VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers first three games of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series werent perfect. The team started too slow. They fell into early deficits. They backed down on defense.
But one thing the Flyers had been successful in through Games 1 through 3 was discipline. Whereas the Pittsburgh Penguins had clearly allowed the Flyers to get under their skin and had plenty of penalties to show for it the Flyers focused on playing between the whistles, on keeping their game clean.
On Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, they took a very big step backward, incurring 64 minutes of penalties and thwarting themselves in great part because of it. The result was an ugly 10-3 loss the Flyers would like to put behind them. Fast.
I think our discipline was terrible in Game 4, Danny Briere said. Especially in the second period. It completely took us out of the game. We were doing a good job of that in the first three games. That caught up to us yesterday in the second period, by not respecting the game plan.
The Flyers took seven minor penalties in the second period, 34 minutes in all (Zac Rinaldos misconduct and game misconduct accounted for 20 of them). All those penalty kills not only allowed for the Penguins to net five unanswered goals in the middle stanza, but they threw off the Flyers rhythm entirely.
Players like Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr who play upwards of 20 minutes a night played far fewer minutes in Game 4, hovering closer to the 13-14 minute mark. The same can be said for Brieres line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, which has been one of the teams highest-scoring for weeks now.
It was terrible, Scott Hartnell said. That second period, I dont know what the score was afterward, but at the seven-minute mark our line had one shift together, I think it was the first shift of the period. Your penalty killers get a lot of work, its taxing them, its not good for them. Weve got to realize that weve got to be disciplined
Of course, there were other reasons behind the Flyers loss, which brought the series to 3-1. Goaltending was an area of concern (Ilya Bryzgalov was pulled after allowing his fifth goal of the game, and then Sergei Bobrovsky allowed five of his own), as was a too-porous defense. But the discipline trouble is one the Flyers ought to be able to correct and control more easily its something they had been excelling at before Wednesday.
It was a big part of the loss, Max Talbot said. We took too many penalties. I think the refs were trying to prove a point as well as calling every little thing like it was preseason. But you know what? They did it for both sides. And both sides had chances and power plays and thats something that we had to adapt as well. But we were undisciplined and it cost us.
In total, the Penguins scored a hard-to-swallow four goals on the man advantage.
Its not a new thing that theyre calling, Hartnell said. Those little hooks to the hands, you cant hold somebodys stick, you cant interfere with someone driving to the net. We definitely have to be a little bit sharper.
It can be frustrating for players when series are called inconsistently, and that can definitely be said for this one. The referees all but lost control of both teams in the Flyers Game 3 victory, and as Talbot pointed out, seemed to set the tone in Game 4 by calling everything.
It threw off the game plan for the Flyers, but the fact remains: in great part, they brought on the chaos themselves by their actions on the ice. The team has said all along that they cannot control what the Penguins do or think, but they can focus on their own game.
There wasnt any confusion last night. Everything was called, coach Peter Laviolette said. I go back and look at the penalties we had to kill last night, the referees made the correct call. We need to do a better job with discipline. Did we crosscheck? Yeah. Did we hook? Yeah. Did we hold? Yeah. I think theres got to be accountability to us.
We gave them 13 minutes of power-play time, and thats a dangerous, dangerous road to go down. We have to do a better job of discipline.