PHILADELPHIA – It was officially billed by marketing people as The Thanksgiving Showdown.
In hindsight, they probably could have promoted it as The Thanksgiving Beatdown.
So badly were the injury-strapped Flyers overmatched in their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was hardly worth calling it anything but a downer, at least for the home fans.
The visitors scored early and often on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center, then went on to a 4-1 win over the Flyers, extending the Flyers’ winless streak to nine games (0-7-2).
That’s one loss short of tying the second-longest streak (10) in team history (which has been done four times). The record is 13 games, set last season.
Things went so badly that coach John Tortorella decided to pull starting goaltender Carter Hart after the Penguins’ fourth goal at 13:37 of the second period. Hart was replaced by backup Felix Sandstrom, raising questions about which goalie will get the start in Saturday night’s game at the New York Islanders.
When things go this badly, players get asked questions about comparisons to last season’s long streaks of futility. Most of them respond with answers such as this is a different season, different players and the effort is still there.
“I don’t think you can do that (look back),’’ Zack MacEwen said. “I think you have to stick together as a team. The only way we’re going to get out of this is together. Focus on doing things right, day in, day out.
“I think we’re giving ourselves a chance to win games. We’ve been in a lot of games, we’ve had bounces that have turned the game to go the other way. You get a lot of guys out of the lineup and it is what it is. Everybody who’s playing has been in the NHL. Doing things right is going to get us out ot it.’’
Philadelphia did show some energy in the opening minutes but that quickly disappeared. Nic Deslauriers and Nick Seeler tried to get things recharged with fights but to no avail.
“We tried, that’s for sure,’’ Deslauriers said. “We might have had some bursts of energy but at the same time all the mistakes are on us.’’
Are injuries catching up to the Flyers?
“Yeah,’’ Deslauriers said. “No excuses though. But it’s a chance for young guys and guys like me to prove that they want to play more. We can’t go down that path of saying, ‘injuries, injuries.’ We have some good players out but those are times to prove that if you’re a young guy you want to be in the NHL.’’
Added veteran Tony DeAngelo, “Tough time for us now. We have to try to put this behind us. Try to find a way to win one. It’s frustrating for everybody.’’
Kevin Hayes had to work through two lengthy streaks last year. He knows the only way out is to keep at it.
“When you lose eight or nine in a row, I don’t think motivation needs to be found, it should be there every night,’’ he said. “Honestly it (last year’s two streaks) really hasn’t crossed my mind. I think those streaks are kind of for the media and everyone who reads about our team. I don’t think there’s a correlation – it’s a new 60 minutes every night.’’
The Flyers surrendered Pittsburgh’s first two goals in the first period. It’s the 11th time this season the Flyers have fallen behind by that margin.
Pittsburgh’s initial marker came at 11:39. Hart was able to stop Teddy Blueger’s initial try but Josh Archibald cleaned up the rebound.
Then Flyers fans’ favorite Sidney Crosby made it 2-0 with 30.5 seconds left in the period. Crosby tipped in a long shot for his 52nd goal in 81 career games against the Flyers. In 81 alltime games, he has 121 points with a plus-13.
The drubbing continued in the second period. Blueger’s innocent-looking shot from the point was tipped in by Ryan Poehling at 2:59.
When Blueger outmuscled a puck away from Travis Sanheim and set up a short shot by Poehling, that was it for Hart.
Only a goal by Hayes at 10:04 of the third period prevented the Flyers from being shut out.
Tortorella said the problem with this game was a lack of energy on his team’s part.
What was the problem? The Flyers had Thanksgiving off and didn’t hold a morning skate (due to the 5:30 p.m. start).
“We were flat,’’ he said. “I don’t think the guys are spending too much time on what the record is or how many we’ve lost. I think they’ve tried to be better each and every night. I just thought we were flat. I was happy with the way we started the game. I just don’t think we had much juice tonight.’’
Both Deslauriers and Seeler started the aforementioned fights to try to get the Flyers going but neither seemed to have the desired effect. Deslauriers got the best of Marcus Pettersson after the Flyer decked Kris Letang. Later, Seeler outpunched Brock McGinn but nothing much came of that either. . .The Flyers’ special teams continue to take a nosedive. Going into Friday’s game, the Flyers’ power play had fallen to 29th in the NHL at 14.9 percent. The penalty kill hasn’t been much better, ranking 26th at 74.2 percent. . .MacEwen was awarded a penalty shot at 7:17 of the third period. His try was stopped by goalie Tristan Jarry.