PHILADELPHIA – It’s back to the drawing board for the slumping Flyers.
Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the last-place Montreal Canadiens leaves them with a 1-5-1 mark over the past seven games and makes that 7-1 stretch in January seem like an even more distant memory.
Unlike Tuesday night’s 4-2 competitive setback in Edmonton, the Flyers were never in this one against the Atlantic Division cellar dwellars.
Strange, because the Flyers had not played since the Oiler game, so fatigue was an unlikely factor.
Coach John Tortorella sounded like he couldn’t really put a finger on the lack of energy.
This was the third time in the last six games the Flyers have come out and laid an egg.
“Sometimes those road trips (the recently completed 1-3 treak through the west) work against you,” Tortorella said. “Coming across the time zones. You never know, that first game back is a tough one. It’s hard to pinpoint an answer. As a group we were sluggish right on through.”
Montreal, coming off a recent win over Metro Division powerhouse New Jersey, skated around and through a lax Flyers defense at the Wells Fargo Center.
“The biggest glare for me tonight was how many pucks we were beaten to,” Tortorella said. “That (Montreal) is a quick team. They were quicker to pucks. That’s why we got stuck in our end zone. The biggest concern was the lack of quickness.
“There are two or three guys I have concerns about. It’s so hard when your whole team looks sluggish to really pinpoint something. Is it a concern? Absolutely. Tonight was not a full group effort.”
The Canadiens picked up a pair of goals in the first period from David Savard and Chris Tierney, plus a third goal by Nick Suzuki in the second period. They added two more goals in the third.
Carter Hart was okay in goal for the Flyers but didn’t get much support from his teammates.
Playing without leading scorer Travis Konecny (upper-body injury) the Flyers failed to mount any consistent pressure on Canadiens goalie Jake Allen.
Savard’s goal came as no real surprise as Montreal kept the puck in the Flyers’ zone for the better part of two minutes.
The crusher may have come on Tierney’s goal. There were only 4.8 seconds left in the period when Michael Pezzetta dove at the end line and got the puck to Tierney for a 2-0 lead.
Montreal moved three goals ahead in the second period when Wade Allison was penalized for starting a fight with Alex Belzile. On the ensuing power play, Nick Suzuki scored at 7:12.
A goal by Owen Tippett just nine seconds into the third period gave the Flyers some life but the rally fizzled. Montreal got a goal from Jesse Ylonen at 6:26 to put to rest any notion of a comeback by Philadelphia. Josh Anderson added a goal at 12:12 and the Flyers got one back from Ivan Provorov with 1:28 to play.
Both Scott Laughton and Joel Farabee were equally perplexed by their team’s lack of fire throughout the 60 minutes.
“Come home from a long road trip and don’t play the way we’re supposed to,” Laughton said. “We have to be way more connected with the puck. Make things happen for ourselves. It’s mostly one and done. You spend a lot of time in your D-zone. I just think we were off tonight. They played with the puck and we watched.”
Farabee went his 19th straight game without a goal. He acknowledged the goal by Tierney was unacceptable.
“Any time you give up a goal in the last minute of a period, it kind of deflates you a little bit,” he said. “It took kind of a weird hop but honestly it wasn’t our night. We were chasing a lot. I think the effort was there, we just didn’t make enough plays.”
Tippett finished with a season-high eight shots and probably was the only Flyer with consistent push in his game.
“Sometimes come off a hard road trip the time change can mess with you,” he said. “We didn’t start off the way we wanted to and it just wasn’t our night.”
One thing the Flyers really need to work on is their faceoff execution. They are winning only 45.5 percent of their draws, which ranks 30th in the NHL. When a team continues to lose critical faceoffs in their defensive zone, it’s only trouble.
The Flyers finished up a back-to-back in New Jersey on Saturday night. Goalie Sam Ersson will be looking to extend his career-starting winning streak to a seventh game.