The Flyers remained winless through three games after once more struggling to score in a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes in Carolina. (USA Today Images)
RALEIGH, N.C. -- It’s starting to resemble last winter’s lockout-shortened season for Peter Laviolette’s Flyers.
After three games, they remain winless following Sunday’s 2-1 loss at PNC Arena to previously winless Carolina.
Kimmo Timonen says the Flyers are about to find out what their made of.
“It’s disappointing. We wanted to get off to a good start, and we’re 0-3,” said the Finnish defenseman. “That’s not good.
“There’s going to be ups and downs in the season. This is the first test for us as a group, a team. Now is not the time to blame people. There’s still 79 games left, but this is the test for us, at the same time, as a team.
“How do we come out of this? How do we start playing? We’re not happy at all. Everyone knows what happened last year
“Now we really see where we are as a team and how tight we are as a team. … If we don’t starting playing as a team, we’re going to be 0-6. Now it’s sticking together, stick with the game plan and put the work boots on.”
Looking at the Flyers' schedule last week, even a pessimist would have conceded a victory against rebuilding Carolina. But with guys squeezing their sticks into sawdust -- three goals in three losses -- there’s no margin for error. And errors are costing the Flyers dearly.
“I would say that is probably the case, and that’s what happened in the first game, as well,” Laviolette said. “Offensively, if you are not scoring, then everything has to be perfect on the defensive side of things.”
As bad as it was, the Flyers had their chances. Jakub Voracek, back on the top line throughout the game with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux, almost got a stuffer inside the right post during a late third-period power play that would have tied it, 2-2.
Then again, the Flyers were nearly out-shot by a 2-to-1 margin, 34-18. That’s not Flyer hockey.
Sloppy play at both ends of the ice in the first period hurt, too.
“Early on, I thought we were a little bit sloppy with our play and our puck movement,” Laviolette said. “Simple things that should not get turned over. Execution. It got better but still not much room offensively.”
Much of the opening period was played in the Flyers' end while the Hurricanes had numerous scoring chances on goalie Steve Mason.
“Our execution was off in general, early only on,” Laviolette said. “We talked about a couple of different things. Support on the puck being better. Puck battles were not strong enough.
“In the first period, we lost way too many puck battles – staying in the battle, positioning, heavy stick in the battle. If you don’t come up with those battles, you’re chasing them.”
The Flyers were also irresponsible with the puck, tossing blind offensive passes into the slot without skaters there, not to mention clearing pucks in their own end without looking.
Jay Harrison had the opening period’s only goal on a slapper from atop the left circle that squeezed through Mason’s pads then trickled into the net.
“That’s a stop that I should have made, and it might have been easier if I had those extra inches on my pads,” Mason said, referring to rules change mandating smaller goalie pads this season.
The period ended with Hartnell taking a pass from Giroux on right wing and putting a shot off goalie Anton Khudobin’s shoulder as the buzzer sounded.
Giroux agreed the team is pressing to score.
“Yeah, when you only score three goals in three games, guys get more frustrated and want to do more,” the Flyers' captain said. “Sometimes less is more.”
Things picked up for the Flyers in the second period when they ended their even-strength scoring drought with Luke Schenn’s drive from the left circle that deflected high to glove side of Khudobin, off the right post, and in the net to tie the game.
Since the start of the season, the Flyers had gone 143 minutes and one second without an even-strength goal.
Schenn’s goal seemed to give the Flyers some “jam” -- as coach Peter Laviolette is fond of saying -- but Schenn negated his own goal with a terrible turnover that burned Mason at 8:20 of the second.
On the breakout, and under pressure from Jeff Skinner, Schenn passed the puck from behind the goal line up the middle of the ice. It deflected off Skinner’s skate onto Radek Dvorak’s stick. Dvorak ripped an uncontested 30-footer top shelf for the game-winner.
“I saw [Sean] Couturier open in the middle and tried to make a play,” Schenn said. “I knew there was no one behind him and if I could get him that puck we’d have a clean exit out of the zone.
“Sometimes, when you try to make plays, you don’t always get the bounces you want. It went off his skate -- not like I had put it on the other guy’s tape.
“Mistakes like that become big in games when we don’t get much offense going.”
Again, no margin for error given the Flyers' lack of goal scoring.
Mason saved it from becoming 3-1 near the end of the second period with a terrific kick save on Eric Staal in which he had to go post-to-post to get his pad on the shot during a Carolina power play.
“We had a terrible start – 0-3 is not what we wanted,” said newcomer Mark Steit. “The last two games we didn’t play well. … We have a lot of potential, but so far we have not shown it.”