Thirteen might be considered a very unlucky number but when it comes to the Flyers’ streak of scoring three or fewer goals in that many consecutive games, luck has really nothing to do with it.
Really, the problem seems to be rooted in an inability to finish plays around the net, usually stemming from a lack of confidence.
Case in point: Friday night’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, ending the Flyers’ winning streak at. . .one.
Too many times, the Flyers had the puck literally a foot or two away from the New York net and couldn’t complete the job.
Perhaps the Flyers are taking coach Alain Vigneault’s preaching to play tighter defense a little too much to heart.
Which would be understandable after the Rangers posted 9-0 and 8-3 victories over the Flyers since mid-March.
Scott Laughton’s offensive struggles pretty much mirror the team’s troubles in the attack zone.
Laughton’s streak of games without a goal hit 23 in this game, a drought going all the way back to March 11.
But he’s not alone.
Travis Konecny has two goals in his last 23 games, also going back to March 11. Kevin Hayes has two goals in 24 games since March 9. Nolan Patrick, who didn’t play Friday night, is scoreless in his last 11, as is Claude Giroux.
No wonder the Flyers haven’t won back-to-back games since March 27-29.
What are the problems?
“I think lack of confidence is definitely one of them,’’ Laughton said during a media Zoom call after the game. “It seems like when we have the play, it (the puck) is bouncing off our stick.
“It’s been a tough stretch for our group. Thing is, you have to stay as positive as you can. You got to work through this. It’s a frustrating time right now. Everyone’s in this together and you have to sort it out.’’
Laughton himself actually got off to a good start this season, at one point registering five goals in a six-game span (including his first career hat trick) in early February.
Then the well dried up.
“I’m trying to do the right things and work as hard as I can,’’ said Laughton, who signed a new five-year, $15-million contract on April 12. “I know if I keep doing that things will work out.
“This is not the stretch you want to have individually. When you’re fighting for a playoff position earlier on, you try to make something happen. What can you do? Put your nose down and keep going to work.’’
The Flyers were still in this game, facing only a 2-1 deficit heading into the third period. But the Rangers came up with a pair of goals and Philadelphia had no answers.
A big turning point in the game probably came in the second period when the Flyers’ had a five-on-three power play and really didn’t generate much in the way of offense. That might have given the Rangers some momentum.
Coach Alain Vigneault said the missed opportunity on the two-man advantage certainly didn’t help matters.
“We had a lot of grade-A opportunities to fight our way back into this game,’’ he said. “We had some looks in that five-on-three. Their goaltender (Alexandar Georgiev) just seemed to be at the right place at the right time.
“There are a lot of guys right now who are looking to get on the scoresheet. They’re probably fighting it a little bit.’’
>Cates steady in debut
Rookie Jackson Cates made his NHL debut. He had three shots on goal, four total attempts and was 5-for-8 on faceoffs in 11:19 of ice time.
“After the first period, when I got more shifts in the second, I settled in,’’ said Cates, recently signed as a free agent after finishing his career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. I felt better for the third. It’s nice to get my first game in.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget, like playing at MSG and seeing how fast and skilled this league is.’’
>Zibanejad falls one point short
In the final game of this year’s series between New York and Philadelphia, the Rangers’ Mike Zibanejad registered two points (both on assists) to finish with 18 points for the season vs. the Flyers.
That left him one point short of tying two Hall of Famers – Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy – for the alltime lead.
>Unheard off four-game series with N.J.
Up next for the Flyers are four straight games against the New Jersey Devils, something that obviously has never happened in the regular season before.
As of Friday night, the Devils had lost eight straight games prior to Saturday’s matinee game against the Penguins.
There won’t be much motivation for the Flyers or Devils, so it will be another case of the Philadelphia coaching staff and management evaluating its personnel in a different situation.
“It (four straight games) has never happened to me before,’’ Vigneault said. “All we can do is take it one game at a time.’’
>Lyon hangs in there
Flyers goalie Alex Lyon, pressed into service because of the sprained knee suffered by Carter Hart in last week’s game at Pittsburgh, could only be faulted on one goal, the Rangers’ fourth, when the game was pretty much decided.
Vigneault said he didn’t know the status of Hart for Sunday night’s game against the Devils.