The Flyers didn’t look like a team that had won five in a row and polished off some of the best competition in the NHL.
Instead, for two-thirds of Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, they looked lost -- more like the team that played here back in November and December. And despite a late third-period effort, they lost for the first time in almost two weeks, 3-2 (see Instant Replay).
“Sometimes, you just don’t have it,” Jake Voracek said. “We just didn’t have it the first 40 minutes today. Sometimes that happens to even the best teams. I’m not saying it’s an excuse.”
Through two periods at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers clearly didn’t have it. They struggled to break out of their own zone, they struggled to maintain control of the puck and they struggled to put shots on goalie Jonathan Quick (see 10 observations).
As a result, they fell into third place in the Metropolitan Division, behind the New York Rangers who now lead them by a point (see story).
“We had a tough time doing everything,” Scott Hartnell said. “We were poor defensively, we took penalties, we couldn’t get a forecheck going and turned too many pucks over. It’s disappointing, how good we’ve played the last couple weeks to play so bad tonight.”
Despite five first-period turnovers, the Flyers escaped the opening stanza with the game still tied 0-0. But unlike Saturday’s win over the St. Louis Blues, they didn’t correct their mistakes in time for the start of the second period.
Instead, it was the second period in which the game truly began to open up in the Kings’ favor. Former Flyer Jeff Carter scored first less than two minutes in. His marker was followed up by one from another former Flyer, Justin Williams (see highlights).
The players dressed in orange, though, didn’t respond with any aggression. The Kings led 33-18 in shots after two periods.
“The first 40 minutes, we didn’t compete hard enough,” coach Craig Berube said. “We let them outwork us. That was the difference in the game.”
In fact, had Ray Emery not played as well as he did, the Flyers could have been down by a lot more than two heading into the third period. Emery, who stopped 38 Kings shots, suffered his first career regular-season loss to the Kings Monday night.
“We understand teams are hungry this time of year,” he said. “They’re going to come out hard. For the most part, we have been also lately. But we’ve had a couple tough ones, especially at the start of games, and sometimes you put yourself behind where you can’t come back.”
The Flyers did come close to coming back Monday, they just couldn’t quite make it to their 12th third-period comeback of the year. Matt Read scored on the very first short of the period, and at 8:18 in, Voracek added to it to tie the game 2-2.
For a few minutes, however fleeting, the Flyers thought they might be able to do it again. Dwight King's goal, however, settled the game in the Kings' favor.
“Positive energy on the bench there, 2-2, with probably 13 minutes left,” Read said. “I thought we were going to get the next one in the next couple minutes and be on our toes the rest of the third.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. We’ve got to learn from this game and move on to New York on Wednesday.”
And the Flyers’ takeaway ahead of that critical Rangers game is that they can’t take any time off -- not if they want to avoid a similar outcome.
“It was just a frustrating 20 minutes and then another bad 20 minutes,” Hartnell said. “We’ve come back a lot this year. You can’t do that every night, especially against a goalie like that, a team that can shut teams down like they do.”