions.’’
Couturier wasn’t sure his team’s effort matched what was needed in this must-have game.
“Price made some nice saves but I think we made it a little easy on him,’’ Couturier said. “He saw a lot of (unscreened) pucks. . .he’s the type of goalie when he sees the puck, he just makes it look easy and frustrating for us.
“I don’t want to say we weren’t urgent. . .it’s too bad we’re on the bad side of it.’’
Travis Konecny admitted he made some mistakes and that wasn’t going to work against a Montreal team that is now ahead of the Flyers by five points and still not in a playoff spot itself.
For Radko Gudas, it’s back to the drawing board.
“It stinks that we’re further (back) again,’’ he said. “We just couldn’t connect. When we had shots, he (Price) saw everything.’’
The Canadiens picked up goals from Brendan Gallagher at 18:21 of the first period and Shea Weber at 4:45 of the second and that was enough for Montreal goalie Carey Price to record the win.
Couturier scored the only goal for the Flyers, this one on the power play at 8:42 of the third. With ex-Flyer Christian Folin in the penalty box, Couturier poked in a short shot for his 30th goal of the season.
That ended the Flyers’ 0-for-17 slump on the power play.
Gallagher gave the Canadiens the lead when his shot through an Andrew MacDonald screen eluded Hart.
On the Weber goal, Andrew Shaw beat Couturier on a right circle draw. Weber, who has one of the hardest shots in the NHL, fired the puck through a maze of bodies and Hart never really had a chance.
The Flyers pulled Hart with just under two minutes to play but Montreal spoiled that plan when Max Domi hit an empty net with 1:05 to play.
Flyers coach Scott Gordon knows the Flyers’ playoff chances continue to dwindle. There are only nine games left on the schedule for Philadelphia and the odds of making the playoffs are now listed at about three percent.
“The percentages are contingent on everything remaining the same,’’ Gordon said before the game. “And it doesn’t factor in teams can go on three-, four-game losing streaks and that dramatically changes how things can go.
“If it conceivable that teams above us could lose two, three games in a row? That’s what makes it still a chance. It feels like it did back in October, November. . .it doesn’t feel like three percent – it doesn’t feel like we have a three-percent chance of making the playoffs.’’
The players know time is running out.
“We definitely needed that game but we’ve got nine games left here,’’ Hart pointed out. “Mathematically, we’re not out of it. So there’s still a chance. That’s what the mindset has to be in this locker room.’’
Couturier said: “It’s tough right now. I guess we have to keep on battling to the end. Try to get on a streak here, almost win out, hopefully get some help from other teams. But I think guys still believe in it.’’
Konecny seconded that notion.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to quit until it’s mathematically not possible,’’ he said. “We have to keep pushing, find ways to win games here.’’
Ex-Flyer Jordan Weal, now playing for Montreal, played right wing on fourth line. Weal was traded by the Flyers to Arizona on Jan. 11 for a 2019 sixth-round draft pick and defenseman Jacob Graves. . .Philippe Myers was a game-time scratch and Andrew MacDonald was a late fill-in. . .The Flyers return to action Thursday when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks. . .The Flyers did not take a penalty, the fifth time this season they did not allow an opponent a power play.