Michael Raffl slides into goalie Carter Hutton in the Flyers' 4-3 shootout loss to the Predators. (USA Today Images)
The Flyers did exactly what had been asked of them for the first period of Thursday’s game. They hit the ice with energy, dictated the play and even took an early lead.
The problem, though, is that it didn’t last. In their 4-3 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators (see Instant Replay, the Flyers took control of the game early only to watch it slip out of their grasp.
And though they managed to claw their way back and force overtime and an eventual shootout, it wasn’t enough.
“It kind of felt like we started watching, standing around and watching, after the first 10 minutes,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We played solid, and then they kept going and going and going, and they never let up and they had a solid back half of the first period, they played well. It was unfortunate.”
Brayden Schenn scored just 1:26 after the opening faceoff and the Flyers took a commanding lead in shots that they carried through most of the first period.
“We were talking about to have a good start,” Andrej Meszaros said. “I think we did, maybe the first 10 minutes. Then we started kind of backing out, and it wasn’t the same. They had a good forecheck and cycle game, and we couldn’t handle that.”
But winger Eric Nystrom tied the game during an ill-timed five-on-three just after the midpoint of the first period, and things largely went downhill for the Flyers after that. David Legwand’s goal moments later put the Predators up 2-1 -- that one was scored on the man advantage, too.
Penalties, in fact, interrupted the Flyers’ momentum all night.
“I think penalties kind of killed us,” Simmonds said. “We got that other penalty on the five-on-four, made it a five-on-three. It obviously sucks that that happened, but most likely they’re going to score and that’s what happened.”
The Flyers gave up two shorthanded goals after having entered the game on a stretch during which they killed 30 of their last 31 penalties.
But going just 1 for 4 on their own power-play chances obviously didn’t help either.
“They had a couple cycle shifts, then we took a couple penalties,” coach Craig Berube said. “They scored. Even before that, though, they had some cycles that I thought we didn’t do a very good job of eliminating. Too much time in our end. And I thought the same thing in the second period at times, where they had the puck too much in our end, we didn’t stop the cycle and it kind of sucks the life out of us a little bit.”
The “Comeback Kids” as they’ve played like lately didn’t fall back entirely on their heels, however, despite playing a rather disorganized brand of hockey all night. Andrej Meszaros tied the game at 2 with just five seconds left in the second period, and Simmonds forced overtime when he scored with just 1:24 left in regulation.
“The way the game was going, we had our chances,” Steve Mason said. “And we were able capitalize with about a minute to go, but we just weren’t able to get the second point.”
The shootout went seven rounds, with only Schenn and Sean Couturier besting Nashville goalie Carter Hutton. Matt Cullen, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi scored for the Predators.
The strong start is something to build off of, the Flyers know. As is the fact that they fought past a third-period deficit once again -- something that’s becoming routine these days.
And though they were so close to earning two points they could almost taste it, the Flyers know Thursday’s end result could have been much worse.
“At least we got one point,” Simmonds said. “Obviously you want to get two points, that’s the ideal situation. But when you’re coming from behind like that, which we shouldn’t have been, it happens. It’s better to get one point than nothing.”