PHILADELPHIA – It wasn’t like the Flyers entered this schedule week which was straight out of the netherworld not knowing the possible consequences.
Six games in nine days? Even a veteran coach such as Alain Vigneault admitted he had never seen anything like it before.
So when the torturous trek finally came to an end on Sunday with a “run out of gas’’ 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center, no one acted truly surprised.
The original schedule wasn’t quite as compressed but all that changed when the Flyers had four games postponed due to a pandemic outbreak. Philadelphia was supposed to be playing in Boston on Sunday.
At the same time, no one was making excuses either.
The Flyers, who played in front of home fans (about 3,000) for the first time in nearly a year, did manage to break even at 3-3 for the nine-day obstacle course but the ending, including back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Washington (their first consecutive regulation-time defeats in 48 games dating back to January) was disappointing nonetheless.
Also, the Flyers’ five-game point streak (4-0-1) against the Caps dating back through last season game to an end.
Fact is, the Flyers could have won this game, if not for missed opportunities after taking a 1-0 lead on a Joel Farabee goal in the first period (11:04) and then later committing several errors.
That, plus some questionable officiating factored in. The Flyers were upset a possible icing call wasn’t called on the Caps’ winning goal, by defenseman Dmitry Orlov with 15.8 seconds to play in the second; plus a no-call after Zdeno Chara’s hit to Farabee’s head at center ice, setting up Washington’s insurance goal at 4:15 of the third.
Vigneault said the Orlov goal really took the wind out of the Flyers’ sails.
“That was the game-changer,’’ Vigneault said during a media Zoom call after the game. “There was a missed assignment on the faceoff with (Orlov) coming in backdoor. Instead of going in after two periods tie game, we’re one behind.
“I like the way we came out with good energy, making a lot of the right plays. We knew they were going to have a push in the second period. In the third, I thought there should have been a call on Chara, high-sticking to Joel’s head.’’
Were the Flyers as exhausted as the schedule might indicate?
“I believe the will was there tonight,’’ Vigneault said. “Against a team like that, especially their top line (Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie). . .they tied it up (on Ovechkin’s goal at 15:11 of the second); then the second one, some people questioned if that should have been an icing or not.’’
Sean Couturier couldn’t find much fault with the effort.
“We need to score on the power play (Flyers went 0 for 4),’’ Couturier said. “Need the killer instinct, take over the game. Power play you can win games and penalty kill you can lose them.’’
>Strong bounce-back game for Hart
Carter Hart returned to the net after watching the last two games of the Pittsburgh series. He was coming off the first Penguin game where he allowed five goals. In this one, he was much more efficient.
“Carter gave us a chance to win this game,’’ Vigneault said. “Just before their tying goal, we missed three good chances. If we bury one of those, we’re in a real good spot. More energy, more gas in the tank. But they tied it up and made it real challenging for us.’’
>Fans in stands a welcome sight
Those fans who attended the game sounded pretty excited and made quite a bit of noise. There were a lot of empty seats but that will gradually change as the battle against the pandemic turns in our favor.
“We came out here with the best intentions,’’ Vigneault said. “We came out with good jump but we couldn’t finish the job.’’
Couturier was told a U.S. Marine drove 500 miles to watch the Flyers play their first game in front of fans. Now that’s a Flyers fan.
“It’s awesome,’’ Couturier said. “We have one of the best fan bases in the league. To see that kind of support is awesome. Definitely a true Flyers fan.’’
>Impressive streak ends
As mentioned, the loss was the Flyers’ second consecutive in regulation, something that hadn’t happened to the club since a three-game losing streak from Dec. 31, 2019 – Jan. 4, 2020. They went the final 27 games of last season and first 21 games of this season without losing two straight in regulation. . .The Flyers had 37 shots on goal, marking the sixth time in the last seven games that they’ve had 35 or more shots. Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere shared the team lead with six shots apiece.
Defenseman Ivan Provorov is a player the media go to for straight talk after a loss. On Sunday, Provorov said the Flyers just didn’t quite execute properly on a couple plays Vigneault previously mentioned.
“In the third period, we weren’t clicking,’’ he said. “We weren’t making the right plays, the right passes and ended up losing the puck too much.’’
Provorov echoed Couturier’s thoughts on the power play.
“Be more aggressive I think,’’ Provorov said. “Put more pucks on net. Hopefully that helps us.’’