Mistakes prove costly in loss
PHILADELPHIA >> Dave Hakstol and his frustrated Flyers have had little problem sharing the blame for another disappointing season start, if only because it simply doesn’t seem so bad.
Yet a 3-2 loss that quite literally ended with a chaotic scramble in front of New York crease king Henrik Lundqvist Friday at Wells Fargo Center had to seem fairly familiar, if not only because it left them back on the wrong side of mediocre. For a team that thinks it’s playing well overall, slipping to 9-10-3 after a second straight loss seems like ... a mistake.
“I think overall, our effort level was pretty good,” losing goalie Steve Mason said. “Just some bounces weren’t going our way . ... But the effort overall was pretty solid.
“We made a couple of costly mistakes where guys were left alone in front. We have to clean those up because it cost us a game. It’s cost us more than one game. So it’s definitely something we need to focus on a little bit.”
As part of the compilation of mistakes on this day was a boo-boo more glaring than the next. It was a Scott Laughton giveaway that took J.T. Miller and Derek Stepan a blink of an eye to turn into a game-turning goal for the Rangers at 13 minutes, 16 seconds of the first period.
It also sucked the momentum out of a start that saw the Flyers kill a fourminute highsticking penalty Dale Weise earned all of 17 seconds into the game, then start firing shots at will at Lundqvist. But as he’s wont to do, he turned them all away. Then the Laughton giveaway would result in Stepan’s goal, and only 1:34 later, an Andrew MacDonald pinch into the offensive zone would be turned quickly in transition, and New York newcomer Matt Puempel would convert off a perfect backhand pass by Jimmy Vesey.
So a start that the Flyers would trumpet later as a model for what they were trying to do only left them staring at a two-goal deficit later in the first period. Just as they think they’ve started the season in a fairly competent fashion, yet are still adrift in the non-playoff haze of the Eastern Conference standings.
“When you have to chase basically all game, it is tough,” Jake Voracek said. “But I think we played a good game in Tampa (Wednesday), we played a good game today ... we just have to get that first goal once in a while. It saves a lot of energy. It is what it is. It’s still early in the season but we’ve lost too many points because of that.”
The Flyers often can’t score first, but are always the likely team to make the first, second and third mistakes.
It was certainly that way on this day, and midway through the second period another defensive mistake off a transition left the Rangers’ Kevin Hayes uncovered, gliding up the slot toward Mason. Hayes cooly redirected defenseman Nick Holden’s pass past Mason ... and the Rangers had scored three times in their first 12 shots in a game that the Flyers could have been controlling.
Since they’re used to such things, though, the Flyers came out strong in the third and a MacDonald desperation rush and back pass managed to hit the charging Chris VandeVelde’s skate and go past Lundqvist. One favorable replay decision later, the Flyers were on the board at 1:34 of the third.
The chase was finally on ... again.
They would score again, but not until Hakstol had pulled Mason for an extra skater, doing so with just over three minutes left in regulation. It worked, as a Shayne Gostisbehere shot hit somebody’s stick — the NHL’s Toronto TV watchers were still hot on the case to determine whose stick it hit and whose goal it was hours after the game had ended — but it got by Lundqvist with 2:04 left to play.
The veteran goaltender would really be kept busy in those last couple of minutes, but despite a rebound shot by Brayden Schenn that almost tied the game in the last seconds, Lundqvist and the Rangers would prevail.
And the Flyers? Another less-than satisfying game, if only because teams that have to spend most of their time making up for early mistakes so often winds up a step short at the finish line.
“It’s been a while now,” Schenn said. “We chase a lot of hockey games.”
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 40 of 42 shots, makes a save against Dale Weise (22) during the second period of Friday’s 3-2 win over the Flyers.