It was almost like men playing against kids.
Those are Scott Hartnell’s words after a numbing 3-0 loss by the Flyers on Thursday night to the New Jersey Devils. The defeat reduced the Flyers' elimination number to two points.
A Rangers’ victory Friday at Buffalo will officially knock the Flyers out of playoff contention.
“There have been other nights like this,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I have always said that after the game, you come into the locker room and you sit here, you come in the next morning ... and the players care.
“The organization cares. It’s not a comfortable spot. There have been other nights like this as well, but you’ve gotta keep pushing forward.”
All the more reason why there should have been a little more urgency in the second period when the Devils won every battle in sight and gained control of the game.
“If you want to look at puck battles and who wanted it more, the second and third period, they totally took over the game,” Hartnell said.
“It was almost like men playing against kids. We pretty much lost every battle. You do that, you’re not going to win games.”
When you’ve reached the end of the regular season, you don’t seek many comparisons to previous games, but this had a familiar look about it.
Tight defense. Some big saves. Lack of scoring -- both ways. For a period, anyway.
Sort of like the 1-0 loss the Flyers suffered in Buffalo last weekend except the Flyers battled hard all the way through.
Not this one.
“They’re frustrating to play against,” Hartnell said. “And when you get frustrated, you start doing things that aren’t in the game plan.
“Whether it’s a turnover or one try to make a play other than chipping it in, not supporting each other on the breakout, they come hard. They skate hard. They want it more.
“It’s always a frustrating game to play the Devils. They probably circle every time they play us and say, ‘This is gonna be a fun game.’ They’re winning and we’re not.”
Since Game 2 of last year's playoffs against the Devils, the Flyers have just 14 goals in nine games against New Jersey to go with a 1-8 record. The Rangers aren't the only team that owns the Flyers these days.
The Flyers were the Devils’ tonic to end a 10-game losing streak (0-6-4) in which they had just 14 goals to show for it.
New Jersey made the most of a 1-0 lead earned early in the second period.
Soon after Marty Brodeur denied Claude Giroux off the rush, Jacob Josefson stole a puck off Flyer rookie defenseman Oliver Lauridsen for a breakaway goal by Matt D’Agostini that iced it.
The first period was very competitive with neither team having anything to show for it.
As usual, New Jersey’s tenacious forecheck caused the Flyers problems on the breakout, while Brodeur continually thwarted dump-ins by playing pucks up the forwards quickly and catching the Flyers in transition.
The Flyers’ best chance in the period came with eight minutes left when Mike Knuble briefly was alone in the slot with the puck on his stick and no one but Brodeur in front of him.
Devils defenseman Peter Harrold, however, blocked Knuble’s shot.
While the Flyers were getting some chances off the rush, Brodeur was either making routine saves or the Devils' defense was stifling the play.
A three-on-one into the Devils' end saw it turned right around as New Jersey mounted a two-on-one the other way off a turnover.
The play culminated with Ryan Carter’s wrister from the left circle that beat Ilya Bryzgalov high short side for a 1-0 lead at 5:36.
Two of the Devils' goals came off turnovers.
“The second period there was a little bit of a letdown on our part,” Danny Briere said. “The biggest problem is we don’t know how to play a patient game. The last two years, we have struggled against the Devils because they’re patient.
“They wait for their chance. We didn’t give them much. You look at the two goals we gave up five-on-five, they were bad turnovers in the neutral zone where we had complete control of the puck.
“They don’t make those mistakes. Whenever they get in that position, they just make a safe play and wait to live another day. That’s what we need to learn.”
Carter’s goal broke the Devils' scoreless streak at 146:13. Also, New Jersey had not enjoyed a lead in a game since the final 30 seconds against Florida on March 30.
Talk about droughts.
If that goal didn’t hurt the Flyers enough, Jakub Voracek’s 20th of the season was disallowed four minutes later because of a “distinct kicking motion.”
Voracek did just that and it was denied on review, too.
Some time around 10 p.m. Friday, the Flyers' season will likely officially end.
“Well you know what, it’s a disappointing season ... still a couple games left, but it’s frustrating the way we played this game,” Giroux said.
“They won more battles than us, that’s the thing.”
It's been like this most of the season, too.
It was almost like men playing against kids.