PHILADELPHIA – Travis Konecny didn’t wait long to celebrate his selection to the NHL All-Star Game in Toronto next month.
Just moments after the announcement was made during the first period of Thursday night’s game against Columbus at the Wells Fargo Center, Konecny scored the first goal of the game.
Konecny took a pass from Joel Farabee and sent a shot past goaltender Daniil Tarasov at 17:12.
In the third period, Konecny scored again at 4:29 on a nifty dash to the net for a second goal (20 for the season) at the Wells Fargo Center.
But then the Blue Jackets woke up, got a goal from Damon Severson at 5:24, and another from Jack Roslovic who scored for the Blue Jackets at 10:20 to tie the game at 2-2.
The game was finally decided in a shootout and Columbus got the only goal of the tiebreaker – this from South Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau — as the Flyers suffered a 3-2 loss.
“We need to play with a two-nothing lead longer, first of all,” coach John Tortorella said after the game. “We gave up the first one too quickly (just 55 seconds after Konecny’s second goal). They piled up the chances after the second goal. Take the point and go.”
Tortorella shook up his lineup by scratching regulars Cam Atkinson and Morgan Frost.
Atkinson has not scored a goal since Nov. 11, a drought of 22 games (the longest dry spell of his career). Frost has been in and out of Tortorella’s doghouse for the past two seasons. Earlier this season, he was scratched for stretches of six and three games.
When asked if it was tough to take Atkinson out of the lineup, Tortorella responded, “it wasn’t.”
As for the Frost situation, the coach said any conversations were private. “It’s between the athlete and I.”
The Flyers compensated for these moves by dressing seven defensemen and using center Rhett Gardner, who was recently called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Gardner, 27, made his Flyers’ debut. He was a fourth-round pick of the Dallas Stars in 2016. Since then, he had played in 40 NHL games with one goal and two assists to his credit. With the Phantoms, Gardner led the team with a plus-5 and also was credited with a shorthanded goal to share the team lead.
Both Ersson and Tarasov were at their best in a scoreless second period. The Flyers played tight defense, resulting in Columbus getting only 14 shots through two periods.
After Konecny scored his second goal, the Blue Jackets got within one again at 5:24 with Damon Severson getting a shot past Ersson.
“Overall I thought we played a pretty solid game,” Konecny said.
As for playing with just one day off after a tough road trip out west, Konecny wasn’t making any excuses.
“At this point, they’re all pretty difficult,” he said. “This time of year, a lot of guys for us are learning. Every game is going to be that way. There’s no gimmes.”
Farabee noted the Flyers were not quite as proactive as they would have liked in the third period.
“I don’t think we were that bad in the third, we were just trying to hold on,” he said. “When you do that, teams are too good in this league. I just feel like we have to stay aggressive in the third. Keep the pressure on. Not try and sit back and win the game.”
>Konecny’s second midseason classic
This will be Konecny’s second appearance in an NHL All-Star Game. He leads the Flyers in goals (19) and is tied for second in assists (15). The 5-foot-10, 192-pound native of London, Ontario also leads the team in shorthanded goals (four) and shots on net. He skated in his 500th NHL career game on Nov. 4 (the 40th Flyer in history to do so). He has five multi-goal and 10 multi-point games this season. The All-Star Game will be played on Saturday, Feb. 3.
“He deserves it,” Tortorella said. “In the (locker) room, everybody knows he deserves it. So we’re proud of him.”
Farabee has been playing with Konecny on a line with Sean Couturier, so he gets an up-close view of the right wing’s work.
“He’s a pretty good player,” Farabee said. “He’s got an unbelievable shot and he knows how to find those little areas. If I have the puck, I’m usually looking for him or ‘Coots.’ ”
Added Konecny: “It’s going to be great. It’s an honor. It’s pretty cool to be in Toronto. There will be a lot of family and friends there. My phone blew up today. They were all excited.”
>Power play still a problem
The Flyers had a five-on-three power play for two minutes late in the second period and couldn’t score. The futility is reaching epic proportions. Philadelphia entered the game last in the NHL and its 0-for-4 performance will only worsen its 10.2 percent pre-game rating.
The Flyers did have some decent chances but couldn’t put the puck in the net.
“We generated chances, we just can’t score,” Tortorella said. “Their goaltender played really well.”
The NHL All-Star Game will be played as part of weekend activities Feb. 1-3. . .The Flyers will play host to the Calgary Flames on Saturday at 1 p.m. It’s the Ed Snider Legacy Game. . .Flyers prospect Cutter Gauthier scored with 3:13 to play to break a 2-2 tie and sent the United States Junior Hockey team to a 3-2 win over Finland in the semifinals of the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden on Thursday. The U.S. will face Sweden in the final. Gauthier entered the game leading the tournament in scoring.