Winning three straight games usually isn’t a big deal for the Flyers in an average season.
But as followers of this team are quick to point out, this isn’t your average Flyers season.
The Flyers tried to make it three victories in a row at Chicago on Monday night, but despite a great performance from rookie goaltender Felix Sandstrom, came up a bit short in a 3-1 loss at the United Center.
Sandstrom finished the night stopping 30 of 33 shots.
And so the Flyers will complete this season with only one three-game winning run (their high for the campaign, by the way).
It’s not like the Flyers have had a lot of chances to complete a “hat trick’’ lately. Their previous two-game winning streak was way back in the first week of March.
Special teams have been an issue with the Flyers all season and this game was no exception. Although Philadelphia managed to keep Chicago off the board in five power-play attempts, killing penalties can be draining.
Meanwhile, the Flyers’ worst in the NHL power play went zero for four and continues to stagger along at a historically bad 12 percent.
Despite giving up a pair of goals in the first period, Sandstrom got off to a pretty good start. Chicago tested him on a number of occasions and the Swede responded with some acrobatic saves.
“He was great, outstanding,’’ interim head coach Mike Yeo said. “He did a hell of a job to settle into the game. He really gave us a chance. Made some huge saves through the course of the night, especially on the penalty kill.’’
Kevin Hayes appreciated Sandstrom’s effort.
“We need to respond no matter what the score is,’’ he said. “I thought at any moment we could have tied it up. I thought Felix played great. It was a tough one.’’
This hardly looked like the same Flyer team which dominated playoff-bound Pittsburgh one night earlier in Philadelphia.
“The intentions were good,’’ Yeo insisted. “What we did so well against Pittsburgh we didn’t do tonight. We didn’t manage the puck very well. We turned over pucks really easy. You can’t control the game if you can’t control the puck.
Penalties are usually caused by poor positioning or a lack of hustle. Probably both were to blame in this particular game.
“We weren’t good enough with the puck tonight,’’ Yeo said, “against a team that transitions really well – a dangerous team off the rush. We gave them a lot of opportunities with that. We spent too much time in the box. It’s tough to come back when you’re killing penalties constantly.’’
Added Hayes: “They have elite players on their power play. The more touches they get, the more confident they’re going to be. It’s tough to win games when you give guys like Patrick Kane 10 minutes of power-play time.’’
Ex-Flyer defenseman Erik Gustafsson put the Blackhawks on the board first with a goal just 1:44 into action. The Flyers were slow on a defensive backcheck, leaving Gustafsson open for a blast from the top of the right circle.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews then made it 2-0. The sequence began with Flyers rookie Bobby Brink turning the puck over at the end of a power play. Toews jumped out of the box, took an outlet pass and beat Sandstrom off a breakaway at 6:15.
The Flyers got one back when Scott Laughton executed a nifty no-look pass to Hayes off a two-on-one rush for an easy tap-in past goalie Kevin Lankinen at 8:03.
Alex DeBrincat scored at 7:45 of the third period to restore Chicago’s two-goal margin.
“I thought we played a pretty solid game,’’ Travis Konecny offered. “We stuck in it for quite a bit there. Then they got that one (third goal) and we were kind of chasing after that.
The Flyers move on to Winnipeg for a Wednesday night game against the Jets. . .Konecny recorded his 51st point in Sunday’s 4-1 win and moved past the injured Cam Atkinson into the Flyers’ lead for points.