PHILADELPHIA – Tough schedule, flu, bad officiating calls all could have been used as excuses but the Flyers were having none of them.
With four minutes to play and sitting in a position to guarantee themselves at least one point in this quickly fading inspirational stretch drive, the Flyers couldn’t hold on in Saturday afternoon’s game against the New York Islanders.
They gave up a go-ahead goal to Josh Bailey with 3:57 left on the clock, then another to Bailey with 2:34 to go and came out on the short end of a 4-2 score at the Wells Fargo Center.
The loss keeps the Flyers at least five points out of a playoff spot, pending Montreal’s night game against Buffalo, with just seven games to play.
Bailey stole a puck from Radko Gudas along the right boards, cruised in on goalie Carter Hart and sent a wrist shot under the crossbar far side for the lead.
The Flyers played their sixth game in the past 10 days, have been battling a mini-flu epidemic and got wrongly accused on at least two penalty calls.
Still, the Flyers were in a position to get something out of this game and they didn’t.
“The situation we’re in, we have to push for the win,’’ Jake Voracek said after the Flyers suffered their fourth loss in the last six games. “We couldn’t pull it off. It’s pretty simple I think.’’
The Flyers may have lost this game in the second period, when they were outshot, 15-5, and allowed an Islander goal for a 2-1 lead.
Philadelphia has been outscored 84-74 in the middle frame this season and this was another example of the problem.
“The first 40 games, our second periods were our best,’’ Voracek explained. “Today we were god-awful. I don’t think we had a shot in the first 10 minutes. When they get in the zone, they do a great job cycling us. I don’t think we were moving well enough in the second period.’’
Maybe that second period took too much out of the Flyers as the third period wound down.
“Shots were coming from everywhere,’’ Hart said. “I was just trying to do my job, compete, battle,’’
Sean Couturier thought the Flyers came apart as the second period progressed.
“All of a sudden we kind of turned some pucks over,’’ he said. “Tried to make an extra play or something, they’re a pretty good team, that’s what they stride on and they came at us.’’
Shayne Gostisbehere’s power-play goal at 6:16 of the third period pulled the Flyers into a 2-2 tie.
Couturier won a key right circle faceoff from Casey Cizikas and Claude Giroux whipped the puck back to Gostisbehere at the point. His drive eluded Robin Lehner.
The Flyers looked like a tired team in that second period.
New York kept the puck in the Flyers’ end for much of the period and finally was rewarded for the hard work when defenseman Nick Leddy’s point blast found its way through traffic past Hart at 10:58.
The Flyers, who had defeated the Islanders twice in an eight-day span at Long Island earlier in the month, got on the scoreboard first.
Robert Hagg got the goal when his right-corner dump-in caromed toward the net and took a funny hop, eluding Lehner at 6:39.
Hagg felt that was redemption for an unjustified four-minute high-stick penalty at 1:45, which forced the Flyers to also kill 41 seconds of a five-on-three (Gudas was already in the box).
The Flyers got some help on the back end of the kill as the Islanders took a too-many-men/ice penalty during the time Hagg was off.
Replays showed it wasn’t even Hagg’s stick which committed the foul.
New York tied it on a goal by Brock Nelson at 14:27. Defenseman Scott Mayfield was blocked in the slot but Nelson battled in the loose puck.
The Flyers got off to a rocky start in the third period when Ryan Hartman took an interference penalty for clipping Lehner off a rush. Then Voracek compounded the problem by taking an unsportsmanlike penalty for mouthing off.
But the Flyers managed to kill off that five-on-three situation and then picked up a power-play opportunity of their own at 6:12, leading to the Gostisbehere goal.
Things don’t get any easier as the Flyers must play on the road against a Washington team which had Saturday off and which sports a 21-10-8 record at home.
“They played better than we did the whole game so we don’t deserve to win,’’ Hagg said. “Right now it’s a terrible feeling.’’
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