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Panthers 3, Flyers 2: Late comeback bid falls short in Florida

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Flyers spot Panthers three-goal lead in third-straight loss.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Florida Panthers Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If the Flyers have proven anything so far this season it’s that they’re streaky for better or worse.

In this case it’s worse as the Flyers dropped their third-straight on Thursday night by a 3-2 final against the Florida Panthers. Playing in their first game since the holiday break, the Flyers got off to a slow start and trailed 3-0 through two periods.

That deficit proved to be too much to overcome as the Flyers only pressed in the final 10 minutes of the game, getting a Sean Couturier goal to pull within one with 2:02 left.

Both goalies were very good in this one as James Reimer got the win with 29 saves on 31 shots while Brian Elliott kept the Flyers from getting blown out with some great saves after the Panthers took a commanding three-goal lead.

It was the Flyers’ power play — not their maligned penalty kill — that was troublesome in this one, going 0-for-4 with the man-advantage and allowing a shorthanded goal in the second period. The penalty kill went 4-for-4 in the game after coming in as the NHL’s 29th-best unit.

The Flyers gained some early momentum with a great penalty kill after going down two men 1:15 in after penalties to Shayne Gostisbehere and then Brian Elliott as he broke up a breakaway.

That momentum gained from the Flyers’ penalty kill would be short-lived, however.

Jared McCann would break the ice, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead at the 6:43 mark with his fifth goal of the season. Elliott had just come up with a big save on Nick Bjugstad on an odd-man rush, but couldn’t come up with this one as McCann’s wrister beat him blocker side.

The first power play opportunity for the Flyers about a minute after the goal wouldn’t generate a tying goal or even a shot on goal for that matter.

A bright spot in an otherwise rough first 20 minutes for the Flyers in which they were outshot 13-5 was the penalty kill, which went 3-for-3 in the frame. After killing off the Panthers’ two-man advantage early on, the Flyers were able to erase a high-sticking call to Nolan Patrick late in the period.

Scott Laughton would put the Panthers back on the power play early in the second at the 3:52 mark. Laughton was beat to the outside by Vincent Trocheck and had to hook the man to help prevent a good scoring chance.

Like the previous three, the Flyers would get the kill thanks in large part to three Brian Elliott saves on the Panthers power play. The best coming as he stopped an Aaron Ekblad wrist shot from the circle and then a Jamie McGinn rebound chance in close.

Armed with a power play thanks to a Vincent Trocheck slashing call at 8:43, the Flyers would instead find themselves digging the puck out of their own net.

Derek MacKenzie ended a 31-game goal drought with a shorthanded tally at 9:19 to push the Panthers’ lead to 2-0. Colton Sceviour picked up the lone assist on the goal as the Panthers converted on a two-on-one after Claude Giroux lost the puck at the offensive blue line.

Facing a Panthers team allowing the most shots per game in the league, the Flyers managed just seven shots on goal through the games first 30 minutes.

Florida wasn’t shy about shooting the puck, however. Brian Elliott came up with a big save with 6:17 left in the second on yet another two-on-one break for the Panthers.

The feeling of split-second joy wouldn’t last as Jonathan Huberdeau would beat Elliott nine seconds later to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead. Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov picked up assists on the goal.

Despite not being challenged a ton through two periods, Panthers netminder James Reimer came up with a nice save to deny Jordan Weal with 21 seconds left in the second. Reimer stopped all 10 Flyers shots in the period after just five in the first.

In what was a theme of the night, a Jake Voracek breakaway to start the third simply would not go as James Reimer shut the door on a golden chance for the Flyers less than a minute in.

Already down three goals, Elliott kept the lead from going to four with a dandy of a stop on Huberdeau at 5:18. Elliott was able to move from post-to-post to rob the Panthers’ top scorer. It was yet another strong outing for the Flyers’ veteran netminder, who deserved a better fate given some of his fine work on the evening.

With 7:32 left in the third the Flyers would finally find the scoreboard to pull within two at 3-1. Scott Laughton finished off a nice rush up ice and feed from Michael Raffl to beat Reimer for his sixth goal of the season. Travis Konecny picked up the other assist on the goal as the trio came up with a pretty passing sequence in transition.

Reimer would make a trio of saves with just over three minutes left and the Flyers desperate in the offensive zone. The veteran stopped Sean Couturier right on the doorstep as the Flyers pulled Elliott at the other end for the extra skater.

The extra man would pay off as Sean Couturier pulled the Flyers within a goal at 3-2 with 2:02 remaining. There was plenty of traffic in front as Gostisbehere let a blast go from the point that redirected off Couturier’s stick and past Reimer.

With traffic crowding the net again Ivan Provorov would get a shot through but Reimer was there to make the stop and cover with just 20 seconds left. It would prove to be the Flyers’ final chance to overcome the 3-0 deficit as they would go down by a 3-2 final in the first of their back-to-back game in Florida.

In the end the Flyers dug themselves too deep a hole in this one to complete the furious comeback we’ve seen so them pull off so many times.