There were few peaks, many valleys. More lulls than highs.
When yet another Flyers defeat, this one 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, came to pass Monday night at Wells Fargo Center, so did the realization this team might not make the playoffs.
“We’re not going to make the playoffs if we keep playing like this,” Scott Hartnell said. “We talked about it after the game.
“If we don’t learn fast, as in Wednesday night [against Washington], it’s going to be a long season.”
The sense of urgency to play all 60 minutes like the final half of the last period simply hasn’t been there for far too many games this season as the Flyers failed for the sixth time to reach .500.
“Guys have to realize, every point counts,” Hartnell said. “Game 20 or Game 30. We have to wake it up.”
Toronto, seeded seventh, now has 24 points to the ninth-seeded Flyers' 19, who fell to 1-2 on this vital homestand.
This is a five-game stretch where Peter Laviolette’s club is playing some of the children of a lesser god in the Eastern Conference – not Pittsburgh, Boston, or Montreal.
They desperately need points, especially given how many others have multiple games in hand on them.
“We got to learn to play 60 minutes and it hurt us again tonight,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “Same story. We need to play as a team, get four lines rolling.”
Ex-Flyer James van Riemsdyk made his first visit back here since the draft day trade that sent him to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn last June and almost became the goat.
His Leafs held a 2-1 lead when the third period began.
A hooking call to Max Talbot at 5:46 gave Toronto a power play and the Leafs capitalized.
After a spectacular save on Phil Kessel, Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov kicked out a shot from Clarke MacArthur into the high slot.
Mikhail Grabovski seemed surprised to see the puck sitting at his feet. He quickly flung a backhander that seemed to ice the game, 3-1.
Ah, but then JVR picked up a double-minor at 11:18, giving the Flyers a four-minute power play. They got one goal from Jakub Voracek, making it 3-2, but could not get the equalizer.
Toronto is much improved this season on the penalty kill, challenging everywhere and being aggressive, which is major reason why the Flyers were 1 for 6 on the power play.
“They were really aggressive and I think we got frustrated through the middle period,” Laviolette said. “There’s no time to set up and make the nice plays that everyone wants to see.
“I don’t think that’s why the power play wasn’t working or they didn’t want to make things happen. But again, it’s kinda like the middle body of work. When the checking is tighter, there is less ‘wow’ out there.
“That’s what the middle of the game looked like. That’s what the power play looked like. We just weren’t sharp because we didn’t have time to set up and make plays. Conversely, they didn’t either.”
Although the Flyers came out in the first period with offensive pressure and four quick shots, it didn’t last.
Toronto consistently beat them to loose pucks. The Leafs had more glide in their stride, too. That was evident during two first-period Flyers power plays in which there was no puck containment even when the Flyers got it into the zone.
Every loose puck up for grabs seemed to end up on a Leafs stick.
“They switched it up a little bit there, not only on their PK but five-on-five,” Giroux said. “There was a lot of pressure. When that happens, we need to find a way to make plays faster.”
The only goal that came in the first period was at 17:20 when Tyler Bozak sent a pass off the boards to Phil Kessel, who beat Kimmo Timonen to the puck, got it in full stride at the right circle, then roofed a shot far side off the left post.
The Flyers’ power play woes continued in the second period. Except this time, they had the puck with a setup but were reluctant to shoot, looking for that ever perfect shot that didn’t exist.
Compounding the blown opportunities, Toronto got a goal late in the period.
Nazem Kadri caught Nikolai Kulemin in full stride coming off the bench onto the ice past Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn, as the Russian winger pocketed a backhander off the left post, making it 2-0.
That was a goal Bryzgalov probably should have saved.
As much as that goal really quieted the crowd, it all changed at 17:56 when Mr. February - Voracek - took a Giroux pass in the zone, skated hard to the net, then lasered a backhanded pass across the ice for Hartnell to bury.
Voracek had a goal and an assist, extending his scoring streak to six games (14 points).
The goal was Hartnell’s first. He had missed 16 games with a fractured bone in his left foot. So really, it took all of two games for Hartnell to find the net again.
“For a while, I had not felt the best out there,” Hartnell admitted. “Good things happen when you go to the net. Jake made it happen.
“We had some speed coming out from a good defensive play by Coburn. G kicked it out to Jake who has a lot of speed and can make plays.
“I was able to get a step on one of their defenders and Jake made the perfect pass. I just had to get it on net and it was able to go in.”
Hartnell’s goal gave the Flyers hope going into the third period. Instead, they fell two games under .500.
“When we play like we did in the last 10 minutes, I don’t think there is a team in the league that can play with us,” Hartnell said.
Too bad they haven’t shown people that most of the season.
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