Claude Giroux looks on following the Flyers' 3-2 loss to the Canucks. (USA Today Images)
Updated: 11:24 p.m.
They had earned themselves a point. Maybe even a victory.
Now it was early in the third period and the Flyers were clinging to a 2-1 lead and likely thinking to themselves: Something bad will happen.
Sure enough, Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin stood behind the net. Chris Higgins was in front flanked by Claude Giroux and Braydon Coburn.
When Sedin started to make to his right, Nick Grossmann challenged. That’s when Sedin found Higgins with a pass and he buried a shot on goalie Steve Mason while others watched.
“We had an unchecked man behind the net and an open guy in front,” said Coburn, who was minus-3 in the game.
Added Giroux: “It happened pretty quick, but obviously, [Higgins] has to be picked up.”
It was another in a growing list of deflating third-period moments, a stanza in which the Flyers have been outscored 10-2 and saw yet another good effort wasted.
Ultimately, the Flyers lost 3-2 to the Canucks on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Tye McGinn’s two-goal effort was in vain.
“There’s a couple of breakdowns there on those goals that we definitely have to correct,” coach Craig Berube said.
“Giroux and Grossmann got a little mixed up on who was going and who wasn’t going. Sedin went to the other side and Grossy jumped on him a bit. He popped it out.
“We got to cover them. Grossy should stay with his guy. And Giroux should keep pressuring them.”
And Coburn? He watched the lead disappear. For good.
“You got to take it to teams in the third period and win the game,” Berube said. “We’re kind of sitting back a bit and waiting for something bad to happen ... we've got to get over that hump -- be mentally tough and go out and do it.”
Once upon a time, the Flyers had swagger to go after teams in the third period. Now they wilt.
“Three years ago when I came here, we had that attitude that no matter if we were down in the third period, there was no hesitation that we couldn’t come back,” Jakub Voracek said.
“Last two years, it feels like we’re up 2-1 or down one goal, the team would tie it. We are scared to make something happen on the ice. We've got to stick with the same game plan for all 60 minutes.”
Almost forgotten here was Voracek and his line had a scoring chance and failed prior to Vancouver turning the puck back up ice for the tying goal. If the Flyers score, Higgins' goal doesn’t happen.
“We played our best game and it’s frustrating, and [Mason] made the saves to keep us in the game,” said Giroux, the Flyers’ captain. “We’re getting better every game, that’s a fact. If anybody knows anything about hockey ... we played our best game.”
For 50-plus minutes they did, until disaster struck. And they still could have won it.
With 8:21 left to play, the Flyers got a power play. This is when special teams has to make a difference in a tight game. Yet, the Flyers still struggle to get points, shots and chances. They had one shot that entire power play as their skid hit 0 for 17.
Of the two power plays the Flyers had on Tuesday, they managed one official shot. That’s unacceptable.
Soon after that last power play, Ryan Kesler won it on a series of shots that had both the Flyers and Mason scrambling. Kesler had two goals.
Vancouver gets up the ice quicker than any opponent the Flyers have seen so far. The problem has been what the Canucks do with the puck once there. It took the third period for Vancouver to solve its dilemma.
Berube said he wanted to see the Flyers get to the net a lot quicker than they have been, and get some rebounds.
That is exactly what McGinn has done since rejoining this club after being sent to the Phantoms early in training camp.
He scored in the first period with a diving backhand effort, and gave the Flyers a 2-1 second-period lead with a follow shot in the slot, as well.
So in just two games, McGinn is the Flyers' leading goal scorer with three.
“We have to shoot the puck -- that’s how goals go in and I’m just seeing shots from the far side,” McGinn said. “They are simple shots, but sometimes the goalies just can’t handle it and it pops right out into the slot and that’s where we need guys to be.”
The Flyers' lead off McGinn’s first goal lasted all of 10 seconds. Jannik Hansen’s dump-in pass after the faceoff took a crazy carom off the back boards as Mason was going for the puck behind the net.
Kesler was alone in the slot for an empty netter.
“You can't let things like that affect you -- you can't always control what the puck does,” Mason said. “You control what you do after that and I thought we played a pretty strong game.”
McGinn regained the lead for the Flyers barely two minutes into the second period.
Voracek drove hard down the right boards and angled a backhander that goalie Roberto Luongo tried kicking. The puck nicked Giroux and landed in front of McGinn in the paint. He made it 2-1.
The Flyers had a chance to widen their lead near the period’s end on their power(less) play, but the Canucks have the third-best penalty killers in the NHL at 90.5 percent efficiency and suffice to say, they showed the Flyers why.
“It’s tough,” Berube said. “I told my team afterward, just keep believing. We’re going in the right direction.
“It was a hard-fought game. When you play a John Tortorella team, you are in for a dog fight. We knew that. I thought our guys competed really hard.”