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Panthers 6, Flyers 3: The comeback effort falls short

A wild game, but a scary one as well.

Sergei Bobrovsky defends the net against Joel Farabee, who is right in the crease Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

If given the choice between watching a team that had just re-signed Rasmus Ristolainen to a five-year, $5.1 million AAV extension going up against one of the best teams in the NHL or getting the chance to boo Ben Simmons while he was on the bench during his return to Philadelphia, you were probably watching the 76ers. Did that choice pan out well? Probably not, considering the Sixers dropped the ball. Would you have been better served watching the Flyers though? Also probably not.

Philadelphia sports are nothing but pain, folks.

Here’s your game recap, though, because I know you’re all anxious to figure out how the Flyers managed to lose this one.

Period 1

The Florida Panthers have scored an average of 4.12 goals per game this season going into this game. I know, it feels like a fake stat. It wasn’t that long ago that the Panthers were nothing but a laughing stock in the league. Yet, this is the high-powered offense this team has now! So it wasn’t too shocking to see that Carter Verhaeghe scored off the rush at only 3:25 into the game.

As if they needed any more reason to show off that they are good at this whole scoring thing, Verhaeghe pulled off a neat little spin move before shooting the puck.

Ristolainen decided to celebrate his new contract extension by high-sticking a Panther. Early on in the penalty kill, Carter Hart made a big save, and there was maybe hope that the Flyers could survive this! They did not. Sam Reinhart scored to put the Panthers up by two.

Ristolainen then got another penalty, this one the direct result of him being a big, physical player — you know, the thing that got him the extension in the first place — and, well, it was the same outcome. It was even Reinhart again and everything!

That extension is looking really amazing right now, folks. It’s also looking amazing in contrast as to which Sabres player the Flyers went after.

Yeah. It’s a fun time, folks.

Oh, and as if this wasn’t enough, Verhaeghe shot down the ice shortly after the Flyers made a line change and he scored his second of the night with only 30 seconds left in the period. Thanks for kicking the Flyers while they’re already down.

So after the first 20 minutes of play, the Flyers were already down by four, two Panthers players were on hat trick watches, and chants were ringing out in FLA Live Arena of “We want 10!” that could be picked up loud and clear on the TV broadcast. At least we got to listen to Jimmy Eat World four times. I’m always here for a good 2000’s emo / pop punk tune.

Period 2

The Flyers had a carry over of 1:58 for a power play to start the period. You would maybe think that watching the Panthers go two-for-two on the power play would maybe show the Flyers a thing or two about how to approach their own man-advantage, but no. The Flyers had nothing to show for it and went scoreless.

Petteri Lindbohm placed a hard hip check on Scott Laughton, and the resulting hit into the boards knocked Laughton senseless. Travis Konecny didn’t like that and immediately dropped the gloves against Lindbohm. Throughout it all, Laughton continued to lie motionless on the ice, and it was scary. He was eventually escorted off the ice with help. For the courtesy of people who don’t like to see injury replays, I’m not embedding video, but you can watch it here if you feel the need to see it for yourself.

As awful as it is to see a player injured like that, there can be something galvanizing about it. There’s a desire to go out there and avenge it by making it hurt where it really counts: the scoreboard. After what had been a rough start to this game, the Flyers finally found themselves on the board with a James van Riemsdyk tally.

Then Cam Atkinson got a whack at the puck mid-air and scored. Hey, MLB is officially out of its lockout, do you think Atkinson could go help the Phillies out? They might need it.

Then after that van Riemsdyk decided to join in with a fight. It wasn’t really something I saw coming beyond the general theme of getting revenge for Laughton, especially considering van Riemsdyk isn’t much of a fighter. Seriously, it wasn’t even a good fight. Yet, apparently he said recently that out of everyone on the team, Laughton is his closest friend, so there was extra motivation to stir him up into action.

Then the Flyers actually figured out how to score a power play goal! Konecny deflected a Cam York shot and suddenly they cut the Panthers’ lead down to one.

An interesting observation to make was that Ivan Provorov wasn’t on any of the power play units. Maybe part of the key to scoring with the man-advantage was to make adjustments on which defensemen are on it? Who knows.

After 40 minutes, the Flyers were still trailing, but it was no longer the devastating pummeling from before. They had rallied to put together three unanswered goals, and it began to beg the question: could the Flyers actually complete the comeback? Could they do it for Laughton? (Well, the headline of this piece spoils the answer, but ignore that for a moment.)

Period 3

Before puck drop was underway, the Flyers officially announced that Laughton would not be returning to the game due to a head injury. It was expected, because the injury looked that scary, but it didn’t make the news any easier to hear.

Gerry Mayhew was called for tripping, and on the resulting power play, the Panthers continued their perfect streak with an Anthony Duclair goal. Panthers fans thought it was a Reinhart hat trick and threw their hats onto the ice, but the puck never touched him. No, instead it hit Patrick Brown’s stick to go in. Whoops.

However, those hats weren’t thrown in vain. The Flyers pulled Carter Hart with 2:26 left for the extra attacker, and that was when Reinhart actually got the hat trick.

Again, the Panthers got Reinhart from the Sabres while the Flyers got Ristolainen from them. This is a real thing that happened.

With that, the Flyers fell short in their ability to pull off the comeback and lost 6-3 against the Panthers.

Final thoughts

A loss to this Panthers team really wasn’t surprising. After all, the Flyers had lost their previous matchups against them, plus Florida is on a roll as one of the most dominant scoring teams the NHL has ever seen. They’re pretty scary, and this might be their revenge season.

If anything, for the Flyers to claw their way back into this game during the second period was the most surprising part. It’s not that teams can’t make a comeback being down by four goals, but it’s definitely not an outcome one would expect out of this year’s Flyers team. As I said, though, there’s something about watching a player go down with injury like what happened to Laughton that can motivate a team into a new gear.

Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough gas in the tank for the Flyers to complete that comeback. The Panthers also responded well after, frankly, sitting back and becoming a little complacent. They did what good teams are supposed to do and proved why they’re the ones gearing up for a playoff run.

For now, the most pressing issue is waiting to see what happens with Laughton. As of now, there doesn’t seem to be an official diagnosis beyond “head injury,” but Mike Yeo said during his press availability that it wasn’t good.

The Flyers return to action on Saturday, March 12 at 3:00 p.m. ET against the Carolina Hurricanes, with the game being broadcast on ABC. Can’t wait for a national audience to be subjected to this team again.