“As soon as adversity struck, we crumbled.’’
Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo used those seven words to describe his team’s effort against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but they could also provide proper analysis for most of Philadelphia’s season.
Game after game, the Flyers hang with opponents sporting much better records, but they continue to find innovative ways to lose.
And so it was against the Wild, who had gone 8-0-0 against the Metropolitan Division this season but were trailing in the game against the hard-to-figure Flyers.
Then, true to form, the Flyers coughed up a 4-3 lead by surrendering two goals in rapid-fire fashion and lost, 5-4, at the Wells Fargo Center .
A power-play goal by James van Riemsdyk with 45.7 seconds left in the second period broke a 3-3 tie. JVR tipped in a Claude Giroux shot for his seventh power-play goal of the season.
But Matt Boldy tied it for the Wild with 7:44 to play and then Jonas Brodin connected 25 seconds later to put the Wild ahead for good.
In all, the Flyers took leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 but could not hold any of them.
At the risk of repeating himself, Yeo continues to emphasize the need to execute the little things at crunch time.
Problem is, the Flyers don’t.
“Tonight we did some good things obviously,’’ Yeo said. “But I don’t think we were very strong tonight, to be honest with you. We were a little fortunate to be in the lead (4-3) in that position – they cranked it up another level and we certainly didn’t.’’
One of the team’s dependable leaders, Scott Laughton, echoed what his coach said.
“We talked about it in the room (after the second period), about staying on our toes and being hungry to win,’’ Laughton said. “Just those little lapses throughout the game in key situations, key times. They capitalized. Sort of the story of our year right now.’’
Laughton got things started with a breakaway goal at 3:49 of the first. Laughton stole a puck off Marcus Foligno in his defensive end, triggering a three-on-one rush. Seeing space toward the net, Laughton decided to forge ahead and fired a short past ex-Flyer goaltender Cam Talbot.
Ex-Flyer Ryan Hartman scored the first of two goals at 11:50. He scrambled in behind the defense and was in position to redirect Mats Zuccarello’s entry past Carter Hart.
The Flyers regained the lead on Patrick Brown’s goal at 13:16. He took advantage of Zack MacEwen’s strong move to the net.
That lead held up until there were only 3.2 seconds left in the period. Derick Brassard attempted to lift the puck for a clear but Frederick Gaudreau gloved it down near the blue line, skated in and scored from close range.
In the second period, the Flyers picked up a goal from Travis Konecny off a Laughton entry at 5:07. Hartman countered by scoring in front at 9:04.
Konecny said after the morning skate he wanted to take more of a shoot-first mentality and that’s exactly what he did on that play.
“It was a good play by Laughton,’’ Konecny said. “Kind of put him in a tough spot. As he would say, he was stick-handling in a phone booth, massaging the puck. I had a feeling, you usually don’t want to hang out below, but I knew he was going to shoot the puck. I got lucky.”
As much as scoring four goals was encouraging, allowing five sort of negated any good feelings.
“It stinks,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “Especially losing that way. I think we can do a better job recognizing certain moments throughout the game to be a little bit sharper. We’ve shown we can carry the play against some of these good teams. It’s just making sure everyone is one hundred percent on the same page and executing together as a team.’’
Brown centers the fourth line and that unit seems to be playing in responsible fashion on a nightly basis.
“We just have to expect to win,’’ he said. “We’ve been in that situation a lot this year where we’ve had the lead in the third, especially at home. I think as a team we have to dial it in and do the little things that good teams do to win those games.’’
The Flyers return to action on Saturday afternoon when they play host to Chicago. The Blackhawks have not won a regular-season game in Philadelphia since 1996. . .Justin Braun left the game in the second period and did not return to action. Unofficially, Braun has been dealing with flu symptoms. . .The Flyers are now 1-4-1 after six games on their eight-game homestand.