The first commandment when you play Edmonton: Thou shalt not let Connor McDavid score.
For the second time in less than two weeks, the Flyers attempted to put the brakes on the NHL’s leading scorer. Only this time McDavid had the last laugh.
McDavid completed a three-goal third period rally when he scored a pair of goals to give the Oilers a 4-2 win on Tuesday night.
Before the game, coach John Tortorella revealed his game plan and he needed only three words to do it: “It’s check first.”
That’s exactly what the Flyers did for two periods. But, playing on the second half of a back-to-back, the Flyers ran out of gas and lost at Rogers Place.
Unlike their performance in a 2-1 win over Edmonton on Feb. 9 – one in which they did not allow the Oilers a single power play (a first for Edmonton all season) — the Flyers took two bad penalties in this game and both were costly.
Goalie Carter Hart, a native of the Edmonton area, suffered the defeat and saw his career record against Edmonton drop to 3-3.
Philadelphia finished its four-game western trip with a 1-3 record.
The Flyers entered the game with a 16-0-1 mark when leading after two periods.
Overall, Tortorella was satisfied with the way his team played, especially given the circumstances.
“Four games in six nights,” he said. “I’m proud of the team. We don’t find a way to finish the game. The penalties were a key thing the first time we played them. . .staying out of the box. That hurt us tonight.
“I thought the team laid it out there. Did all the things we asked of them. Checked – we played a hard game. Just couldn’t find a way to win. It’s been a long trip and they’ve handled themselves very well.”
Philadelphia was without the services of Travis Konecny, who suffered an upper-body injury in Monday afternoon’s 4-3 win at Calgary. Konecny, who was hurt when he was cross-checked from behind by defenseman MacKenzie Weeger, will have the injury assessed when the Flyers return to Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Of course, the Flyers missed Konecny’s offense but he’s also a big part of the team’s penalty kill.
Two first two Edmonton goals coming on the power play were critical.
“It (losing Konecny) hurts our lineup tremendously,” Tortorella said prior to the game. “The game plan doesn’t change. Staying out of the box.”
As mentioned, the Flyers did not take a single penalty in that 2-1 shootout win at Philadelphia on Feb. 9.
“You look at their numbers, they (the Oilers) are the highest scoring team,’’ the coach said. “A ton of that comes from their power play. I lose another penalty killer in TK. You can’t run and gun with them. You have to be in good position for your reloads and tracking back.”
The Flyers outplayed the Oilers by a fairly significant margin in the first period but came away with just a 1-1 deadlock at the intermission.
Philadelphia was just seconds away from taking a one-goal lead into the locker room but Joel Farabee took a needless high-sticking penalty in front of the Edmonton net with only six seconds to play.
On the ensuing faceoff in the Flyers zone, Tyson Barrie fired a shot through an Ivan Provorov screen and the puck floated past Hart with only 2.9 seconds left on the clock.
The Flyers took a 1-0 lead at 10:01 when Noah Cates circled the net and attempted a wrap-around shot on goalie Stuart Skinner. But the puck hit Skinner’s stick and deflected between his pads.
“I just tried to go wide, a lot of times on those wraps the goalies tend to overplay the strong side,” Cates explained at the first intermission. “So I tried to go to the far side, produce a rebound or something but it went off (the stick) and went in.”
Overall, the Flyers were satisfied with their defensive play in the first 20 minutes.
“We have to just start heading back toward our net,” Cates said. “We’re getting in the offensive zone, protecting pucks, it’s a great way to play defense.
Rookie Olle Lycksell picked up his first NHL point as the Flyers took a 2-1 lead in the second period.
Lycksell generated a turnover and Kevin Hayes took possession. He spotted Owen Tippett crashing the slot the right wing and made no mistake for his 16th goal of the season at 11:37.
The Flyers held the Oilers to just 10 shots through the first two periods.
“It’s plain and simple,’’ Tippett said. “Keep it (the puck) behind them and forecheck.”
A four-minute double minor penalty to Lycksell set up Edmonton’s tying goal at 6:49 of the third period. Leon Draisaitl did the honors. It was his 700th NHL point. McDavid had an assist on the play for his 800th NHL point.
“It’s hard to go two games without a taking a penalty against that offense,’’ Travis Sanheim said. “We have to do a better job killing them off.”
After that it was the McDavid show. He broke the 2-2 tie with 7:21 to play, then added a shorthanded empty-net goal with 2:25 to go.
>Sanheim rebounds well
After sitting out the Calgary game as a healthy scratch, Sanheim bounced back and had a good game as Ivan Provorov’s partner. Justin Braun was scratched.
“I was just trying to keep it simple,” Sanheim said. “Play harder. I got McDavid’s line the majority of the night. I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job of containing them the best we could.”
The Flyers went with 12 forwards as Kieffer Bellows returned to the lineup to spell the injured Konecny.
The Flyers are off until Friday when they play host to the Montreal Canadiens. Then they head to New Jersey for a Saturday night game against the Devils.