Oh how quickly things can change in the National Hockey League.
This time last week, the Flyers were the hottest team in hockey with points in 12-straight and now they’re losers of three-straight thanks to a rotten Florida trip that ended with a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.
Evgenii Dadonov scored twice and Roberto Luongo made 39 saves as the Panthers continued their climb towards the playoff picture while the Flyers saw another chance to gain ground on the Metropolitan-leading Capitals go by the wayside.
Perhaps the lone bright spot for the Flyers was Travis Konecny scoring late in the third period to prevent the shutout, because not much else went right. Though the Flyers badly outshot the Panthers 40-26, the Panthers capitalized on their scoring chances and leaned on Luongo to turn aside a slew of low-danger shots.
The Flyers’ defense is going to be seeing Dadonov and Aleksander Barkov in their nightmares, that’s for sure. As for me, I’ll be trying to forget that this game ever took place, something the Flyers would be wise to do as well.
Aleksander Barkov put the Panthers up early 2:41 in with a beautiful breakaway goal after getting behind Johnny Oduya to make it 1-0. It was a power play marker for the red-hot center after a rough call on Radko Gudas put Florida on the early man-advantage.
The Flyers had a good chance to tie things up with a four-on-three power play at the 5:00 mark of the first, but the suddenly-cold power play couldn’t find the back of the net with the extra room afforded. The Flyers are have just one marker on the man-advantage in their last 12 chances.
Evgenii Dadonov would extend the Panthers’ lead to 2-1 with 5:11 left in the first, ripping a wrist shot past the glove side of Petr Mrazek. That’s one the Flyers’ netminder would sure love to have back.
Florida got the best of the scoring chances after 20 minutes and sure looked rested as opposed to the Flyers playing roughly 24 hours after a back-and-forth affair with the Lightning.
After getting all the calls a day ago in Tampa Bay, the Flyers didn’t get many early in this one. Nolan Patrick went off for hooking less than two minutes into the second with a very light reach around on Michael Matheson.
It was a good kill for the Flyers’ penalty kill, however, and a jolt of momentum in a game that didn’t have much going well until that point.
Mrazek came up with a huge stop with 11:49 left in the period, stopping Dadonov on a quick break in after the forward again got behind the Flyers defense. The second goal was a bad one, but Mrazek came up with a big save here to keep the Flyers within two.
Dadonov wouldn’t miss his next scoring chance, flying between the Flyers defense right up the middle and beating Mrazek to the glove side to make it 3-0 Florida with 1:54 left in the frame. It was another stretch pass that opened up the Flyers’ defense and left Mrazek to defend another breakaway.
The second period featured plenty of chances for the Flyers, but close doesn’t cut it in the league and they were unable to solve Roberto Luongo in the Florida net. The veteran stopped all 14 Flyers attempts in the period and headed to the third protecting a commanding three-goal lead.
More bad news for the Flyers to start the third as the Panthers are a perfect 19-0-0 when leading after two periods. Making matters worse was a two-man advantage for the Panthers after another Gudas penalty.
The Flyers would kill off the two-man advantage, but wouldn’t stay within three goals for much longer.
Jonathan Huberdeau would increase the chances of improving that mark with a a great individual effort to pot his 20th goal of the season just 2:47 in. Huberdeau fought off Radko Gudas and deked Mrazek out of his shoes to finish off the play and give the Panthers a 4-0 lead.
With not much left to salvage the Flyers power play would have another chance to get things on track in that department with just under 10 minutes remaining, but Luongo again stood tall in his crease and kept the Flyers scoreless. The power play is in a funk to say the least and could have gotten a boost from seeing one go in on the man-advantage.
Travis Konecny would break the shutout with 3:21 left, jamming home a rebound past Luongo to make it 4-1. Brandon Manning put the puck on net and Konecny found the rebound to pot his 17th of the season. Needless to say the Flyers could have used that well before they dug themselves a four-goal deficit.
Despite a late flurry around Luongo, that would be all she wrote for the Flyers in this one. The two-game Florida swing proved to be a tall test for the Flyers, especially with both games coming back-to-back.
The Flyers will try and regroup quickly with another huge back-to-back coming against Pittsburgh and Boston this week.