PHILADELPHIA – If the Flyers are truly interested in keeping their coach off the hot seat, they sure have a funny way of showing it.
One day after Alain Vigneault said this was a game the Flyers “had to win,’’ the players competed like the message fell on deaf ears.
After a 7-1 rout by the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night, extending the Flyers’ winless streak to a depressing eight games, Vigneault acknowledged “my hands are on the steering wheel.’’
In other words, he’s responsible for which direction this team takes. How much blame for this current downward spiral he receives from management and ownership remains to be seen.
We do know this much: The players held a closed-door meeting after the game and it’s safe to say they weren’t discussing which bar to hit later in the evening.
Except for a brief five-minute flurry at the start of the game, the Flyers looked mostly disinterested.
To put it mildly, the Flyers simply gave the impression they would rather be watching football on their living room couch.
Heck, the Mites on Ice demonstrated more gumption in their second period intermission exhibition.
The night ended with the everyone from the luxury boxes to the so-called cheap seats filling the WFC with booing of classic Philadelphia vintage.
No one was spared. Even goaltender Carter Hart heard it after giving up two laughable goals to complete his night in the net.
The Flyers’ winless streak against Tampa reached 10 games (0-5-5) dating back to Dec. 29, 2017.
Asked after the game if the team was a little “embarrassed’’ by this performance in light of Vigneault’s comments over the past couple days, Cam Atkinson nodded in agreement.
“Not a ‘little,’ players have to dig deep and stick together,’’ said Atkinson, who scored the only goal for the Flyers. “I’ve been in a lot worse situation than this (in Columbus). We have to take a little pride, come to the rink and battle. It’s up to the players to dig ourselves out of this.’’
As for the post-game meeting, Atkinson described it as a good “conversation.’’
“Play with pride, play for each other,’’ Atkinson said about the topics talked about. “Obviously we’re embarrassed, there’s no question about that. Our fans support us and to lay a goose egg like that in front of them is embarrassing. We have to take a hard look in the mirror. We have another opportunity tomorrow (home vs. Colorado) to get back on track.’’
Vigneault looks and sounds like he’s all out of answers. He held two good practices on Friday-Saturday and then had nothing to show for it.
“It didn’t go well for us,’’ he said. “We have to regroup. We don’t have a lot of time. At the end of the day, no one is going to feel sorry for us. We are looking at solutions to our situation. We all have a job to do, we all do our part. I’m the leader of this group, I have both hands on the steering wheel. I have to find a way to get this group to play better. We’re in a bad skid right now. We need to end this.’’
Captain Claude Giroux agreed.
“I’ve played in a lot of embarrassing games,’’ he said. “This is one of them. We need to figure it our pretty quick here. Personally, I’ve been on a team here which lost 10 in a row and we made the playoffs. I know it’s really weird to say but we do have confidence in each other. We need to find our swagger. . .right now we’re not doing that.’’
To rub a little salt into the wounds, ex-Flyer goalie Brian Elliott, who left Philadelphia last summer as a free agent to sign with the Bolts, recorded the victory.
A power-play goal by Atkinson at 7:04 of the third period spoiled Elliott’s shutout bid.
Some might have thought the Flyers were still in it after trailing 2-0 after the conclusion of the first period. But any doubt about the outcome was removed in a wild second period when the Lightning scored three times, with the last pair at Hart’s expense.
On Tampa’s fourth goal, Hart made an initial stop but left a fat rebound for Boris Katchouk for a put-back at 6:47. Then, with the Flyers on a power play, Hart raced out of his net to garner a puck in the circle, lost his balance and the puck and watch helplessly as Matthieu Joseph pushed the puck into the unguarded net at 8:34.
That was all for Hart. Vigneault sent in Martin Jones for mop-up duty.
The Lightning, who swept the season series from the Flyers in less than a month, struck for a pair of goals just a minute apart in the first period.
Ryan McDonagh cleaned up a rebound at 8:24, then Corey Perry took control of a missed short behind the net, swung around and beat Hart to the near post. In the third period, ex-Flyer product Patrick Maroon scored at 5:29 to make it a six-goal lead. Following the Atkinson goal, Tampa Bay scored again at 14:15 on a power play.