PHILADELPHIA – Carter Hart gave up a bad bounce goal in Thursday night’s loss to Tampa Bay and called it one of the worst of his pro hockey career.
On Saturday night, another puck on an unexpected play wound up behind the Flyers netminder at a crucial juncture in the game and this time luck had nothing to do with it.
With the Flyers playing admirably and holding the Metro Division-leading New Jersey Devils to a 1-1 tie after two periods, Hart stopped an entry puck behind his net early in the third period and tried to clear it.
But the attempt failed miserably.
The puck bounced off New Jersey’s Miles Wood (with Flyers defenseman Nick Seeler nearby) and right to teammate Dawson Mercer for an easy tap-in at 1:49.
That marker sent the Flyers on their way to a 3-2 loss at the Wells Fargo Center.
Jack Hughes added a third New Jersey goal at 6:56 when his initial shot hit Hart’s mask and the Devil sniper planted the rebound.
The Flyers got close when Lukas Sedlak scored with 4:48 to play but that’s where the comeback attempt ended. Joel Farabee put a puck in the net with 4:10 left on the clock but that play was waved off by officials. Morgan Frost was standing in the crease when the puck entered the net.
After the game, Hart said the breakdown behind the net on Jersey’s second goal was just a case of “miscommunication.’’
“I think we played a great 60 (minutes),’’ Hart said. “It just comes down to goaltending. I have to be better. I have to make a few more saves, make some better plays. Learn from it, move on and I will be better.’’
The Flyers did outshoot the Devils, 31-18, and really didn’t allow a lot of great scoring chances. But New Jersey made the most of what it got, including the go-ahead goal.
“We need to communicate better with each other,’’ Hart said of the mixup with Seeler. “We’ll talk it out and go over some stuff in practice.’’
Like Hart, Seeler was not about to throw his teammate under the bus.
“Miscommunication,’’ he said, echoing Hart’s remarks. “I’ll have to take a peak at it (on tape) and go from there.’’
The players were pretty much in agreement they outplayed the Devils but just committed a few crucial mistakes.
“I think we’ve had quite a few of those games where we played really well and there were just a couple shifts here and there that cost us,’’ Seeler said. “But I thought there were a lot of positives coming out of tonight.’’
A visibly upset coach John Tortorella limited his post-game press conference to a tidy 49 seconds.
“I don’t think we had many lapses tonight,’’ he said. Asked for possible reasons for what lapses there were, he responded, “I’ll leave that one alone. You’re asking really dumb questions. We played our ass off.’’
Philadelphia surrendered the first goal of the game for the 19th time in 25 games, this one coming at 6:01 of the second period.
However, the Flyers responded on a power play and stayed even going into the second intermission.
Noah Cates, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny clicked with the extra-man advantage. In a tic-tac-toe play, Hayes found Cates down low and he connected with Konecny in the slot for a shot past goalie Akira Schmid at 7:41.
Cates is making the most of his opportunity to play with two veterans.
“Those are two of our top guys so I’ve got to play hard,’’ Cates said. “I have to work for them and try to get them the puck. It’s a big opportunity for me.’’
Konecny has produced 21 points in 19 games.
The right wing said he couldn’t explain why his team suddenly had a couple breakdowns after dominating for the first two periods.
“We did a lot of good things,’’ he said. “I love that we stuck with it. We have to find a way to win. It’s just not happening. As much as we had positives, we’re still angry we lost the game. There’s just little breakdowns in the game that good teams are going to capitalize on.’’
The Devils broke the scoreless tie at 6:01 of the second period when Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov turned the puck over behind his own net. That led to a goal by Fabian Zetterlund.
The Flyers got off to a good start in a scoreless first period. They made a concerted effort to close down the middle and somewhat neutralize Jersey’s speed.
As a result, the Devils were held to a season-low four shots for a period, while the Flyers amassed 12.
The Flyers entered the game second in the NHL with 739 hits and blocked shots, 433. . .After a day off on Sunday, the Flyers return to action on Monday night when they play host to the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.