PHILADELPHIA – A 10-4-2 streak just before the NHL All-Star break had the Flyers feeling pretty good about themselves but eight days off apparently certainly didn’t help maintain any momentum.
That was evident in Monday night’s 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers wasted a chance to get within four points of Pittsburgh for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. And now the Penguins have three games in hand.
Both teams were coming back from the lengthy pause and looked a little rusty at the start. The Flyers never really got their offense untracked.
Most of the Flyers skated a bit during the break but it seemed to take awhile to get fully engaged.
Coach John Tortorella said this is the time of year where hard-checking teams like the Islanders are going to make it tough on opponents who can’t match that intensity.
The Flyers fell behind by allowing an opponent to score first for the 31st time in 52 games.
“It was man against boys in the first period,’’ Tortorella said. “We played better in the second. We had a lot of ‘almost’ chances.
“That team knows how to check, they know how to protect a lead, a veteran group, good sticks. We’re going to find out about some people when we’re playing these games here in the checking part of it. Because teams are going to ramp that up. It’s going to be interesting to see how guys react.’’
A lot of those early deficits have taken place at the Wells Fargo Center this season, where the Flyers are now 10-13-2. When a foe hits the scoreboard first, the energy level in the stands and on the bench seems to drop.
“In general, you want to have a good start to the game,” James van Riemsdyk said. “Start off on the right foot. We know how passionate the fans are so we can use that to our advantage as far as maybe having some better starts. Tonight wasn’t the best start.”
Wade Allison said the time off was no excuse for stretches of uninspired play in this one.
“You just have to go out there and understand the puck isn’t going to quite bounce for you the way you want all the time so you just have to go out there and work harder than they do,’’ Allison said at the first intermission. “This is the kind of game we want when we come back.”
The Flyers, who dropped back under .500 again at 21-22-9, won’t be getting any more long gaps in their schedule down the stretch as they will play 30 more games in about two months.
At least the All-Star break is out of the way.
“It’s good to be back,’’ said Allison, who was injured in the Minnesota game and sat out the Winnipeg encounter just before the break. “The break was good to me. I got some time to rest. Now I’m ready to go again.”
The Islanders connected for the first two goals of the game before the Flyers woke up.
Kyle Palmieri provided the first goal at 17:07 of the first period when his shot eluded Carter Hart, ending the Isles’ power-play drought after 26 straight unsuccessful tries.
Mathew Barzal doubled the margin at 8:18. Noah Dobson executed a shot-pass and Barzal guided the puck behind Hart.
The Flyers finally broke through at 10:39. Tony DeAngelo’s point shot was tipped by Nick Deslauriers and past goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
At the second intermission, Deslauriers said the Flyers had to play a hard, physical game to keep up with the strong, speedy Islanders.
“We have to play the hard-nosed game that we used to play in that last month,” Deslauriers said. “That break was much needed for us. This is a big test.”
Tortorella basically went with three lines for the third period in an attempt to get his offense untracked. That meant his only goal-scorer was sitting on the bench for final 20 minutes.
Later, Deslauriers added: “We didn’t come out as hard at the start as we’re used to. When you’re chasing the game the whole way, you have to cut the bench.”
Justin Braun was a healthy scratch. . .The Flyers used lines they employed against Winnipeg in a 4-0 shutout win just before the NHL All-Star break. Scott Laughton centered Kevin Hayes and Owen Tippett; Noah Cates worked the pivot with van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny; Morgan Frost played center with Joel Farabee and Allison on his flanks and Patrick Brown saw action in the middle with Deslauriers and Kieffer Bellows on the wings. . . Konecny’s goal drought hit nine games dating back to Jan. 11. . .The Flyers are off until Thursday when they play host to the Edmonton Oilers.