Brayden Schenn reacts after missing an open net in the Flyers' 4-1 loss to the Penguins. (USA Today Images)
It was easily the worst 20 minutes of hockey the Flyers have played all season and yet they still had reason to believe after two periods against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That’s because goalie Steve Mason had already made 15 saves in the second period and instead of trailing 5-0, the Flyers were behind only 2-1.
“We talked the truth -- our second period was unacceptable,” Max Talbot said. “Chief [Craig Berube] told us exactly the truth. That Mason was standing on his head. We would not have been in that game. That was the spark for us.”
Despite a strong, more desperate third period in which the score remained the same until the final 2:32, the Flyers still lost 4-1 at Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), dropping them to 1-7. Per Elias Sports Bureau, they became the first team since the 1964 Bruins to go eight games into a season without scoring at least three goals in a game.
For 35 of 40 minutes, the Flyers were being outplayed, outhustled, out-everythinged by Pittsburgh.
“We weren’t doing anything,” Wayne Simmonds said. “It was like we were looking for the amazing play and not getting pucks on net. We had that late goal and felt we had momentum.”
You can’t win if you can’t score and you can’t score if you can’t shoot, and through two periods all the Flyers had were 13 shots.
Simmonds had numerous chances. Brayden Schenn had a gift opportunity in the third on Marc-Andre Fleury, who matched Mason’s effort in goal.
“Obviously, I would like to have had that one back with an open net that could have changed the hockey game,” Schenn said.
“It was pretty much as bad a second period as you can possibly have. We had it, we got out-muscled, out-battled, outworked.
“The second period, obviously, wasn’t a good one for us, and good hockey teams like that will stick it to you and they did.”
Even Mason was unimpressed.
“We were not happy with our first two periods of play,” Mason said. “My opinion, and I think everyone else’s opinion, is terrible hockey. You are not going to win hockey games like that.
“I thought the guys came out with a lot more emotion in the third period and that’s the way we need to play. If we can start playing like that, then we will start being more successful than we are.”
Whereas the puck was in the Flyers' end much of the opening two periods, it was in the Pens' end in the final period. Still, the Flyers could not change their fate.
Yet, what was unnerving here is that the Flyers were so bloody flat against them early and couldn’t muster the energy needed to compete for an entire game against their most-hated Metropolitan Division rival.
“It’s surprising but very disappointing,” coach Craig Berube said. “Very surprising.”
And the Flyers shut down the Penguins' power play, too. That alone should have given them reason to believe they could win.
“When we wanted to play, we were right with them,” Berube said. “We had some good opportunities to score goals. We scored a power-play goal, which was huge at the end of the period.”