PHILADELPHIA – When a rebuilding team like the Flyers has such a small margin for error, special teams play can be a make-it-or-break-it proposition.
In Sunday afternoon’s game against the Dallas Stars, the Flyers had more break than make.
Perfect example: Down 3-1 at the start of the third period, the Flyers went on a power play and needed only 10 seconds to surrender a back-breaking shorthanded goal to the visitors.
Coach John Tortorella said that play basically made the difference in a 5-1 loss to the Stars, extending the Flyers’ losing streak to three games.
Tortorella said he couldn’t find fault in his team’s effort at the Wells Fargo Center. It was more about the execution, particularly on special teams.
The Flyers 0 for 6 on the power play. On the flip side, they allowed the Stars to score twice in three chances on their power play.
“I think we were right there going into the third,’’ Tortorella said after the game. “We played some really good hockey. The shorthanded goal, it’s hard to recover. Special teams have been a problem.
“They (special teams) have been slipping the past couple games. The thing that bothered me the most was the shorthanded goal. What if we score on that power play? I think our effort is there.’’
As for the Flyers’ power play, the struggles continue. They now have scored just three times in the last 28 attempts.
“We haven’t been able to finish,’’ Tortorella explained. “(Goalie Jake) Oettinger was just tremendous tonight. You could just see how much confidence he had. We need to put some people in front of him, score some deflection goals. That’s the difference going into the third period. We had some good offensive chances, we just didn’t finish.’’
Is the power play fixable?
“I think it is,’’ the coach said. “I think we have some good players there. It’s been a very important part of us at the beginning of this year with some of our wins. The power play is something I believe we can get going. That’s the only way we can stay in these games, get some goals kicked in by the power play.
In their current losing streak, Philadelphia has only put the puck in the net four times.
The players believe they can turn things around with a few changes.
“It was the difference in the game again, special teams,’’ Scott Laughton said. “You just have to bear down and bury a couple. On the penalty kill, get in lanes, stop them from getting in the middle of the ice. We have to simplify our power play, put more pucks on net with a little more downhill pressure. Probably won a couple games in the first stretch with special teams and lost the last two because of it.’’
Ivan Provorov agreed.
“I think special teams really cost us the game,’’ he said. “We have to figure out quick how to fix both. On the power play, I think the puck movement has to be a little bit better and better execution on entries. We have to have a little more of a shooting mentality would help.’’
The Flyers entered the game having scored just 36 goals in 14 matches, the lowest total in the Eastern Conference and second-fewest in the NHL.
Aside from a goal by Travis Konecny just 54 seconds into the second period, the Flyers spent the matinee encounter firing blanks.
The Stars didn’t have such trouble.
They raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period, with Matej Blumel and Esa Lindell getting pucks past Felix Sandstrom, starting in place of Carter Hart because of a back-to-back situation.
The Flyers have allowed opponents to score first in 11 of their 15 games this season.
Blumel scored just 2:36 into the game and then Lindell’s long shot eluded Sandstrom at 18:24. It could have been worse because Tyler Seguin also put a puck past Sandstrom but the Flyers challenged the play (offside) and won it on review.
Konecny finished off a tic-tac-toe play with Owen Tippett and Kevin Hayes with a shot past Oettinger. After that, the Flyers’ sticks went silent.
Dallas padded its lead at 9:06 of the second when Joe Pavelski tipped Miro Heiskanen’s shot over Sandstrom’s blocker.
In the third, the Flyers went on a power play but Dallas needed only 10 seconds to score a shorthanded goal, with Luke Glendening tipping in a shot at the 57-second mark. Later in the period, Jason Robertson scored to account for the final margin.
The Flyers had no new updates on the condition of right wing Wade Allison, who left Saturday’s game against Ottawa with an undisclosed injury. . .The Flyers will be off from practice on Monday and resume action on Tuesday in Columbus, where they played last Thursday (a 5-2 defeat). . .The team-record 59 hits the Flyers recorded on Saturday were the ninth-most in NHL history. . .Pavelski’s goal was the 429th of his career, tying him for eighth place on the U.S.-born alltime goal scoring list.