Listing the reasons why the Flyers now find themselves trailing the New York Islanders in their best-of-seven playoff series is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
A lousy first period led to a 4-0 loss in Game 1. A meltdown in the third period nearly cost them Game 2 (a narrow Philly win). And a fall-asleep second period proved their undoing Saturday night in a 3-1 Game 3 defeat.
So now the Flyers are staring at a 2-1 deficit in the series, with virtually no time to dwell on their problem. Game 4 comes in a hurry – Sunday night (8) at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Typifying the Flyers’ woes in the middle frame was a turnover by defenseman Ivan Provorov in the closing seconds. He tried a soft clear, but it clipped off the stick of Leo Komarov and stayed in the zone.
Komarov eventually wound up with the puck in front of the Flyers’ net and he poked it past goalie Carter Hart with just 5.1 seconds to play in the period for a 2-1 lead.
What went wrong in the second?
“The pace was completely different in the second period,” Scott Laughton said. “Didn’t think we made them turn as much as we should have. And it showed.”
The Flyers looked like they had carried the momentum from their 4-3 overtime win on Wednesday into the start of this game. They got off to a fast start in the first period only to see it go down the drain in the second.
Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t need to see videotape to know what went wrong in this game. The Flyers should have gotten momentum from a first period goal by Tyler Pitlick. Instead that goal seemed to wake up the Islanders.
“You’re a hundred percent right,’’ Vigneault said in a Zoom call after the game. “I thought we came out real well, loved our pace for the first 10, 12 minutes. We were playing the type of game we wanted to play.
“Then somehow we lost it, we stopped being first on pucks. Our players stopped making the plays that we need to make with the puck. They (the Islanders) slowly but surely found momentum. For most of the second period, they were the much better team.’’
Vigneault chose to bring Laughton back into the lineup (after sitting out Game 2) and benched Michael Raffl.
Laughton centered a third line with Pitlick and James van Riemsdyk, which turned out to be the most effective unit for Philadelphia in this game. “We’re comfortable together,” Laughton said. “Tyler brings a ton of speed and JVR is so smart in front of the net.”
In fact, Pitlick gave the Flyers their only lead of the night when his shot from the left circle appeared to nick off a New York defender’s stick past goalie Semyon Varlamov at 14:18 for a 1-0 edge.
That lead held up until the Islanders scored at 7:12 of the second period when Matthew Barzal set up Matt Martin in front. His short shot squeezed through Hart’s pads.
The Islanders made it 3-1 at 3:41 of the third period on a power-play goal by Anders Lee. That was the first penalty call of the game. Robert Hagg went off for slashing leading to the two-goal New York lead. Hart accidentally tipped Lee’s short shot over his pad into the net.
No doubt the Flyers top line and D-pairing will be watching that Martin goal a few times on videotape Sunday morning.
“It was 1-1 25 seconds left in the (second) period,’’ Vigneault said. “Faceoff in the offensive zone. Put my top players on the ice. To give up that late goal, you just can’t do that.’’
Players were clearly frustrated after this one. The Flyers had been 8-0 when scoring first in the playoffs leading up to Game 3.
“We came out strong,’’ Claude Giroux said. “Got that first goal, things were going well. The second period wasn’t our best hockey.’’
Van Riemsdyk was reminded the Flyers are 11-0-0 after their last 11 losses.
“I think it’s really important to have a good response,’’ he said. “When you’re facing these situations, this adversity, in the playoffs momentum swings can be really huge. We’ve had some big responses and we want to stick to that.’’
Philadelphia went without a shot for a stretch of 11:44 spanning late in the first period into the second. . .Once again, the Flyers’ top line of Sean Couturier, Jake Voracek and Giroux failed to make the scoresheet.