PHILADELPHIA – So much for momentum.
Monday night the Flyers executed one of their tightest defensive efforts in nearly a month during a tough, 2-1 overtime loss to the high-octane New York Islanders.
So one would think some of that positive energy would carry over into Tuesday night’s game against the lowly New Jersey Devils.
Well, think again.
The Flyers, who were finishing up five games in seven nights, were devoid of energy in a flat first period which saw the Devils take a 2-1 lead.
The Newark, N.J. contingent would go on to take a 4-1 lead before a pair of Sean Couturier goals in the third period made the final score look respectable in a 4-3 outcome.
Only about 3,000 fans were in attendance at the Wells Fargo Center but their booing at the game’s conclusion was loud enough for the Flyers to hear as they scrambled down the runway to their locker room.
If the Flyers still have intentions of making the playoffs, they will have to do a better job of taking care of business against teams like the Devils.
Claude Giroux insists he still believes in this team but the Flyers’ record says doubt is beginning to creep in.
The Devils completely controlled this game for the first 50 minutes and knew they had a three-goal cushion to fall back on when the Flyers made a late push.
“We have a lot of confidence in our group,’’ Giroux said in a post-game media Zoom call when asked if a trade at the upcoming deadline might be a needed wakeup call. “We still think we’re going to make the playoffs.
“We need to be a little more consistent in our game; it starts with me. You can’t play one good game and one bad game. We need to put a few good games together here.’’
Why so many defensive breakdowns in the opening period?
Ivan Provorov was blunt with his answers.
“We weren’t coming out of the zone clean,’’ he said. “We sometimes turned the puck over in the neutral zone – there were instances where they broke out very clean, coming at us with speed. Just overall there were times when they won one-on-one battles. It was a little bit of everything. But overall, as a team we were a step behind.’’
As for that first period, he can say that again.
The Devils got a goal from Michael McLeod off a rush at 9:52. After Joel Farabee’s team-leading 14th goal on a power play at 12:43, the Devils struck again, getting a power-play goal from Kyle Palmieri with just six second left in the period.
By the time the buzzer went off, the Devils had put 14 shots on goalie Carter Hart in the first 20 minutes.
It was more of the same in the second. The Devils got goals from Yegor Sharangovich and Travis Zajac to take the 4-1 lead, then were able to hold the Flyers off at the end.
Coming up next are a pair of home games against the Rangers, who humiliated the Flyers with a 9-0 blanking in New York last Wednesday.
If the Flyers don’t get their act together, the losses will continue to pile up.
Putting Tuesday night’s loss in the rearview mirror won’t be easy.
“We didn’t have a lot of jump at the start of that game,’’ coach Alain Vigneault admitted. “Their speed and skill level showed. It didn’t seem like we had a lot in the tank.’’
Vigneault said he’s still exploring options to find ways to improve.
“It’s my job to work with these players,’’ he said. “They’re good players, they care. They want to win. We have a consistency issue at this time. And it’s my job to find the right buttons to push. I haven’t found that yet but I’m going to continue to work on it.’’
>Could an acquisition at trade deadline provide spark?
The trade deadline is coming up on April 12 but Vigneault said he’s only thinking about the players currently on the roster.
“I’m not at all concerned at this moment about the trade deadline,’’ he said. “Or acquisitions. It’s my job to get these players to play up to their full potential.’’
>Consistency still elusive
Couturier knows the Flyers have to start stringing good performances together to have any hope of pulling out of this month-long slump.
“It’s a tough league,’’ he said. “Every night is a grind. We have to bring our ‘A’ game. Sometimes we have a few guys off and it makes it tougher on us.
“As a team I think we have to be a little more consistent. Work smarter. We’re working hard. We’re trying, everyone wants to win. We need to be a little more responsible.’’
>Goals against keep getting worse
The Flyers have dropped to 30th in the NHL in goals allowed.
Given the fact the Flyers were one of the best teams last year leaves Hart, among others, puzzled.
“I don’t think we’re playing a full 60 (minutes) right now,’’ Hart said. “We can’t just show up for the last 10 minutes of the third and expect to win. We need to compete hard and find a way.’’
>Schedule no alibi
As demanding as the schedule is, it’s the same for everybody. No one is crying tears for the Flyers.
“There shouldn’t be any excuses,’’ Couturier said. “I don’t know if it’s fatigue but we’re making a lot of mental mistakes. We’re giving up pucks pretty easily. Giving up quality chances that are costing us.’’