This is what you might call a “home-and-home” week for the Flyers.
They played the Capitals in Washington on Sunday -- losing 5-4 in a shootout -- and they host the Caps tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
They next host Columbus on Thursday night, then travel to Ohio to face the Blue Jackets on Saturday.
“This is a huge week for us -- it’s as plain as day,” Scott Hartnell said. “These are division games. We let a team ahead of us get a couple points on us. It hurt [Sunday] night.
“I’m not going to lie. Everyone remembers the last game. We got embarrassed by these guys [Capitals] in our building [losing 7-0]. We have to be ready to play.
“You look at the next two games, we have Columbus, a team we haven’t played in a couple of years. Those are four points, as well. Christmas is coming up. We’ve got a big break and can’t take any shifts off for any games.”
Flyers coach Craig Berube has already talked to his team about a couple of things he would like to see Tuesday that he didn’t see on Sunday.
One of them is winning faceoffs. The Caps ate the Flyers for a matinee lunch, winning 58 percent of the draws Sunday.
You start with the puck, you start with a chance to go on offense. Otherwise, you’re chasing.
“The only area I would like to see different is a couple faceoffs and we talked about it before the game,” Berube said. “Not losing draws cleanly when [Alex] Ovechkin is out there. Our centermen did a good job on that, but we didn’t help out enough.”
In other words, the wingers have to be sharp off the draw to get the puck. The Caps try to get the draw immediately back to Ovechkin for one-timers in the offensive zone.
“Especially when Ovechkin is out there,” Berube said. “He lines up where they try to win the draw right to him. We’ve talked about not losing these draws clean. For the most part, we did that.
“Our wingers have to help out more and get in there. I’d like to see us win a few more faceoffs in the third period and start with the puck. Again, just makes some plays. Don’t just get it out. Make plays, get down on their end and kill time.”
And don’t blow a three-goal lead in the third period, too.
MONTREAL — Wayne Simmonds didn’t feel as though he did anything wrong. Or that he even touched Andrei Markov.
Thing is, however, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety may have a different view of it come Tuesday morning.
Early during first-period play Monday night, the Flyers' winger came out of the penalty box after serving a minor for holding and cross-checked Markov from behind.
The Canadiens' defenseman went face-first into the boards and fell to the ice, where he appeared to try and sell a penalty. Nothing came of it, but the hit will likely be reviewed anyway.
“I barely touched him,” Simmonds. “When you got a bunch of guys diving all over the place, what are you going to do? Stand on your feet.”
There were a number of tough hits from both sides in the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the Canadiens (see game recap). It was evenly played and the Flyers deserved a point.
“We played a solid game,” Simmonds said. “Obviously, we lost and it’s not what we wanted but we have four more games this week.
“We go home and we've got to be focused on the positive things that we did and carry it over the rest of the week.”
Radko Gudas has yet to play a real game this season.
The Flyers' bruising defenseman has been serving a six-game suspension for a careless hit in Boston that closed out exhibition play earlier this month.
Tuesday night, the Flyers will play the back end of a back-to-back against Buffalo at the Wells Fargo Center and Gudas likely will return to the lineup now that his suspension has ended.
“It seems like forever,” Gudas said. “I could use more games behind me. I think I’m ready with my conditioning and skill level, so I can’t wait to get back in there.”
The decision as to who comes out will be difficult. A good guess right now would be Nick Schultz.
“We've got the information at this point,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “It will be a tough decision, no question, if we are healthy.”
At some point — Nov. 5 — Michael Del Zotto will be eligible to come off LTIR. That means another veteran blueliner would become available and an even bigger problem will arise because Del Zotto carries a $3.875 million cap hit.
Barring injury or trade, when Del Zotto returns, the Flyers will have to move two players off their roster entirely just to be cap compliant.
For now, following Monday’s loss, Hakstol has to decide whether to stick with his current defense or put Gudas back in. Given the Flyers have missed Gudas’ physical presence — teams have taken liberties on smallish rookie Travis Konecny — it makes sense to reinsert Gudas.
“Obviously, teams are going to take advantage of smaller guys,” Gudas said. “I would love to be out there if anything happened. All the guys here are responsible and I think they did a pretty good job defending that. It’s not happening a lot.”
