PHILADELPHIA – No lead can be considered safe these days when the Flyers get ahead in a game against the Boston Bruins.
This was more than obvious not only in Wednesday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center but two weeks ago in another game at TD Garden in Boston.
While a 2-0 lead in the second period was not exactly a safe one in Massachusetts, the 3-1 edge with less than nine minutes to play in South Philly certainly looked pretty stable.
Then the Flyers started taking penalties – two of them bad, one of them horrendous – and predictably paid for them, allowing the Bruins to score power-play goals with 8:05 and 14.9 seconds to play to tie the score and another at 31 seconds of overtime to pull out a 4-3 decision.
While the Flyers could be faulted for poor penalty killing, the very fact they took those dumb penalties in the first place was cause for consternation.
A bonehead infraction against Kevin Hayes for grabbing Brad Marchand with 2:01 to play led to David Pastrnak’s hat trick-tying goal as the clock was running out.
And just seven seconds after Pastrnak’s goal, Scott Laughton was whistled for interference, leading to Patrice Bergeron’s OT winner.
If the Flyers are going to stay with the Bostons and Washingtons of the East Division, they’re going to have to learn how to play smarter hockey in the third period.
Coach Alain Vigneault was asked about the Hayes penalty and he found it difficult to defend.
“It was 200 feet from our net, basically, it looked like he put his arms around him,’’ Vigneault admitted. “I don’t think he touched him very much but he put his arm around him and gave the ref an opportunity to be part of the game.’’
Hayes has been playing so well that it’s hard to come down hard on one play. But the Flyers were hoping to make a statement in this game and were so close to coming away with a win.
The center wasn’t on the list of scheduled media Zoom interviews after the game so he wasn’t able to defend himself.
Likely he would have accepted some of the responsibility but the accountability should have been shared by Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who took a dopey closing-hand-on-puck violation, leading to a Pastrnak goal to make it 3-2.
Laughton’s interference penalty wasn’t much better.
“We were up two and felt we were in real good shape,’’ Vigneault said. “Then you let elite players, by taking penalties, make a difference. Our penalty killing didn’t do the job.
“It’s a lesson we’ll learn and get ready for the next game.’’
>Other observations from Wednesday night’s game:
>Another night of getting outshot
The Flyers came into the game minus-101 shots for/against (worst in the NHL) and left it minus-111.
There’s only so much a goalie like Carter Hart can do.
He held the fort until the last eight minutes but there was nothing he could do on a few of Boston’s goals, especially the last two.
On this night, the Flyers were outshot by a 35-25 margin (what’s new?). Much of the bombardment came when Pastrnak, Bergeron and Marchand were on the ice.
>JVR playing his best since return in 2018
This is James van Riemsdyk’s third year back on his second tour with the Flyers and he’s off to the best start of his career with 14 points in 11 games.
The assist he executed on Joel Farabee’s goal to make it 3-1 was a perfect example. He outworked Boston’s Charlie McAvoy to trigger the play.
Joel Farabee has noted the jump in JVR’s game.
“James is an older guy and he leads by example,’’ Farabee said. “He’s really playing well. I enjoy playing with him, we have some really good chemistry.
“As a team, we’d like to close out that victory but it’s part of the game and we just have to adjust.’’
>Flyers need to put this behind them for Friday’s rematch
Well, after a demoralizing shootout loss in Boston, they got torched for a half-dozen goals in a 6-1 loss, so we’ll have to see.
“We know the schedule, we get to play the same team again,’’ JVR said. “We’ll learn from this one and move on to the next one.’’
Claude Giroux added: “It’s a little frustrating not getting that win but I think we’ve played better and lost this year. We have to build on this.’’
>Despite loss, Hart trending in right direction
There was a four-game stretch where Hart gave up at least four goals in each start. But now he seems to have regained his mojo.
“Carter played well, he gave us a chance,’’ Giroux said. “Especially early on when we didn’t have much going on. He closed the door and played well.’’