Maybe the Flyers were still groggy from their afternoon naps but whatever the reason, the team didn’t wake up until the second period of Thursday night’s game at Florida.
After giving up four goals in a 20-minute sleepwalk to open the game, the Flyers bounced back with three goals of their own in the middle frame.
However, it was too little, too late for the visitors who eventually dropped a 6-3 decision at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla. Sam Reinhart led the way for Florida with a hat trick
“I think the team responded in a lot of positive ways tonight,’’ interim head coach Mike Yeo said of the second period comeback. “We came out with some hop (in the first period), then started turning some pucks over in the neutral zone and that’s a team you can’t do that against.’’
Goaltender Carter Hart, fresh off a career save night in a 2-1 win over Vegas, tried to hold the fort but the early onslaught was just too much.
“Once they got that first goal, we got on our heels,’’ Yeo said. “We weren’t playing at quite the same pace. That allowed them to get into their transition game, which is. . .that’s a very impressive hockey team. They take advantage of those mistakes.’’
Yeo liked the fact the Flyers didn’t call it a day after getting down four goals.
“That second period,’’ he said, “is probably the best second period we’ve played all year.’’
The Panthers went three for three on the power play and that made the difference in this game.
After getting dominated by the Panthers in the first period, the Flyers came back and did some dominating of their own in the second.
James van Riemsdyk started the rally at 9:01. Kevin Hayes stole a puck deep in the right corner and caught JVR in stride for his 13th goal of the season.
Derick Brassard made a strong move to set up Cam Atkinson’s goal at 12:23. Brassard rushed the net and sent a shot which Sergei Bobrovsky couldn’t contain with his catching glove. The puck hopped up and Atkinson batted it out of the air for his 21st goal of the season.
Then the Flyers cut the margin to one with 1:08 to play in the period. Rookie defenseman Cam York, just called up from the Phantoms, sent a shot toward the net and Travis Konecny deflected it past Bobrovsky during a power play.
“I thought we played hard,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “There are some things we can do better execution-wise but I thought we kept playing. We didn’t back down. They got up early on us, we clawed back in but then they had that late push there.’’
Hart knew the Flyers had a tough task. Florida has the best home record in the NHL.
“I thought we responded really well,’’ he said of the second period rally. “We didn’t come out too great in the first but we put that behind us. Really battled back and that was a great response. Just shows the character that we have. For us to battle back after being down four, that speaks volumes. I know it’s not the result we want but we just need to carry that into next game.’’
The Panthers picked up a pair of goals from both Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe to grab their four-goal lead in the opening period.
Verhaeghe kicked things off with a goal at 3:25 when the Flyers were caught on a late line change. His shot eluded Hart. Then Florida scored on consecutive power plays, with Reinhart connecting at 14:12 and 18:11. Verhaeghe closed out the period with just 30 seconds to play.
Anthony Duclair’s shot caromed off the stick of the Flyers’ Patrick Brown for the Panthers’ third power-play goal at 6:59 of the third period.
Scott Laughton was injured at 8:03 of the second period when he was leveled by a hip check from Petteri Lindbohm. Laughton crashed back first into the boards and had to be helped off the ice. No penalty was called on the collision but both Lindbohm and Konecny received five-minute fighting majors after the initial incident. Later, the Flyers announced Laughton suffered a head injury on the play and would not return to action.
Yeo visited his player after the game and the initial impression wasn’t real positive.
“He wasn’t doing great,’’ Yeo said. “I haven’t gotten an official update what his status is. You can tell from what happened it was an upper-body injury. A real tough one. He’s an emotional leader for our group. He’s been playing at such a high level for us. It was tough to see.’’
Laughton’s teammates were hoping for the best.
“You never like to see a guy get hit like that,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “I saw him between periods. I don’t know what the diagnosis was but it was good to see him alert.’’
Hart knows what Laughton means to the team.
“Yeah, really scary for sure,’’ Hart said. “Hit the boards hard. . .he’s a heart-and-soul player. You don’t want to see anyone go down like that. Hope he’s OK. Sounds like he’s doing better.’’
Added Rasmus Ristolainen: “You never want to see your player or an opposition player lay on the ice like that. Hopefully he’s doing good.’’
The Flyers return to action on Saturday when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes. . .Claude Giroux’s assist on Atkinson’s goal was career point No. 899. . .Konecny turns 25 on Friday. . .Florida is now 30-0-0 when leading after two periods and 26-6 overall at home. . .Flyers winless in their last 10 road games, the longest such streak since 1992.