Goals at beginning, end of first doom Flyers

Goals at beginning, end of first doom Flyers
January 23, 2013, 8:00 am

NEWARK, N.J. – The Flyers gave up a goal just 67 seconds into Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

But instead of falling back on their heels and allowing it to dictate the period, they fought hard to turn their luck around.

They allowed the Devils only two shots on net in the first 19 minutes of the period, and sent nine of their own in on goalie Martin Brodeur. It wasn’t a perfect effort, but a tie game seemed inevitable.

That is, until Braydon Coburn went to the penalty box, and Devils winger David Clarkson wheeled the puck around from behind Ilya Bryzgalov. It ricocheted off Ruslan Fedotenko’s skate and into the Flyers’ net with just 25 seconds remaining – and it was as if the entire team deflated in that moment.

They went on to lose, 3-0.

“Any time there is a big goal like that at the end of the period, it kind of kills momentum,” Claude Giroux said. “We’ve got to find a way to get back at it. We have to find a way to get the puck behind the net. We're not playing bad, we’ve just got to be more hungry. Guys worked hard tonight. It's not work ethic or not wanting to win. Guys are playing their heart out.”

Starts have been an issue for the Flyers, three games into this abbreviated season. Coach Peter Laviolette made no secret of his displeasure with the team's play in the first period in Saturday’s season-opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sunday’s loss in Buffalo.

He was pleased, though, with how his team looked for most of the first 20 minutes Tuesday night at the Prudential Center. The Flyers competed hard, he said, taking to heart the issues he had addressed with them heading into the game.

“I think we came out with the right attitude tonight,” Laviolette said. “Just not the right results after the first period.”

Captain Giroux agreed.

“I think we played a great first period,” he said. “The first two games, we weren’t too good, too solid the first period. But we did a pretty good job this game. … The result is not what we want, but we’ve got to take the positives of what we did out there.”

Few things dictate the direction of a hockey game more than a goal scored in a period’s final seconds. And that’s especially true for the team who gives it up – and often even more an issue if it happens on a bad bounce or awkward deflection.

While the Flyers did show signs of life in the 40 minutes that followed Clarkson’s goal, their mounting frustrations were obvious.

They incurred 16 penalties, including the one that resulted in Clarkson’s goal. They were unable to make any of their six power plays count, and even forfeited the Devils’ third goal while on the man advantage, thanks to a miscommunication that led to a breakaway and eventual penalty shot for Ilya Kovalchuk.

“I thought we played decent for the first little bit,” Wayne Simmonds said. “And then we kind of started taking penalties and they started getting on the power play, and our power play couldn’t finish opportunities. I think that’s where the game was lost.”

Last season, especially during the playoffs, the Flyers made a habit of digging themselves into early holes only to fight back and win. While Clarkson’s goal wasn’t what they wanted, Max Talbot said, ideally the Flyers could have clawed their way back as they’ve done in the past.

“It’s tough, but we’ve come back before,” Talbot said. “We did it all through last year, coming back. We have to find our legs. We definitely need better starts, that’s for sure.”

And, his teammates agreed, they need to find a way to hit the back of the net – preferably before the opposition.

“We’ve made a habit of playing from behind,” Simmonds said. “And you’re not going to win hockey games playing like that.”