NEWARK, N.J. – Sam Ersson’s unbeaten streak was going to come to an end at some point but no one on the Flyers could have imagined how the rookie goaltender was going to be abandoned so much by his teammates.
The New Jersey Devils were allowed to skate freely from one end of the ice to the other and Ersson, a rookie goalie, tried his hardest to blunt that attack.
But it wasn’t enough.
The Devils broke open a scoreless tie with three second period goals and added four more in the third, handing Ersson his first defeat after a 6-0-0 start.
The 7-0 setback on Saturday night at the Prudential Center dropped the Flyers’ record in the past eight games to 1-6-1. It was the Flyers’ largest margin of defeat this season and their worst loss ever to the Devils.
Ersson’s streak was the second-best in Flyers history.
After the game, Ersson was assigned back to the Phantoms for an upcoming game against the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
“Ers is fine,” coach John Tortorella said. “It sucks he has to eat all seven but that’s part of the process for a No. 2 goalie. He’ll be fine. Look past this one in his development – I think it’s probably going to help him along the way.”
Devils goaltender Akira Schmid recorded the shutout.
Despite the eye-opening margin of defeat, Tortorella said effort wasn’t the problem. Execution might have been a different story. Turnovers by Scott Laughton (on the second Devil goal) and Morgan Frost (on the third) contributed to the defensive woes.
“I don’t think we were that bad in the second period,” the coach said. “Where I thought we started faltering is when we started turning pucks over.
“It’s not effort-based. We have to be smart, have to have the mindset that we had in the two Edmonton games (a 2-1 shootout win and a loss in which the Flyers led 2-1 after two periods). We have to think about winning games 2-1 because we’re just not built to make a lot of offensive plays right now. The effort’s there, I just don’t think we’re using our heads in understanding how we have to play. I think that falls on me to make sure they understand that.”
New Jersey picked up goals from Jonas Siegenthaler, Jack Hughes and Dawson Mercer in the middle frame.
Siegenthaler’s shot hit a Flyer defender’s stick and went past Ersson at 2:59 of the second period.
The Devils took advantage of a Scott Laughton turnover to make it 2-0 at 8:35. Hughes, the leading scorer on the Devils, notched his 36th of the season on a breakaway effort, sliding a backhand shot under Ersson.
Then Dawson Mercer scored with exactly one minute to play in the period and it was time for the Flyers to warm up the bus.
Nico Hischier added a goal at 4:05 of the third and Dougie Hamilton piled on moments later on a play where Ersson was bumped by Nathan Bastian. Jesper Bratt and Nathan Bastian scored the final two New Jersey goals.
Ersson voiced accountability for the seven goals but doesn’t sound like he’s lost too much confidence in himself at the NHL level.
“I think the score speaks for itself,” he said with a grin. “It’s not OK. Stuff happens, it’s not fun. We have to be able to handle this and battle back next couple games.
“I let in seven goals, I can’t be happy. I want to win every game. I think I’ve shown that I’m able to handle adversity. That’s the way you have to take it, on the chin.”
Tortorella isn’t certain even a tighter checking effort would have helped because of the talent gap.
“I’m not sure we win the game even if we button it down tonight,” Tortorella said. “They’re that good, Jersey. But we wouldn’t be crawling out of this building the way we are tonight.
“We’re going to keep working at it. I’m not worried about the room. We just have to sustain the mental thought of how we have to play. We were so focused in those two Edmonton games because we knew what was coming with (Connor) McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl. This team (the Devils) has more offense than Edmonton. I don’t why we can’t think that way. I need to get them to know how they have to play the last quarter of the year.”
Laughton knows the team could have played a lot better. It will be interesting to see if the Flyers can bounce back from this in the next few games.
“I don’t think we managed the puck very well,” he conceded. “I turned one over. We have to forget about this, continue to push and have these young guys come in and learn something.”
>Coach praises Ersson
Prior to the game, Tortorella gave a positive evaluation of Ersson.
“It’s his mindset,” Tortorella said. “I think he’s been in some situations where it just kind of rolls off him. It doesn’t let things affect him – good things, bad things. He’s very focused at his position. He plays very well and carries himself very well.”
>Konecny goes on IR
Travis Konecny missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury and was placed on the injured reserve list. He was sidelined after being cross-checked from behind by Edmonton defenseman MacKenzie Weeger in Tuesday night’s game in Canada.
The Flyers return to action on Wednesday when they play host to the New York Rangers. . .Laughton played in his 498th NHL game on Saturday night and should hit the 500 mark next Saturday when the Flyers play Detroit.