The Flyers had sole second place in the Metropolitan Division in reach as they hit the ice against rivals the New Jersey Devils Wednesday night. But sometimes things in sports just don't make sense. And at the end of the Flyers' 2-1 defeat there were some harsh realities and unanswered questions.
"You saw [Scott] Hartnell and [Anton] Volchenkov kind of collide before they hit [Martin Brodeur]," Claude Giroux said, recalling a controversial "no goal" that nearly gave the Flyers a point and sent the game to overtime. "It's a tough call for the ref. He has to make the call right when he sees. It went upstairs and I don't think he's allowed to make the call before Hartsy hits Marty, but what are you gonna do?"
After a scrum in the Flyers zone, a Hartnell shot that crossed into the net was called no goal.
The decision by referees essentially claimed that Hartnell pushed Brodeur into the net, a contact play, and was not reviewable. But it appeared the puck was already in the net when Hartnell made contact.
"I just tried to get it on net," Hartnell said, "and if you look at it 100 times, I'm pretty sure 100 times out of 100 it's a goal."
The Flyers relied on spark plugs Giroux and Wayne Simmonds throughout the game, each creating scoring chances and each coming a bad bounce of the puck away from giving the Flyers a win, or at least a chance to win in overtime.
Jaromir Jagr scored his 21st goal of the season midway through the third period to end a deadlock 1-1 tie, and that, along with Travis Zajac 's first period goalwas all the scoring the Devils would need.
"It's a tough loss," Flyers head coach Craig Berube said after the game. "We obviously are a team that battles hard, it was a good game we competed really hard but we didn't score enough goals."
Trailing 1-0 after the first intermission, Nicklas Grossman, an unlikely source for offense, scored on a slap shot to tie the game at 1-apiece. The score was Grossman's first of the season, assisted by Voracek and Giroux.
The goal came 45 seconds into the second, and was Grossman's first in 75 games.
Throughout the meat of the second period, the Flyers looked more themselves, closing the gap in shots and creating several scoring opportunities, led by Giroux and Simmonds.
The Flyers also missed several opportunities with a man advantage, going 0-for-6 on the power play, including one with four minutes left that yielded little offense.
Though there weren't any power play goals, the Flyers continued to show off their top-notch penalty kill unit killing all of the Devils' attempts.
Steve Mason was also particularly solid in the Flyers' effort against New Jersey, turning away several Devils scoring chances and acting as a spark plug himself, often jump-starting a rush the other way into the offensive zone.
Sometimes things in sports are unexplained, and sometimes things are unfair. As the Flyers deal with both realities, they must turn the calendar forward. The guys in orange can only control what they can control.
And one thing they can control is how they attack the Penguins on Saturday. If they have their way, the Flyers will certainly try and make sure the game is more decisive.