PHILADELPHIA – If there’s one thing the Flyers have to work on in the offseason, it’s late-game defense.
Even when they score three or four goals for the game, they can’t seem to stop an opponent from matching them score for score.
Such was the case again on Saturday night. The Flyers were locked in a 2-2 tie after two periods but then surrendered four goals in the third.
Auston Matthews’ 51st goal of the season at 7:41 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie and sent the Maple Leafs on to a 6-3 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers’ defense was at its worst after the Matthews goal. Pierre Engvall made it 4-2 at 11:23. The Flyers then cut the edge when Ivan Provorov scored, but Toronto once again lit the red light on a goal by Morgan Rielly and the Flyers had nothing left. John Tavares added a sixth goal with 4:11 left on the clock.
“We bent and broke a little bit in the third period,’’ said interim coach Mike Yeo in a bit of an understatement. “We have to try to make some plays but you also have to make sure you don’t get beaten by their transition game. We made more mistakes in the third period than they did. They have a lot of skill and they capitalized on those.’’
The coach wants more than 40-minute efforts. He’s looking for something around 60.
“We certainly can’t be satisfied with that (two good periods),’’ he said. “This is where we have to demand more, make sure we play the whole 60. It’s not OK to just do it for 20 minutes, not OK for 40. We have to make sure we do it for 60. That’s the thing that’s been lacking in our game, the consistency. When we get careless, we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot.’’
After a scoreless first period, the game opened up in the second period as each team scored twice.
Kevin Hayes and Provorov each helped the other score goals in a fast-skating stanza.
Hayes began the scoring at 3:56 when Provorov executed a spin-around move and hit Hayes wide open at the far post.
Toronto countered with goals from ex-Flyer Wayne Simmonds at 10:23 and Timothy Liljegren at 11:32. Simmonds scored on a breakaway as his initial try slid off his stick but the puck hopped in off Carter Hart’s skate. Just 69 seconds later, Liljegren took the rebound off an endboard and beat Hart to the near post.
But the Provorov-Hayes connection struck again at 14:33. Standing below the goal line, Hayes found Provorov cutting across the middle for a high shot past Toronto goalie Jack Campbell.
“Too many turnovers in the third,’’ was Hayes’ assessment of the game. “Not enough traffic at their net.’’
>Hayes reacts to end of Yandle streak
Hayes, a childhood buddy of Keith Yandle, discussed his emotions upon learning the defenseman’s 989-game ironman streak was coming to an end in this game.
It’s Hayes’ belief the Flyers’ poor season led to this.
“Playing that many games in a row is not something that a lot of people do,’’ Hayes said. “Obviously that’s why he has a streak for so long. We (the Flyers) put ourselves in this situation, having the year that we’ve had. We need young guys from college, from the AHL to see what they can do. Decisions need to be made every day. It’s truly on us why he had to sit a game. I can’t say I agree with it.’’
Hayes quantified Yandle’s importance to the spirt of the team.
“The impact that Keith has on me and the guys in that locker room is something that can’t be measured,’’ Hayes said. “What he provides for the young guys on this team is something that no one else can do. He’s a role model for a lot of people.’’
>Attard makes debut
Defenseman Ronnie Attard, just signed out of Western Michigan University this week, made his Flyers debut. He wore No. 47 and was placed on the Flyers’ first defense pairing with Ivan Provorov for the first shift of the game. Later he played on a pairing with Nick Seeler.
One of the highlights of Attard’s evening was a board check he threw at Toronto’s Nicolas Abruzzese which nearly knocked him over into the player bench.
Yeo liked what he saw.
“Good start for him,’’ Yeo said. “I think there were a couple times where he was pressing the issue a little bit, got caught on the wrong side of things. I liked his assertiveness, his range. He looks like he’s willing to shoot the puck. A good first game for him.’’
Attard got over some early nerves.
“A little bit of nerves at the beginning,’’ he said. “First game, first shift under my belt. They’re a good team, if you get lax and don’t pay attention to detail, they’re going to put the puck in the back of the net.’’
He even got a taste of the power play.
“It’s just knowing where guys are,’’ he said. “Definitely started to feel more comfortable in that spot. There’s still a lot to improve on but I’m going to take it as a learning experience.’’
Provorov finished with a two goals and an assist and Yeo said his defenseman has been playing well for quite some time.
“I think what was different the puck went in for him,’’ Yeo said. “I do like he was shooting the puck more. I’ve been happy with Provy’s game for a period of time. He was very aggressive, assertive. It was was not like he was pressing the issue, he was keeping the play in front of him.’’
Simmonds got into it with Flyers tough guy Zack MacEwen during a disagreement in the third period and Simmonds clearly came out the winner. . .The Flyers return to action when they visit the New York Rangers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. . .Nick Seeler appeared to suffer a leg injury in a board collision in the second period. He did not return to action.