EDMONTON, Alberta — Just about everything that could go wrong for the Flyers did Thursday night against the Oilers at Rogers Place.
Dave Hakstol dressed seven defensemen to get Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup off injury.
That backfired because Jordan Weal suffered an upper-body injury in the first period, leaving the club with just 10 forwards.
Edmonton targeted Brandon Manning the entire game because of the Connor McDavid fiasco and, as expected, Manning had to drop gloves with 230-pound heavyweight Patrick Maroon. Manning got pounded but didn’t go down (see story).
And to top it off, goalie Michal Neuvirth, who had been giving the Flyers chances to win without the team scoring much, had a terrible game as he yielded four goals on the first 12 shots he faced.
All of which played a part in the Flyers’ 6-3 defeat (see Instant Replay). Couple that with the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Rangers, and the Flyers are now behind the Isles at sixth in the Metropolitan Division standings.
The game was barely two minutes old when Neuvirth gave up a Mr. Softee goal to Matt Hendricks of all people.
“A tough start. The first one I had to have,” Neuvirth said. “I had a tough night.”
Now the deal was Mark Letestu appeared offsides and Hakstol challenged. The goal stood, which is how the Flyers’ luck is running these days.
Del Zotto, dressed as a seventh defenseman after missing 10 games with a bone bruise in his leg, rotated through four partners in the opening period and was caught on the ice for Leon Draisaitl’s 22nd goal at 15:19 that made it 2-0.
What set that up was Manning got slashed by Milan Lucic coming around the Flyers’ net. Yet, he was hit with an embellishment call, which led to the 4-on-4. Del Zotto iced the puck and then the Oilers scored right after the faceoff (see feature highlight).
Once Weal went down, the Flyers had a depleted lineup on the second night of a back-to-back set trying to keep up with Edmonton via rotations.
“Definitely a factor and that’s the risk,” Hakstol said of the lineup decision. “The one risk you run is exactly what happened. We lost Jordan. … That puts our forwards in a hard situation. They battled awful hard through it.”
Unlike the Calgary game when they had significant offensive zone time, the Flyers went the final 9:32 of the first period without a shot. However, they played better in the final two periods.
In the second period, Jakub Voracek was stopped on a breakaway by Cam Talbot with the score 2-1. If Voracek ties it, who knows.
“It was huge,” Voracek said. “I thought I had less time than I actually did. I should have spread him out more and tried five-hole, but I was a little too quick on that. It was a 2-1 game. Maybe it [would] be a little different.”
Hakstol said he felt Del Zotto’s speed would help against Edmonton, but the truth is it didn’t slow the Oilers, who then roared back with two goals in 1:15 to make it 4-1.
The Flyers mounted a small comeback after a Wayne Simmonds goal late in the second and a power-play goal from Brayden Schenn near the midpoint of the third period.
But McDavid had the last laugh as he finished off the scoring for the night with a goal late in the third period to run his league-leading point total to 66.
That only added to the tough night for the Flyers and Manning, who was marked from the get-go.
“He comes into this building, fans are on him, he steps up and fights a tough guy and got challenged all night,” Schenn said. “He dropped his gloves. Full marks to him. Not easy for a guy like him to fight a guy like that with a size advantage going to Maroon.”
Hakstol was very impressed with how Manning handled himself.
“We know who Brandon Manning is and anyone who has spent any time around him knows, in terms of the honor of the game, there is no one in front of the line before him,” Hakstol said. “He’s first class. He went out and battled hard and did everything he needed to do.”
“They were chasing him all over the ice all game long and he did a great job when he fought,” Simmonds said. “Props to him.”