The Flyers were unable to make their 1-0 lead after 40 minutes hold up in a 2-1 loss to the Panthers on Saturday night. Jonathan Huberdeau’s 10th of the season with 1:06 left in the third sank the Flyers after Mike Hoffman tied things up five minutes earlier to break Carter Hart’s shutout bid and begin the unraveling.
The loss sends the Flyers to their second regulation defeat under interim coach Scott Gordon and leaves the team with a 1-1-1 mark on their five-game road trip with dates against the Hurricanes and Predators to come. Here are five things from the Flyers’ 2-1 loss in Sunrise to the Panthers, in no particular order...because it’s just more fun that way.
Carter “Starter” Hart intensifies
As was the case when Michal Neuvirth got left out to dry despite giving up six goals against the Lightning on Thursday, Carter Hart was a tough luck loser in this loss to the Panthers. Hart finished with 34 saves on 36 shots for a sparkling .944 save percentage and deserved a far better fate.
The rookie netminder had zero chance on Mike Hoffman’s tying goal due in large part to some bad puck luck and poor in-zone coverage from his defense. He stood even less chance on Jonathan Huberdeau’s game winner, with both Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds giving less shits on the back check then John LeClair in his post lockout days.
You could feel that one coming. pic.twitter.com/rTyCM0pKMz— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 30, 2018
Hart made a handful of huge saves in this one to keep the Flyers in front, with one coming early in the second on Denis Malgin right from the puck drop after a solid first 20 minutes than included 14 first period saves. Another dandy from Hart on Evgeni Dadonov late in the second as the Panthers’ second-leading goal scorer got free in front but was denied as the rookie netminder again preserved the Flyers’ 1-0 lead.
The goalie did everything he could as the Panthers surged late in the third, but wasn’t able to come up with miracle saves to halt the Panthers’ momentum as Hoffman and Huberdeau were able to solve the netminder. Hart continued to prove that he belongs in the NHL and gave the Flyers above average netminding in this one though they weren’t able to give him enough support for perhaps the first time in his short NHL career.
Shayne Gostisbehere opened the scoring with a lethal wrist shot off a feed from Jordan Weal to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. The Florida native has had a tough season but showed the offensive skill that makes him a dangerous threat night-in and night-out for the Flyers. Ghost’s down production has been a big reason the Flyers’ power play hasn’t produced, but he is capable of going on a scoring tear and the Flyers hope this is the start of one for the defenseman.
Ghost was noticeable all night and one of the better Flyers at 5-on-5 with a +18.45 Corsi Rel per NaturalStatTrick. While the defender was able to break a four-game scoreless drought with his goal, it’s just his fifth goal in 37 games after 13 a year ago and his distribution continues to be way down with just 11 assists on the season to date.
Gostisbehere continues to man the point on the Flyers’ power play, and the early goal was a great sign, but they again whiffed on a pair of power play chances that could very well have put this game out of reach for the Panthers. Ghost is as valuable as they come on the blue line and his disappointing season has really kept the Flyers from getting back to where they were a season ago.
Perhaps a few days back in his home state and a real solid goal will help build the confidence of the defenseman and send him on a point scoring tear that the Flyers desperately need.
Penalty kill picks a bad time to falter
After facing a daunting task against the NHL’s top-ranked power play unit on Thursday, things didn’t get easier facing the NHL’s second-ranked power play in this one.
Despite allowing a pair to the Lightning on Thursday, the Flyers were up to the task on their first few chances against the Panthers. The issue was that the third chance for the Panthers proved to be the deadly one, with Florida tying the game on Mike Hoffman’s 18th of the season with 6:44 left in the third. It was a bit of a broken play after Ivan Provorov’s clearing attempt exited the Flyers’ zone but went only as far as the red line before the Panthers surged back in the zone. A hustle play by Dadonov along the wall gained possession and Barkov slid the puck masterfully to a wide-open Hoffman to beat Hart easily.
It was a rough end to an otherwise successful night for the penalty kill, and one can’t help but wonder just what would have happened in this one had Provorov been able to send that puck all the way down the ice. In a season full of blunders on the penalty kill from the Flyers, what normally is a perfectly fine play from Provorov ends up being the tying goal and kept the door open for the Panthers to steal a couple points from the Flyers yet again.
Panthers’ stars outshine Flyers’ stars
With Nolan Patrick out of the lineup with an upper-body injury the Flyers were a little short on scoring depth once again while Wayne Simmonds continues his season-long slumber. But while the Flyers’ stars shined bright in recent games, they were held in check by the defensively solid Panthers.
Claude Giroux had a couple shots, James van Riemsdyk had three shots, and Simmonds provided five of his own but they had nothing to show for the effort as Ghost provided the Flyers’ only goal assisted by Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton. On a night when you’re facing one of the few teams giving up as many goals per game as you are (Flyers are third worst, Panthers fourth in goals allowed per game), you expect more fireworks from the offensive starts.
On the Panthers’ game-winning goal, the effort from Dadonov was fantastic, the pass to Barkov even better and the feed from Barkov to Huberdeau was superstar level. It was Florida’s top line executing in clutch time and making a mockery of the Flyers’ transition defense. Their top guns stepped up when they needed to and got the job done and the Flyers’ best couldn’t respond earlier or afterwards.
One step forward, one step backwards
Before puck drop in this one we talked about how the Flyers looked like a different team since the firing of Dave Hakstol and the promotion of Scott Gordon to interim coach. In games against the Red Wings, Predators, Blue Jackets, Rangers, and Lightning the Flyers looked like a far different hockey club. But in this one they looked more like the Hakstol-led Flyers, with long lapses of focus and a general lack of purpose from shift-to-shift. They also kind of just lobbed point shots at James Reimer like that would solve things. Not great.
For as many shots and chances as they generated, they gave up equally as many shots and far more chances to the Panthers. Our friends over at NaturalStatTrick had the Panthers controlling both shot chances and scoring chances at 5-on-5 at a rather decidedly margin after Gostisbehere’s tally less than two minutes in.
*Data via NaturalStatTrick, Corsica.Hockey, and Hockeyreference