Another Flyers’ slow start costly in loss to Toronto

Scott Laughton

      PHILADELPHIA – For a team deep in the midst of a playoff chase, the Flyers had no justified excuse for Thursday night’s slow start against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

      Much like it looked in last Saturday night’s 7-0 debacle loss in Tampa, this one evoked descriptive words such as unprepared or not engaged.

      The Flyers surrendered three goals in the opening 20 minutes, never recovered and suffered a 6-2 loss at the Wells Fargo Center.

      The only good news for the Flyers was both the Islanders and Detroit lost, so Philadelphia stays four points up on both for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Red Wings have lost seven in a row.

      Down 3-0, the Flyers launched a bit of a comeback at the start of the second period. With Toronto down a man, Owen Tippett took a rebound off the end boards and sent a rising shot past goaltender Ilya Samsonov at 1:42 but, except for a meaningless late goal in the third period, that was about it.

      Like the game in Tampa last Saturday night, most of the drama was over by the end of the first period.

      It could have been worse as Toronto had another apparent goal waved off after a successful Flyers’ challenge on a hand pass violation.

      To sum the start up in just a few words: The Flyers weren’t ready to play.

      “At this time of year you’ve got to be ready to play,” Scott Laughton said. “If you just go out there and throw your stick on the ice and hope for the best. . .the last three games haven’t been good enough. Not at this time of year, especially in the stretch we’re in.

      “Everyone’s got to look in the mirror and figure out what we need to do collectively as a group to get better. Especially on home ice, it’s not good enough, it’s not hard enough.”

      The Flyers have six more tough ones coming up, starting with Saturday’s game in Boston. Winning there at TD Garden is an almost monumental task where the Bruins are 21-8-6 this season.

      “It’s hard to win at this time of year, it’s hard to win hockey games,” Laughton said. “Everyone’s trying to get in (the playoffs), trying to solidify their spot. We have to realize in this room that we have to make a push here.”

      Captain Sean Couturier has been around more than a decade. He knows what it takes at this time of year.

      Slow starts are not part of a winning plan.

      “We just had not enough guys going,” Couturier said. “A good team like that, it’s hard to match up. We definitely need to be better.”

      Even the 3-2 win over San Jose on Tuesday night was a bit of fool’s gold. The last three games have left a lot to be desired.

      “We’re definitely not playing the way we’ve been playing all year the last couple games,” he said. “It’s something we will need to address. I heard ‘Laughty’ (Laughton) say we need to look in the mirror and bring our best game. It’s that time of year where we need everyone to step up and be at their best.”

      As has been the case in a number of recent games, the Flyers surrendered a goal before some fans had a chance to get to their seats.

      Tyler Bertuzzi scored at 2:01 after a couple Flyers missed stick checks deep in the defensive end.

      Then a lost faceoff by Morgan Frost led to Toronto’s second goal. Pontus Holmberg wound up with the puck in the left circle and did the scoring honors, beating goaltender Samuel Ersson with a high shot to the far side at 9:57.

      After Toronto’s disallowed goal at 12:55, the Leafs scored one for real at 15:39. Timothy Liljegren’s 45-foot shot found its way into the net as defenseman Travis Sanheim might have accidentally screened Ersson on the play.

      The Flyers made a goaltending change at the start of the second period, sending in Felix Sandstrom to replace Ersson.

      Philadelphia still had a glimmer of hope going into the third period down a pair but that optimism was quickly extinguished. Auston Matthews broke in and scored on Sandstrom at 4:45 for his 55th goal of the season and eight seconds later William Nylander connected. Then Matt Knies added to the deluge at the nine-minute mark for the 6-1 margin. Tyson Foerster connected at 18:48 for the Flyers’ league-leading 15th shorthanded goal of the season.

      Associate coach Brad Shaw and assistant coach Rocky Thompson ran the Flyers’ bench in head coach John Tortorella’s absence. Shaw predicted the Flyers will be ready for the Bruins on Saturday.

      “Take our lessons from this one and move on,” Shaw said. “We have to approach it one game at a time. This wasn’t the result we wanted, not the effort we wanted. But let’s move on and focus on Saturday.”

      The Flyers have been resilient most of the year. In some of these recent games, that hasn’t been the case.

      “When a bad thing happens or a goal goes in the net, we seem to be able to weather the storm,” Shaw said. “We gathered ourselves and were able to get back on the attack. For whatever reason, it (the early blitz) felt like a tsunami (tonight). We’ve done such a good job of staying away from those scenarios, I have no explanation (for Thursday night).”

      >Short shots

      Tortorella completed his two-game suspension, stemming from an incident in the Tampa game…Cam Atkinson was scratched for a second straight game. . .Samsonov raised his career record against the Flyers to 11-1-0. . .The Flyers are set to host their annual Flyers Charities Carnival on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. For tickets and information, visit FlyersCarnival.com. . .Foerster leads all NHL rookies in goals scored at home with 13.

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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.