In a 4-3 overtime win over the Islanders Thursday, the Flyers again lost the lead in the third period, before defenseman Andrej Meszaros fired home the game winner in the extra stanza. In the locker room, after the game, words like urgency and desperation were used to describe what the team has been lacking.
Last season at this time, the Flyers were struggling to learn Peter Laviolette’s puck pursuit just a few months into his new job (Laviolette was hired December 9, 2009 to replace John Stevens). The team spent the remainder of the season in a dog-fight to finish with enough points to make the playoffs up until the very last game of the season against the Rangers. The sense of urgency was ever present.
Laviolette seems to desire a similar feeling this year as the previous.
“We’re in two different places,” said the Flyers coach. “You know, last year there was a desperation built into every game. I miss that a little bit. You know, that desperation, and this year we’re sitting in a place where it looks like we’re going to, you know, make the playoffs, and hopefully continue to win. So, there’s no really comparison between the two years.”
Again, Thursday night against the Isles, the Flyers entered the third period with the better of the play, and held a 3-1 lead over their Atlantic Division rivals.
After a blown defensive coverage, Isles forward, Matt Martin received a pass all alone in front of Flyers goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky and scored to make it 3-2.
Martin struck again with less than a minute remaining and their goalie pulled. The Isles forward caught a flying puck, dropped it to the ice, and flipped in the tying goal in one quick motion.
The Flyers have been dropping leads in the third far too often lately. This past Tuesday, against the visiting Coyotes, the Flyers entered the third with a one-goal lead, only to watch their opponents force overtime and win.
Laviolette showed concern over the recent trend.
“Well, anytime you give up leads it concerns you,” he said.
“You know, offensively we’ve fired a lot of shots. [We] got a lot of shots. Defensively I thought at times we were just too loose—too casual. We left the front of the net open. Things that we’ll look at, so the lead part, yeah, that concerns me. Offensively, we didn’t stop firing in the third period and the overtime. And, we kept looking at attacks, so I thought that was a positive, but defensively there were just some break downs, like the first goal of the third period that I talked about.”
The Flyers offense is third in the league in goals with and even 200. Against the Isles, they fired 43 shots when all said and done. The orange and black definitely have the fire power to trade goals with anyone in the league.
And, to add to the concerns of defense, just after getting Sean O’Donnell back from a sprained knee, star defenseman Chris Pronger left the game just six minutes into the third period after blocking a Ty Wishart shot with his hand.
When asked about the injury, Pronger jokingly referred to it as, “An upper-body contusion, yes.” X-rays showed there was no real damage, other than a bruise. He expects to be ready to play on Saturday.
With the Flyers lack of a seventh defenseman, due to Oskars Bartulis going down with an unstable shoulder injury, there’s likelihood they’ll call someone up form Adirondack. Although they have some cap space cleared from waiving Nikolay Zherdev, there’s a good chance they’ll use a defenseman from within the organization.
The defensive problems have to be on their minds. Three of their last six games, have needed extra time to be decided. And, although they haven’t lost back-to-back games since late December, their record in the last seven games is 4-2-1, not a spectacular showing for the conference leaders.
As opposed to Tuesday’s overtime loss, Thursday the Flyers walked away with two points. Laviolette tried to look at the positives.
“Other teams keep on winning, you got to keep winning. So, to be able to put the hammer down after one [loss], and get back on the winning side of things. Like I said, I think we need to be better than we were tonight,” he said. “But, we take it and we move on, but we’ve got to get better.”