After the Philadelphia Flyers lost three of the five games on their latest homestand, head coach John Tortorella expressed excitement ahead of his team’s four-game road trip, claiming it will be good for the team to spend some time away from Wells Fargo Center for a while.
Unfortunately, the start to the road trip hasn’t exactly been kind to the Flyers. Friday night, the Flyers fell to the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime following a brutal turnover by Kevin Hayes in the offensive zone that led to a Jonathan Marchessault game-winning breakaway tally.
Sunday, things didn’t get any better.
Against the Arizona Coyotes — one of the NHL’s worst clubs — the Flyers were taken down 5-4 in overtime in the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena to go 2-for-2 in the OT loss category to start the road trip. The Coyotes entered the tilt with just eight wins and a 30th-ranked 20 points through 25 games.
The Flyers are now 0-6 in overtime on the season.
“We’re in every game. We’ve got to figure out the overtime period. I’m not sure how many we’ve lost there, but we’ve got to figure it out,” said head coach John Tortorella.
“We battled back three times tonight. Now we’ve just got to figure out end of games, OT especially, trying to figure out scoring that goal.”
The Flyers outchanced the Coyotes with a 41-29 advantage in shots on goal on the night, but breakaways — and Clayton Keller — plagued the Flyers in the defeat.
Keller, the Coyotes’ All-Star forward, burned Flyers defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen in the second period on a breakaway score, and Nick Ritchie followed suit when he blocked a Travis Konecny shot 7:27 into the third frame to register another breakaway tally. Keller also got the scoring started with a power-play goal 12:46 into the first period after Ristolainen was assessed a slashing penalty. Keller’s point wrister navigated through heavy traffic in front of Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, whose vision was impeded by a passing Ritchie.
And, of course, Keller netted the game-winning goal in overtime to hand the Flyers their fifth loss in their last six outings. Keller beat Hart with a nifty wrister with 22.4 seconds remaining in the OT period, giving him the first hat trick of his career.
Clayton Keller completes the hat trick in overtime. The Flyers are now 0-6 in OT on the season. pic.twitter.com/vT79JXY3Vs— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) December 12, 2022
Despite the loss, the Flyers actually put together a rather admirable showing in Tempe — particularly the line of James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett. Frost, JvR and Tippett each netted markers in the contest, and Frost put together the best performance of his career, finishing with four points (one goal, three assists) on the night. JvR also finished with a goal and three helpers while Tippett logged two points of his own.
“Just had some good chemistry going with my linemates. I think they played really well and made my job easier,” said Frost.
“I think once we got one or two good shifts like that the confidence starts growing and Torts kept throwing us out there. I thought (JvR and Tippett) played really well and I kind of just fed off of them.”
Morgan Frost ties it for the Flyers. Really nice feed by James van Riemsdyk from behind the net to set him up. pic.twitter.com/FTzzBD4Eji— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) December 12, 2022
The Flyers also showed some praiseworthy resilience after Ritchie’s goal in the third period. And of course, it was Konecny who netted the overtime-forcing goal with the goalie pulled. Konecny now has goals in four of his six games since returning from an upper-body injury that kept him out of action for two weeks in November.
Unfortunately, Konecny’s heroics, along with the terrific play of Frost, JvR and Tippett, wasn’t enough to earn the Flyers a much-needed victory. Hart, who has normally been outstanding for the Flyers throughout the season, made just 24 saves on 29 Coyotes shots. Granted, one of the goals he allowed was a fluky one that redirected off of Justin Braun and onto the stick of Jack McBain. Still, it was an uncharacteristic performance for someone who, on many accounts, has been one of the Flyers’ most valuable players on the season.
The Flyers now have 25 points in 29 outings. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets sit below them in the Metropolitan Division standings.