PITTSBURGH – Whether a change of general managers had any impact on the Flyers’ play remains to be seen, but at least they were competitive in Saturday’s game at PPG Paints Arena, even if the final score didn’t reflect the measure of play.
One day after firing former president of hockey operations and GM Chuck Fletcher, then naming Danny Briere as interim general manager, the Flyers gave it their best try against the playoff-hopeful Penguins.
Despite a spirited effort, the Flyers continued to struggle on the offensive side of the puck. They scored a grand total of threes goals in road trip losses to Tampa Bay, Carolina and Pittsburgh.
So the three-game trek ended with a 5-1 defeat by the Penguins.
By all indications, coach John Tortorella had no problem with the effort his team gave. Once again, the Flyers had scoring chances but just couldn’t finish.
“I thought we played well,” he said. “A 2-1 game right to the end. It appeared they spanked us but the chances were about even. I thought our structure was good. Had some chances, just couldn’t find a way to score.”
Tortorella said the Flyers had a more organized effort than Thursday’s 1-0 loss at Carolina.
“We were better,” he said. “We weren’t flipping the puck as much. I thought we supported the puck better. ‘Tip’ (Owen Tippett) had a great chance on the power play and the goalie (Casey DeSmith) comes up with a great save.
“I think the part of our game we need to look to improve on is getting more traffic (in front of the goalie) and getting more sticks on pucks. They scored a couple that way. I liked the way we played but we lose another one.”
Why can’t the Flyers find ways to finish off chances?
“I think we can do a better job of just manufacturing some offense,” James van Riemsdyk said. “It feels like when we score now it’s either a great individual play or something flukey. We have to find ways to try to generate a little bit more. Be more predictable to our teammates and that way we get more zone time, more chances and things like that.”
A double-minor penalty for high-sticking to rookie right wing Tyson Foerster provided Pittsburgh with the opportunity to score the go-ahead goal in the second period.
On the scoring sequence, Tippett blocked a shot and crumpled to the ice in pain. Officials allowed play to continue. The puck stayed in play and wound up on the stick of Sidney Crosby, whose blast from the right faceoff dot eluded Carter Hart at 6:49.
For his career 82 games against the Flyers, Crosby has scored 53 goals. He now has 122 points in those 82 games. That’s just two points behind Hall of Fame great Mario Lemieux for the alltime lead.
Tippett later returned to action and after the game admitted he was “a little sore.”
The Flyers hope he can be ready when action resumes in a couple days.
“A little sore but that’s all part of it,” Tippett said. “The initial shock and pain first hit me but with some of the stingers you just have to walk it off.”
Philadelphia went scoreless on three more power plays and is getting dangerously close to sinking below the 15 percent mark.
“I had a couple looks on the power play,” Noah Cates said. “We need to translate one of those. There’s always a power-play goal against us so. . .I thought today we were a little more predicatable. We have to keep building off that. Try to keep chipping away and building chemistry.”
Jason Zucker scored at 14:24 of the third to put the game away. An empty-net goal was scored with 1:38 to play. Then the Penguins added one more for good measure with Hart back in the net as the clock hit 56 seconds to play.
Pittsburgh opened the scoring at 5:52 of the first. With several bodies crowding the net, Marcus Pettersson’s long shot was deflected by Richard Rackell past Hart.
The Flyers got that one back at 10:04. Kieffer Bellows took control at center ice and sent a 50-foot wrist shot past DeSmith.
But that was it for a team which keeps on getting decent scoring chances but can’t seem to finish.
Tippett believes the best plan is to keep things simple and not get too fancy with the passing.
“When you’re trying to do too much, sometimes it can be worse,” he said. “Stick with it, grind it through and hope for the results.”
Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo served the second of a two-game suspension for spearing Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry last Tuesday. . .The Flyers begin a seven-game homestand on Tuesday when the Vegas Golden Knights visit. Only scheduled to appear in the next two weeks: Buffalo, Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Detroit and Montreal. . .The Flyers have allowed the opponent to score first in 40 of 66 games. . .Justin Braun’s assist on Bellows’ goal was his 199th career point. . .Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, recorded his 400th NHL regular-season victory.