Apparently doing things the easy way just isn't in the Flyers' game plan this year.
Fresh from their most exhilarating win of the season, courtesy of Jake Voracek's hat trick to beat the hated Penguins, the Flyers returned to home ice against the lowly Florida Panthers and laid an egg. A series of defensive breakdowns resulted in three first period Florida goals in a two-minute span, including Jonathon Huberdeau's penalty shot that had Ilya Bryzgalov throwing his stick in frustration, as the Panthers went on to post a 5-2 victory.
So much for building on momentum from Wednesday's wild 6-5 win in Pittsburgh.
"It feels like [Wednesday's] game was a little bit wasted,'' said Danny Briere, as the Flyers lost their second game here to the 5-7-4 Panthers in the last two weeks. "All the work we did goes out the window. All day we talked about getting ready for this game. We knew it was going to be tough to get motivated, but we have to find a way to get up. We wanted to, but our brains didn't follow suit."
Digging early holes for themselves has been an annoying pattern for Peter Laviolette's 8-10-1 team. They overcame it Wednesday, rallying from 2-0 down in the first 7:15 to edge Sidney Crosby & Co. But this one was a different story, as the Panthers tightened up defensively until Scott Clemmensen surrendered late goals to Luke Schenn and Voracek.
"Our start [Thursday night] was again not very good,'' said a frustrated captain Claude Giroux. "We can't dig ourselves holes like that. After that, we didn't play bad, but you've got to be ready when the puck drops.''
While it would be easy to cite a natural emotional letdown from the cauldron of Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh, coupled with the relentless schedule as reasons for their uninspired play, Lavvy wouldn't go there.
"You know the game [Wednesday night] was hard fought,'' said Laviolette. "We came back and wanted to prepare to win another hockey game, an important game. It was evident in the first 10 minutes that we weren't as sharp as we were [Wednesday night].''
So for the fourth time this season, with a chance to get back to the .500 mark, the Flyers stumbled badly. They've been outscored 20-9 in those games.
"We want to keep climbing, so that's disappointing for us,'' said Briere, "but it's not about getting a .500 record. It's about getting to the playoffs.''
They'll continue that quest here Saturday vs. Winnipeg, followed by the return of James van Riemsdyk and the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday.