When the Philadelphia Flyers played host to the Phoenix Coyotes Tuesday night, many expected a tough-fought, high-octane game.
That was certainly the case as the teams combined for 68 shots in the Coyotes’ 3-2 victory.
Despite sending the game to overtime with 1:13 remaining in regulation, the Orange and Black couldn’t close the deal in overtime. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen took a hooking penalty with 3:24 remaining in the extra stanza and the man disadvantage proved to be costly.
Coyotes’ forward and Captain Shane Doan ended the game with a one-timer past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Despite controlling play for much of the game and outshooting Phoenix 39-29, the team simply couldn’t convert on their golden opportunities.
“I think we hit the pipe five or six times tonight. [Bryzgalov] made some really nice saves,” said Flyers Head Coach Peter Laviolette after the game. “There were opportunities that came around the net and we couldn’t get it over the line. [Bryzgalov] was excellent tonight.”
With the barrage of shots that the Flyers threw at Ilya Bryzgalov, the score could have been much worse than 1-0 heading into the third period. However, a one-goal advantage is too close for comfort in the NHL, especially against a team as talented as the Coyotes. Phoenix scored twice on seven shots in the third to take the lead and suddenly the Flyers found themselves clawing for an opportunity at overtime.
Timonen knew exactly what he felt went wrong for the Flyers on Wednesday, and he made no bones about it after the game.
“As long as we can skate a full 60 minutes, we are going to win a lot of games,” he said. “It felt like today we skated for 40 minutes and then we weren’t really there.”
If there has been one weakness in the Flyers’ game this season, it has been the inability to put teams away when they have the opportunity. Some nights, the team just doesn’t capitalize on their chances and other nights they simply don’t play a full three periods of solid hockey. No matter the problems the Flyers had finishing the game in the third stanza on Tuesday; Claude Giroux’s goal that sent the game into overtime seemed to give the team all the momentum they needed to gain the extra point.
But when Timonen was sent off the ice for hooking, it wasn’t long after when Doan sent the home crowd home unhappy. They weren’t the only ones dissatisfied.
“I didn’t like [the call],” Laviolette sternly said to reporters. “I didn’t like that one and a lot of others.
“We are preaching discipline and that is all we talk about; is staying out of the box. We’ll kill the ones we have to, but with points on the line and things really valuable at this time of the year, I did not like the call.”
No matter the culprit of the Flyers’ loss on Tuesday, one thing was clear; the Wells Fargo Center crowd combined with the play of two of the NHL’s best teams made for a playoff-like atmosphere.
That atmosphere didn’t go unnoticed, especially to a player making his home debut in an orange sweater.
“This crowd is arguably the loudest in the league, and they keep going throughout the whole game, so it definitely gives you a lot of energy,” explained newly-acquired forward Kris Versteeg. “It’s too bad we didn’t come out with two points, but we do have to take the positives. It was a gutsy performance and a great goal by [Giroux] to get us back and into overtime and to give us a chance.”
Although Giroux provided that chance, it would prove to be fleeting and possibly corrupted by a questionable call. Regardless of the circumstances, the Flyers came away with an important point in the standings, but captain Mike Richards wasn’t satisfied with that.
“It [stinks],” a frustrated Richards said in the locker room. “I don’t know what else to say.”