TAMPA – For the second time this week, a rough start proved costly to the Flyers.
On Tuesday, the Flyers fell behind 3-0 and lost to the Islanders, 4-3.
In a game that was eerily similar on Saturday, the Flyers dropped behind 3-0 again, then fought back only to lose again by a 5-3 score, this time to the Lightning at Amelie Arena.
Down, 3-1, entering the third period and then falling behind 4-1, the Flyers got late goals from James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux to close within one.
But they couldn’t get the tying goal past Tampa netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning won for the 11th straight time at home, a franchise record. In addition, Tampa won its 10th straight game overall, tying another franchise record.
Coach Alain Vigneault was satisfied that his team gave a strong effort in the second half of the game but Vasilevskiy came up big on numerous occasions.
“There’s definitely no quit in our team,’’ Vigneault said. “We battled hard, unfortunately this is a tough team to give a three-goal lead.
“The difference in the third period was their goaltender. We had enough looks to tie this game. He was the difference in this game. There’s no doubt, that first goal (by Tampa), we know we’re playing a good team. And we had a bad (line) change on the third goal.’’
Tampa needed only 3:17 to get on the scoreboard with old nemesis, Alex Killorn, getting the goal.
Killorn’s initial shot from the goal line appeared to click off defenseman Ivan Provorov’s skate and back to Killorn for a second try which handcuffed goaltender Carter Hart, making his second straight start on this three-game road trip.
Tampa made it 2-0 at 14:55. The Flyer defense pairing of Matt Niskanen and Ivan Provorov failed to get coverage in front, allowing Tyler Johnson to set up behind the net and then find Cedric Paquette in the slot for a dunk past Hart.
In the second period, not a Flyer forward was to be found on the backcheck as Carter Verhaeghe got in behind the defense pair of Robert Hagg and Justin Braun for another close-range shot past Hart at 2:35.
Several Flyers disagreed with the word “slow’’ to characterize the way the team played the first half of the game. And the comeback was inspired.
“I thought we generated a lot of shots,’’ Sean Couturier said. “We missed some open nets, had some quality chances. We just have to keep playing that way and we’ll have success.’’
The Flyers finally got on the board at 8:57. With the Flyers on a power play, Provorov’s long shot found its way past Vasilevskiy.
Trailing by two goals at the start of the third period, the Flyers put on a furious push and got first-rate scoring chances by Couturier and Jake Voracek but Vasilevskiy was up to the task.
Braydon Point gave Tampa a 4-1 lead with a goal at 12:34. Van Riemsdyk added the Flyers’ second power-play goal at 15:31, then Giroux scored with 3:46 to play after Hart was pulled to make it close.
“We go down early and then battle back,’’ Hart said. “The last 35 minutes of the game we really took it to them. If I make one or two more saves, we win that game.’’
Niskanen agreed with that assessment.
“We could have won that one,’’ he said. “We had enough chances to score, enough goals to win and he (Vasilevskiy) was pretty good.’’
Why the difficult starts?
“Can we be a little sharper, do we need to be a little sharper? Yes, but it’s hard to sustain a perfect passing game for a full 60 (minutes),’’ Niskanen said. “But we can be better.’’
Giroux’s assist on Provorov’s goal was career number 234th power-play helper, tying him with Bobby Clarke for the all-time franchise lead. . .The Flyers return to action on Tuesday when they begin a home-and-home series with Columbus. . .Defenseman Mark Friedman, just called up from the Phantoms, was returned to Allentown during the game. . .The Flyers entered the game 4-1-2 in their last seven games on the road prior to this loss. They had outscored opponents, 30-21, during those games. . .Flyers are 2-20-4 when trailing after two periods. Tampa is 27-0-4 when leading after two.
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