PHILADELPHIA – Say this much for the Flyers, they keep finding innovative ways to lose hockey games.
On a night when their defense was virtually airtight, the offense failed to make an appearance at the Wells Fargo Center.
For 60 minutes of regulation-time hockey on Sunday, the Flyers skated the New York Islanders to a scoreless standoff.
Then, in overtime, Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim went to break up Nick Leddy’s cross-crease pass but instead deflected the puck under goaltender Brian Elliott’s pads at the 2:23 mark.
The 1-0 setback had to sting more than usual. This one came just 24 hours after they had surrendered a half-dozen goals to Washington on Saturday afternoon.
Although they earned a point, the Flyers continued to fall out of the playoff race – if you want to still call it that. With Boston winning, the Flyers are now nine points out with 11 games to play, not to mention the Bruins have two games in hand and the Rangers are pulling away as well.
Coach Alain Vigneault praised the efforts of Elliott and his team’s defense.
But he did call out center Kevin Hayes for a mistake which led to Leddy’s accidental goal.
“It was a combination of a bad break and Hayes makes a bad pass where we lose control of the puck. . .we win the faceoff, we’ve got the puck and we need to make a better first pass,’’ Vigneault said.
“And we don’t. It’s too bad for Travis and Brian. He (Elliott) played real good and Travis played one of his best games as far as being in control. Unfortunately the puck went off his stick as he tried to make the play.’’
Even though he played well leading up to the deciding play, no one felt worse about it than Sanheim.
“I was playing well, moving my feet,’’ Sanheim said. “Had a lot of jump tonight, was joining the rush quite a bit.
“Unfortunately, couldn’t capitalize and ended up scoring into my own net.’’
Elliott thought the Flyers played one of their better games in recent memory.
“The lines showed good chemistry, I thought they worked really well together,’’ he said. “We blocked shots, we did all the right things. You do so many things right and you only come away with one point.
“We can’t just ride a roller-coaster. We have to stay at even keel and know that we bring it to the next game the same kind of game we played tonight.’’
The Flyers finally get a three-day break – their longest of this pandemic-compressed season – to recover from nine games in the last 14 days.
Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin matched Elliott save for save and needed to because the Flyers had some excellent changes in the first two periods.
“The first and second periods we had some great looks,’’ Vigneault said in a post-game media Zoom call. “Their goaltender made some real big saves at the right time.
“We had enough looks in those two periods to get a couple (goals) but we didn’t.’’
>Flyers need this respite badly
Due to the four-game COVID pause and the rescheduling of games, the Flyers have been playing four and five games a week, including a total of 17 matches in March.
So having off Monday through Wednesday will be a welcome break.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey lately,’’ Elliott agreed. “Every team out there can say the same thing. It’s tough sometime to find that energy. I thought we did a heck of a job tonight, knowing we had three days off. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage.’’
>Flyers wear Hockey Fight Cancer jerseys in warmups
It was Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers wore special lavender-trim jerseys during warmups.
The players said it was gratifying to do so.
“It was a special night, I think it was part of the reason we had extra jump tonight,’’ Sanheim said.
Much of the attention centered around Oskar Lindblom, who has overcome Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
“With what he’s gone through, it was nice for him,’’ Sanheim said. “I think you saw that before; it made it even cooler. Just shows the support we have for him.’’
>Lindblom calls this night special
Before the game, Lindblom received a big ovation from the audience.
What was that like?
“A lot of emotions,’’ he said. To be able to play this game again, play in the NHL, it’s the best league in the world, and still manage to be out there and compete, so it’s a great feeling. I’m just happy to be able to play here and play again.’’
This particular show of support caught him a bit off-guard.
“I didn’t expect to react like that when I skated on the ice,’’ he said. “Just a lot of emotion and try to take it all in and focus on the game, but it was tough. It’s been a tough year, or more than a year. Like I said, to be able to be out with this team, it’s amazing.
“I was just trying to hold it together and focus on the game, but amazing moment and I will remember that for the rest of my life.’’
>Missed chances typified this game
Lindblom said the Flyers are a bit frustrated by games like this.
“The D played well and had a couple scoring chances, too,’’ he said. “It’s been a tough year and we really can’t find a way to win, even though we played pretty good today. We need to find a way to score and we didn’t today.’’
Ed Snider would not be a happy man with this team!