Flyers fall behind early, can’t catch Devils in 6-3 loss

Owen Tippett

      EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Don’t look now but at least one of the Flyers’ closest pursuers just put a little more heat on them in the hotly contested playoff race.

      By virtue of New Jersey’s 6-3 win on Saturday night at MetLife Stadium, the Flyers now lead their turnpike rivals by just five points with the Devils holding two games in hand.

      The Devils’ Nico Hischier had two goals to pace the winners’ attack.

      A crowd of 70,328 was on hand to watch this Stadium Series game. The Flyers went down on the scoreboard after just 32 seconds. They never caught up.

      By the time the game ended, coach John Tortorella was already looking ahead to the Flyers’ next game in Chicago. His team entered the game with nine of a possible 10 points in the last five games so no reason to get really upset.

      As for a chance to put some distance on the Devils, he doesn’t sound too concerned with still a lot of games left in the season.

      “We were a little over-aggressive the first shift and give up a breakaway goal,” the coach said. “They score a faceoff goal. I thought the most important part of the game was when we got a roll in the second period, then we started taking penalties. We needed another goal and I thought we were right there, knocking on the door. But then we took some penalties and it took us out of our flow.”

      The Flyers dominated for most of the second period, firing an astounding 27 shots on goal and getting a pair of goals from Owen Tippett. But the Devils scored two of their own to hold the lead at 4-2 at the end of the second period.

      Tippett’s first goal came at 7:42 after Travis Konecny kept the puck in the New Jersey zone and found his linemate breaking to the net.

      The Devils came right back with goals just 1:12 apart.

      Brendan Smith scored after goaltender Sam Ersson gave up a soft rebound for the goal at 16:36. Then Nathan Bastian connected at 17:48.

      Ersson probably would have liked to have a couple of those goals back.

      “Obviously not an ideal way to start the game,” he said. “Things like that are going to happen. We’ve shown all year how resilient we are, how we can battle back. I think we did that again today. We created a lot of chances and this is a game we could have won.

      “Any time you lose and you let in five goals, you want to have them back. In a game like this, I felt like I could have stepped up a little bit more, played a little bit better for the team and we could have found a way to win.”

      Tippett notched his second goal just seconds after the Flyers went on a power play. He sent a shot from the top of the slot past goalie Nico Daws at 18:23.

      The Flyers had to be heartened by his performance. He had scored only one goal since coming back from injury and also signing a big eight-year, $49.6-million contract.

      Playing in front of the largest crowd of his career (by far) certainly heightened the emotion level.

      “It was awesome,” he said. “To play in one of these games is really cool. . .to see the atmosphere and get a feel for playing outdoors.

      “When you come out with a start (of the game) like that, you have an opportunity to do and it doesn’t always go your way. I think frustration sets in. It’s the way the game goes sometimes. It’s just how you respond.”

      Added Travis Sanheim: “We had some stretches where we had some good minutes. We took some penalties and they kind of take you out of that a bit. Momentum is kind of killed a little bit. So it affected us. We need to stay out of the box a bit more.

      “It felt like we were on the (penalty) kill a lot. You don’t want to give a team like that too many looks.”

      It didn’t take long for the Devils to make their mark on this game, grabbing a quick two-goal edge.

      Almost before the big crowd had a chance to be seated Hischier took off on a breakaway, went to his backhand and put a shot past Ersson.

      Later, Morgan Frost lost a faceoff, the Devils worked a series of quick passes and Tyler Toffoli wound up putting a shot from the right circle past Ersson at 13:30.

      In the third period, Hischier scored his second goal at 2:48. Nick Seeler scored the Flyers’ third goal at 9:07. Bastian added an empty-netter in the closing minutes.

      Tortorella said he’s not thinking about what impact this outcome might have on the standings.

      “We lose the game, it’s only one game,” he said. “We have to be careful here, don’t make it more of a thing than it is. We’re not going to get into counting points. We don’t operate that way. Just get ready for our next game (at the Windy City on Wednesday). I want us ready to play that game. We’re not going to do the math right now with 25, 27 games left. We just don’t operate that way.”

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About Wayne Fish 2472 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.