PHILADELPHIA – Penalty killing has been a Flyers’ strong suit this season but not so much on Tuesday night.
The Tampa Bay Lightning scored twice with the man advantage and added a third goal just two seconds after a Philadelphia penalty ended. That was enough for a 6-3 win, handing the Flyers their third straight loss at the Wells Fargo Center.
It’s the first time the Flyers, ranked No. 2 in the NHL on the penalty kill, have allowed multi-power-play goals since a game at Anaheim on Nov. 10.
Tampa Bay entered the game with the NHL’s No. 1 power play (29.7 percent).
After winning five straight games, including three on the road, the Flyers came back to Philadelphia and went 1-3 on their four-game homestand.
It’s only the second time this season the Flyers have lost as many as three straight games in regulation time. The other instance was back in late October/early November.
The Flyers knew the Lightning would be a handful on the power play and talked about not wanting to take “bad” penalties. They did a pretty good job of that but even giving Tampa Bay three power plays was probably too many.
“They’ve got a lot of skilled players,” goalie Samuel Ersson commented. “And they’re very good at what they do. I think maybe we made them look good today, too. Guys knew coming into this game we had to do a better job at staying out of the box, not take unnecessary penalties.”
Cam Atkinson, who scored his fifth goal in the last six games, had a problem with the types of penalties the Flyers took.
“I took a bad, dumb penalty there (leading to Tampa’s winning goal,” Atkinson said. “We talked about it before the game, we can’t let their power play get on the ice. That’s where they thrive and generate most of their chances. Especially their top guys. They took it to us tonight on that.”
Added Cam York: “It’s the best power play in the league by a lot. We shot ourselves in the foot there for sure. We gave them a few freebies and before you know it the puck’s in the back of our net.”
York’s goal just 42 seconds into the third period got the Flyers to within a goal. He batted a deflected out of the air and into the net. That, however, was as close as Philadelphia could get. Tampa Bay added two empty-net goals in the final minutes of play.
Down 3-0 in the second period, the Flyers mounted a try-hard comeback, scoring twice to make things interesting.
Atkinson connected for his fifth goal in the last six games (after going 26 games without a goal) at 9:56. He tipped in a puck off the stick of Joel Farabee.
Then Jamie Drysdale’s first goal as a Flyer at 14:04 cut the deficit to one. Drysdale unloaded from the point for a shot past goaltender Alexei Vasilevskiy.
But the Lightning got that one back with a power-play goal from Michael Eyssimont at 17:42 with Atkinson in the box.
One of the NHL’s most dangerous lines, the Brayden Point-Nikita Kucherov-Steven Stamkos unit, connected twice in the first period to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead.
Point needed only 1:46 to get a puck past Ersson and then, after a penalty to Rasmus Ristolainen had just ended, Kucherov wound up with the puck in the right circle. He sent a dart beyond Ersson’s reach at 18:45.
Kucherov connected again at 2:24 of the second period. Point and Stamkos had assists on the power-play goal.
“Everyone knows how dangerous their power play is,” Morgan Frost said. “You can’t give those guys too many opportunities, they’re going to cash in. It’s just unfortunate.”
Added coach John Tortorella: “They (the Lightning) rely on their power play quite a bit. We take two stupid penalties. . .(Sean) Walker’s penalty and Cam’s penalty. And they make you pay. It doesn’t take that much to score a goal on the power play.”
>Faith in Ersson
With regular starting goaltender Carter Hart out indefinitely on personal leave, the Flyers said they have full confidence in Ersson that he can get the job done during Hart’s absence.
Atkinson may have summed it up best.
“Sam’s been playing great for us,” he said. “We have all the confidence in Sam. He’s been playing great as of late. We’re going to need him to continue.”
York has no problem with Ersson carrying the load for awhile. The goalie’s record is still an outstanding 12-7-3.
“It hurts with ‘Hartsy’ out,” he said. “He’s one of my best friends, it sucks. We have full confidence in Ersson. We know he’s going to do the job for us.”
Frost also is a believer in Ersson.
“We have full faith in Sammy,” he said. “He’s been really good this year. I think he kind of got a little unlucky tonight with some of their power-play chances.”
For his part, Ersson says he’s ready.
“Like I’ve said all year, I do my thing,” Ersson said. “I’m ready whenever they call upon my name, go in and play and that’s all I can think about.”
The Flyers will visit the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. . .Joel Farabee played in his 300th NHL game. . .The Flyers lead the NHL in shots. They entered the game with 1,587. That’s 33.8 shots per game.