The formula had been working so well for so long maybe the Flyers simply assumed it was foolproof.
Instead, they were the ones left looking foolish, after a rebound goal by Carolina’s Jiri Tlusty with 6:10 remaining gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 win in Wednesday’s rescheduled-by-the- snowstorm game. Until Tlusty took advantage of yet another failed Flyers clearing attempt it looked like Philadelphia might be on its way to setting a franchise record.
Nine times this season—including six in the previous 13 games—the Flyers had rallied from third period deficits to win, matching a franchise high. When Scott Hartnell banged home a rebound on the power play early in the third to knot it 2-2—after Claude Giroux had cut a 2-0 deficit in half late in the second—they seemed perfectly positioned for No. 10.
The ‘Canes, who’d been stuck here since the snow started coming down and had to reschedule their Friday game with Ottawa to fit this one in, had other ideas. As a result not only did the Flyers comeback fizzle, they had to rush off to Columbus late in the night, where Sergei Bobrovsky and the surging Blue Jackets who’ve won their last eight straight were waiting for them, knowing they’d squandered an opportunity.
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And wondering if they’d been fooling themselves all along.
"We probably got what we deserved,’’ said goalie Steve Mason. "We’re not playing well enough to win hockey games.You can’t keep relying on these comebacks to get us out of jams. We have to start playing a better full 60 minutes and right now we’re not doing that.We’re kind of picking a bad spot of the year to not be playing great hockey.”
After winning 10 straight on home ice the Flyers have since gone 1-2-1 here, with the dangerous Bruins and Red Wings next to visit. Much of that has been caused not only by their annoying tendency of digging early holes for themselves, but by their penchant for mishandling the puck in their own zone.
That’s allowed the opposition to create plenty of good scoring opportunities on both Mason and Ray Emery, who can only do so much. It cost them a point Monday when the Islander came from two goals back in the third to beat them in a shootout, then again against Carolina.
Points they can’t afford to give up in the tightly packed Metropolitan and Conference. With eight more games to play in just 16 days before the Olympic break they know this can’t continue.
"We’re just not playing our best hockey for the first 10 to 15 minutes and then we turn it up after that,’’ said Wayne Simmonds, who assisted on Hartnell’s goal, giving him eight points in the last five games. "It’s biting us in the butt.You’re not going to be able to do that for the rest of the year. If you get down a couple goals, they’re most likely going to shut you down.That’s what’s happened.”
The trick now is making sure it doesn’t happen anymore.