Emotionally drained Flyers fall to Ottawa

Rasmus Ristolainen

      It would have been easy for the Flyers to simply fold their tent after Thursday night’s emotional “sendoff” to Claude Giroux.

      But interim head coach Mike Yeo was having little of that sentimentality in Friday night’s game against the Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.

      Despite getting in very late on Friday morning, the Flyers shook off both physical and mental fatigue and gave the Senators all they could handle.

      But a power-play goal by Josh Norris at 9:16 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Flyers to a 3-1 defeat.

      The Flyers had a six-on-four situation in the closing minutes but Ottawa scored into an empty net with 2:38 to play for a two-goal lead.

      Giroux, the widely speculated target of trade rumors prior to Monday’s NHL deadline, did not make the trip to Canada. The other Flyers did their best to pick up the slack but they fell just a bit short.

      It was the Flyers’ 12th straight road loss. They recently set a new record in that category. The previous mark was 10.

      Cam Atkinson’s team-leading 23rd goal at 6:10 of the second period pulled the Flyers even at 1-1.

      Atkinson positioned himself in the slot and used the backhand side of his stick to deflect Justin Braun’s point shot past goalie Anton Forsberg.

      The Flyers knew this was going to be a tough game after they invested so much emotional spirit in Thursday night’s come-from-behind win.

      Atkinson didn’t want to use that as an alibi.

      “No, I think it just came down to execution,’’ he said. “I had some looks there at the end. Forsberg made some really good saves. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap.’’

      The Senators scored the winning goal with Morgan Frost in the penalty box on a hooking call.

      “It’s tough (to talk strategy) when your captain’s not there,’’ Atkinson pointed out. “But I thought the guys did a great job, especially on the bench communicating, staying positive. When a guy blocked a shot or made a play. . .we need more of that. Some guys were doing that and we need more of that going forward.’’

      Ottawa jumped to a 1-0 lead on Tim Stutzle’s goal at 10:45 of the first period. Stutzle’s shot eluded netminder Martin Jones.

      The Flyers looked a bit slow getting out of the gate.

      “We may have seemed a little bit tired,’’ Yeo said before the game. “We didn’t have a morning skate today, just a meeting at the hotel. In talking to some guys, they didn’t get to sleep until real late. But we’re not accepting excuses.’’

      After the game, Yeo said he had no problem with the Flyers’ compete level.

      “I don’t think compete and effort were an issue tonight,’’ he said. “Certainly the energy level, I think where I noticed it most we weren’t as aggressive as we want to be on the forecheck, pursuit and pressure. I saw spurts of it, the goal that we scored was a good example. I thought it (shortage of energy) affects your decision making. We made a lot of decisions that put us in a tough position.’’

      Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen did his best to light a bit of a fire under his teammates, at one point taking on Ottawa star Brady Tkachuk in what amounted to a headlock contest.

      >Frost’s expanded role

      With Giroux not in the lineup, Yeo said he planned to give Frost an expanded role against the Senators.

      “We’ve spent a lot of time talking about this,’’ Yeo said prior to the game. “We want to put him in a position to succeed, show what he can do.’’

      Yeo was also encouraged by the play of Kevin Hayes in Thursday night’s game against the Predators. Hayes scored the tying goal and assisted on the winner.

      “That’s the best game he’s played all year,’’ said Yeo, mindful of all the time Hayes missed on the injury list. “He resembled far more the Hayes that we all know. It’s extremely important if we can make him feel good about his game, playing down the stretch and into next year.’’

      >Short shots

      Atkinson’s goal was just his sixth on the road this season. . .The Flyers return to action on Sunday when they play host to the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s a 2 p.m. start.

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About Wayne Fish 2409 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.