No, but it’s happened enough that the Flyers should take note of it.
Hakstol said his decision does not have to come until Tuesday.
“That’s not to say we haven’t looked at things and thought about the [issue], but that decision comes after tonight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gudas finally has come to the conclusion that the NHL is watching his every hit.
“They’re looking at me since Day 1 I got here,” he said. “The guys made up their minds. I have to make sure I don’t give them an opportunity to call again.”
Maybe he should change his ringtone to say, “Player Safety calling.”
Simmonds and Matt Read saw their four-game goal-scoring streaks come to an end. ... The Flyers were credited with 39 hits, the most they’ve had since 41 in a home game against Montreal on Jan. 5, 2016. Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Schultz were credited with five apiece. ... Ice-time leaders: Ivan Provorov (21:31), Shayne Gostisbehere (21:27) and Brandon Manning (20:36). … Boyd Gordon was 10 for 12 (83 percent) on faceoffs. ... Jakub Voracek had five shots, giving him 21 overall, which ties him for 10th in the league. His goal gave him eight points and ties him with five other players for fourth in the NHL.
MONTREAL — It was at least a point in the taking.
A valuable point against the best team in the Eastern Conference, being preserved for the Flyers by goalie Steve Mason.
Despite an outstanding road effort and 30 saves from Mason, it wasn't enough Monday night at Bell Centre as Les Canadiens defeated the Flyers, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).
“We were right there, same as other games this year in the third period,” Jakub Voracek said. “We got scored on from the power play. It happens.”
Brendan Gallagher’s tip at 13:08 on the power play was the difference. Thing is, Boyd Gordon, who won 10 of 12 draws, cleanly directed the draw but it went right to Shea Weber — a faceoff loss — with Alexander Radulov unleashing a wicked shot.
“Sometimes you go against a righty and get jammed and it was more towards their winger,” Gordon said. “I bumped it back. A mix-up up top. Too bad because the PK was good.”
The Flyers have nothing to be ashamed of after Monday's effort. They deserved a better fate. If they continue to play like this, the victories will come.
“I thought Mase played really well but I thought our team played really well,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We didn’t have to steal anything. Our team played a real solid road game and it always starts with your goaltender.”
Mason had four point-blank shots he denied in this game.
“We definitely wanted to come in here and get two points and it’s disappointing with the loss,” Mason said. “Nice thing is, we can get right back at it tomorrow [against Buffalo].
“It was a close game overall and both teams had chances to go ahead. They capitalized on a couple bounces there and that’s the ebbs and flows of the game. They found a way to win and we didn’t.”
On the game-winner, Mason was expecting the one-timer from Weber but instead the former defenseman, who came over during the summer in a controversial trade for P.K. Subban, gave it off to Radulov.
“He shot it and I had a good line on it,” Mason said. “Gallagher was able to get his stick on it there and it changed directions on me.”
Curiously, Montreal had four power plays in this game to the Flyers' one despite the evenness of play across the board with the exception of the slot, where Montreal had better chances.
Sean Couturier’s tripping call on Torrey Mitchell was inadvertent, setting up the crucial late power play.
“It was a pretty well-played third period,” Hakstol said. “Tough penalty we ended up getting called on.
“Not much Coots could do. He was dragging his stick to break up the play. It’s a penalty when the stick goes between the legs.”
The Flyers owned much of the second period. While Mason handled a number of rushes right into the crease, he was felled by a point drive from Weber that stanza.
Weber’s shot was so hard it broke Brayden Schenn’s stick. Yet, the simple truth was Mason was screened out completely by Andrew MacDonald.
Eleven of the Flyers' 13 shots on Carey Price came via five-on-five play that period, most of it contained in the period’s latter third when they were rewarded.
Voracek had a ferocious shift with an open shot in the slot that Price denied, but he kept the puck alive and earned his third goal with a tip of Claude Giroux’s drive from the high slot to make it 1-1.
Voracek has three goals in six games during this first month. He didn’t get his third goal last season until Dec. 19 at Columbus — 33 games.
“Second period is usually the most offensive one,” Voracek said. “It’s too bad we only generated one goal.
“As a game on the road in a tough building against a team that [has lost once], we can be happy the way we played.”