The Philadelphia Flyers skated onto the ice at Wells Fargo Center last night riding a two-game winning streak, and after taking a 3-0 lead into the third period against a desperate Atlanta Thrashers team (who were coming off a big overtime home loss at the hands of the New Jersey Devils on Friday night) they appeared to be well on their way to a third straight victory.
Unfortunately, the Flyers needed to preserve that lead without Chris Pronger, who wasn’t be able to play due to a wrist injury. General Manager Paul Holmgren spoke to the media outside of his box during the first intermission to update the status of Pronger. He stated that Pronger was day-to-day and had a new cast covering his wrist and part of the hand. Holmgren also stated that, Pronger, looked better in practice, but it was still a wait and see issue.
Pronger showed his valuable leadership and desire to win by laying into his team in the locker room after a sloppy third period in the Flyers’ 4-1 win over the Oilers Tuesday night. And the Flyers managed to take the Eastern Conference lead (90 points) with their win over the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the Thrashers came into the game six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Desperate for a victory, they took advantage of Pronger’s absence, mounting a frantic third period comeback in which they rallied from a 3-0 hole and a 4-2 hole late in the third, just moments after Ville Leino netted a hat trick. Atlanta tied the game with just 44.6 seconds to play in regulation when Kris Versteeg tried to shoot the puck behind his net off a Thrasher dump in, but instead ended up throwing it into his own crease which Andrew Ladd then deposited into the net behind sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky. The goal completed the four-goal third period comeback by Atlanta leaving the Flyers and their fans stunned.
The crowd was even more stunned when the Thrashers completed the comeback just 1:17 into overtime, as Thrashers defenseman Ron Hainsey tallied the game-winner after tipping a pass from forward Evander Kane past Bobrovsky on a 2-on-1.
The collapse was the third straight shaky third period by the Flyers. They escaped the previous two with victories, but tonight they could not overcome Pronger’s absence and the subsequent onslaught by the Thrashers.
After the game Danny Briere, told the media that the team’s recent third period collapses were “scary.”
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he thought the effort from his team was there and some breakdowns proved to be the turning point of the game. Laviolette also stated that he had a different feel after this game of less panic than he had in the previous two even though they won those. He went on to say that the loss and the play in the third were still unacceptable.
The Flyers will have a few days to think and get that burning feeling from this loss out of their gut, before taking on the Florida Panthers Tuesday night in the “Sunshine State.”