With a record of 17-14-3 against the Western Conference, the Flyers figured to be competitive in their ongoing five-game road trip through America’s heartland.
Sunday’s game at Nashville was no exception.
A recent win over St. Louis sandwiched by spirited efforts against Detroit and Colorado had kept the Flyers’ energy level up.
Which could explain why the Flyers were still in a 4-4 battle with the playoff-bound Predators as time wound down at Bridgestone Arena.
Then the bottom fell out as Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot scored with 1:19 to play for a 5-4 victory. The Flyers are now 1-3-0 with one game to play on the excursion.
It has to be frustrating when a team plays so hard for 58-plus minutes and then winds up with nothing for the effort.
“I think tonight at the blue lines we were making some risky plays,’’ Joel Farabee said. “They’re a really good team when they pick up speed in the neutral zone. If you turn the puck over against them, it’s probably not a good thing. I think we can be a little cleaner in the D-zone but overall I thought it was a decent effort. We put ourselves in a position to win, but there are definitely some things to clean up.’’
It certainly looked that way in the second period when Philadelphia’s players really got running around.
After taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Flyers surrendered four goals in that middle stanza but still came away with a 4-4 tie at the second intermission.
“The best offense is a good defense,’’ said Farabee, citing a time-worn line from just about any sport. “At the end of the day I think defense is what cost us the game tonight.’’
The first of two Yakov Trenin goals at the 41-second mark cut the Flyers’ lead in half but Max Willman responded by blocking a shot, breaking in and scoring at 2:23 to restore the two-goal margin.
Then Nashville rattled off three straight goals.
The first two game just 46 seconds apart. Trenin got his second, then Luke Kunin connected to tie the score at 3-3. Filip Forsberg’s career-high 37th goal at 18:13 gave Nashville its first lead but James van Riemsdyk responded with a blast from the left hash marks 59 seconds later for the 4-4 deadlock.
In the first period, Morgan Frost picked up where he left off in a previous game against the Predators back on March 17 at the Wells Fargo Center. Frost had a goal and an assist in the 5-4 win in the earlier games and he got off to a quick start in Sunday’s game as well.
Frost stole a puck from Forsberg, pivoted and set up Travis Sanheim for a short blast and a 1-0 lead at 2:15.
“I don’t think I play like that every game which is what I expect of myself right now,’’ Frost said. “I’m learning. Doing some of things that the coaches ask. I’m just trying to get better for sure.
Added Sanheim: “I saw a chance to jump up. He made a great play. Initially I tried to tell him we had numbers. I know that he can make the play. After that, I let him decide what he wanted to do.”
Farabee made it 2-0 at 17:27. Van Riemsdyk’s entry deflected to Farabee, who watched goalie Juuse Saros lose sight of the puck and turn the wrong way, allowing Farabee to flip a backhander into the net.
That goal established a new career-high five-game point streak for Farabee.
Meanwhile, goaltender Martin Jones appeared to carry over some momentum from his role in Thursday night’s 5-2 win at St. Louis. The Predators kept the heat on with shot after shot but Jones was up to the task. It was a bit of a different story in the second period.
Interim head coach Mike Yeo has seen his fill of these late crushing goals. But he’s hoping players learn from their mistakes.
“That’s a team that checks well,’’ Yeo noted. “That was the biggest issue (spending too much time in the defensive zone) there. You give up that amount of time in your defensive zone. They’re going to find some looks. Jones battled, the whole team battled. They were scraps, there were hits, there were guys blocking shots. It wasn’t a lack of effort.’’
>Noah Cates signs contract
The Flyers announced they have signed forward Noah Cates, the club’s fifth-round pick (137th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, to a two-year entry-level contract that will begin this season (2021-22), according to GM Chuck Fletcher.
Cates will join the team in Minnesota for the final game of their road trip on Tues., Mar. 29.
“Noah has had an exceptional collegiate career and we’re happy to have him signed,” said Fletcher. “Noah is a versatile and responsible two-way player who has helped Minnesota-Duluth win a national championship and represented the United States on both the World Junior and Olympic stages. We have followed his progress closely and are excited to watch his continued growth in our organization.”
Cates, 23, turns professional after four full seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, including the last two as team captain, and helped the Bulldogs win the 2019 NCAA title.
Cates’ brother, Jackson Cates, also played at UMD and is currently under contract with the Flyers. He has appeared in 11 games with the Flyers this season. Noah is the eighth member, out of nine players, selected in the 2017 Flyers draft class, to sign a contract with the Flyers.
Rasmus Ristolainen, who leads the NHL in hits for March, dropped a serious check on Nashville’s Alexander Carrier (among others) and Sanheim noted it’s nice to play with that kind of physical presence on the ice.
“He does a good job of playing that role,” Sanheim said. “If he can knock guys over, it sounds pretty good to me.”
Travis Konecny returned to the lineup after sitting out Friday night’s 6-3 loss at Colorado with a lower-body injury. . .The Flyers went back to a 12-forward lineup after dressing only 11 (with an extra defenseman) the previous three games on the five-game road trip. . .Nashville defenseman Roman Josi extended his point-scoring streak to 13 games, a career high.