PHILADELPHIA – Say this much for the Flyers’ habit of finding ways to fall apart in the third period: They almost always manage to keep it interesting.
After giving up a total of seven goals in the final period of games against Toronto and the New York Rangers over the weekend, the Flyers were back at it again on Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Despite posting a whopping 49 shots on the Columbus net and rallying from an early 2-0 deficit, the Flyers found a way to give another one away when they coughed up a goal on an innocent-looking scoring attempt with 6:44 to play, resulting in a 4-2 Philadelphia loss at the Wells Fargo Center.
Justin Danforth provided the winning goal when goaltender Carter Hart whiffed on a rebound clear attempt. Columbus added an empty-net goal with 19.4 seconds to play.
“It’s a shot from the point,’’ Hart said about the winning goal. “The rebound wound up in front, I went to swipe it away and missed it.’’
Interim head coach Mike Yeo thought his team performed rather well but was just the victim of some stellar goaltending by Elvis Merzlikins, who handled 47 of those 49 attempts.
“I thought the game was pretty even, really,’’ Yeo said. “For me, the whole story of this game was the goalie. We should have had a pretty darn good lead after two periods. When a goalie is playing like that, it gives a team confidence. It was pretty even in the third, they found a way to get that winning goal. I’m disappointed for our players, I thought we did a lot of great things tonight.’’
Ivan Provorov saw it the same way.
“Yeah, that’s hockey,’’ Provorov said. “Sometimes you outplay the other team, outchance them, outshoot them. At the end of the day, they got more goals in the blue paint than we did.’’
Philadelphia has lost five of its last six, several in the closing stages.
“I think we’re trying to find ways to win,’’ Provorov said. “I think it’s the same story a lot this year. We’re just not finding ways to win. We have to get better at that.’’
The Flyers put 20 shots on net in the first period but only had one goal to show for it.
But it was a significant one. It came off the stick of rookie Noah Cates, who finished off a Patrick Brown assist at 17:35 for his first NHL career goal.
Columbus built a 2-0 lead on goals by Brendan Gaunce at 2:38 and Carson Meyer at 6:37. Gaunce connected when the Flyers were slow to cover his move behind the net. Gaunce got three whacks at the puck as it sat next to the post. The third try got it past Hart’s skate.
Meyer scored off a two-on-one when the Flyers turned the puck over, leading to a rush through center ice.
Cates finally got the Flyers on the board and after getting the puck past Merzlikins, gave it a vigorous fist pump.
“Obviously, it is super exciting,” Cates said during a first intermission interview. “It’s been a lifelong dream to score that goal and it was a pretty big goal for us. We’ve been playing pretty well this period and to get on the board is huge.”
Fellow rookie Ronnie Attard shared in the excitement.
“It was very cool,” Attard said. “I think I jumped two feet in the air when I saw it go in. Very excited for him.’’
Attard picked up an assist when James van Riemsdyk tied the score in the second period.
Added Yeo: “For both those guys (Cates, Attard) to get rewarded is great. Should give them some confidence going forward.’’
The Flyers continued their bombardment of the Columbus net with another 18 shots in the second period and finally got rewarded with the tying goal from van Riemsdyk at 13:16. JVR managed to deflect a point blast from Attard.
>Hodgson back to Phantoms
With Scott Laughton returning to the lineup, Hayden Hodgson was sent back to the Phantoms.
>Celebrating Nolan’s 50th
Prior to Saturday night’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Flyers will celebrate longtime public address announcer Lou Nolan’s 50th anniversary on the microphone and 55 years with the organization.
“For more than five decades, Lou Nolan’s voice and presence has been an essential part what it means to experience a Flyers game here in Philadelphia,” said Flyers governor Dave Scott. “Lou isn’t going anywhere, but we want to celebrate the 55 years he’s spent with the Flyers and the 50 iconic years he’s served as our public address announcer. This will be a special night for the entire Flyers family, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with Lou, his friends and family, and our fans.”
Nolan will be joined on the ice by his wife, Ellen, sons, Jeff and Matt, and daughter-in-law, Adrienne. Flyers alumni from different eras of franchise history will be on hand to honor Lou.
During warmups, Flyers players will wear custom jerseys made for the occasion with ‘NOLAN’ and the number 50. During the game, the Flyers players’ jerseys will feature a custom patch commemorating Lou Nolan on their jerseys.
Nolan is an original Flyers employee, having started his career with the team as the press box assistant during their inaugural season in 1967-68. He officially became the team’s public address announcer at the start of the 1972-73 season with his first game on Oct. 12, 1972, and is the longest serving person in that position in the National Hockey League.
The Flyers complete their home-and-home set in Columbus on Thursday.