Updated: 11:45 p.m.
As if things could not possibly get any worse for the Flyers -- who are struggling for goals, wins and consistency throughout a game -- they lost two key forwards on Friday night.
Scott Hartnell, who might have been the best conditioned forward on the team, and Vinny Lecavalier, who was among the very few players with some points, both were injured during a 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center.
Hartnell (upper body) and Lecavalier (lower body) will each miss at least a week and undergo MRIs on Saturday, general manager Paul Holmgren said. At least one player will be recalled from the Phantoms.
“They’re huge for our team,” Flyer captain Claude Giroux said.
Meanwhile, the Flyers have just six goals through five games.
“We’re not desperate enough around the net for me,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We don’t have enough traffic at the net to get second and third opportunities. We need to get some greasy goals.”
Giroux, who remains without a point this season, needed time to compose himself before meeting the media late.
“It’s time for guys to step up, myself also,” he said. “I know we have our chances, but at the end of the day, we’ve just got to put the puck in the net. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
“It’s definitely frustrating -- the chances are there. We're going to the net, we're creating our own chances and when things like that happen, you gain confidence and build from there.”
The absences of Hartnell and Lecavalier didn’t help matters, but you can pin the loss entirely -- yet again -- on the Flyers killing themselves with penalties. We’ll get to that shortly.
Hartnell was injured with 6:55 left in the first period and did not return. He skated to the bench hunched over in pain. Lecavalier went down in the second period.
“We don’t know their status right now, but it’s obviously two great offensive guys, two big parts of our team, so it’s tough to try to do a comeback without these two guys,” Max Talbot said.
Berube talked about better discipline from his players. He might want to start with Zac Rinaldo.
Rinaldo’s setup of the lone goal was completely negated by four penalties, including a needless crosscheck to the back of Paul Bissonnette in the third period that saw the Coyotes' winger flatten goalie Steve Mason in the net.
Mason, who has been the club’s best goalie so far, had to be attended to by trainer Jim McCrossin, yet remained in the game.
“It happened a couple times in Carolina, as well," Mason said of the penalties. "Our guys are battling, but we can’t be taking penalties like that.”
It’s happened three times in the regular season.
Rinaldo had a daily double in this one with bad penalties. After the Flyers had tied the game late in the second period, 1-1, he took a needless high-sticking call and Phoenix burned the Flyers with a power-play goal to take the lead.
“It’s a dumb penalty,” Berube said. “It's a fine line with [Rinaldo]. You can't cross it, and he did.”
The Coyotes defeated Detroit on Thursday night in Motown, so the Flyers caught them in the second half of a back-to-back situation.
Despite a strong opening period in which the Flyers had the better scoring chances on goalie Thomas Greiss, outplayed and outshot Phoenix, they still trailed 1-0 when it was over.
And it was a fortunate goal, too, by the Coyotes as Derek Morris' shot from the right point got lost in a scrum at the net long enough for Rob Klinkhammer to slip it under Mason at 2:41.
“It hit Luke [Schenn] in front there and I’m not sure if it dropped down between my legs or something like that, but I didn’t see it,” Mason said.
At that point, the Flyers already had a couple of scoring chances from Lecavalier’s line. They would also get a penalty shot opportunity from Adam Hall after he was hauled down shorthanded by defenseman Michael Stone.
Alas, Hall, who is anything but Giroux with the puck, tried to get too fancy on his penalty shot attempt and flubbed the puck under Greiss, though it nearly trickled into the net.
Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn created another chance off the rush, but Greiss was again up to the task later in the period. Through two periods, they had four shots combined.
The most important aspect was two terrific penalty kills involving Giroux. When a player is struggling to score, sometimes his defense inspires him to raise his offensive game, and the Flyers certainly hope that is the case with Giroux.
The Flyers continued to be stymied by Greiss in the second period and went 0 for 4 in the game on the power(less) play.
What hurts here is the chances were there, like an easy rebound for Wayne Simmonds in the crease that he should have buried but fired it wide.
“I thought we had enough opportunities to score,” Holmgren said. “We’re just fighting it right now. We are obviously having a difficult time and you know we had some good opportunities as Wayne Simmonds had that open net on the power play -- I think it was a power play. Good enough opportunities to win the game.”
Nonetheless, the Flyers tied it with their third ugly goal in two games. This time, Rinaldo, who had a fight in the first period, got a puck in the high slot and simply wheeled around and fired.
Rinaldo’s scud missile was nowhere near the net, but it was on target to hit Talbot’s skate and redirect laterally across the crease on Greiss, tying the game at 1-1.
Of course, Rinaldo ruined things immediately with his high-sticking penalty in the final 26 seconds of the period.
On Phoenix’s ensuing power play, Oliver Ekman-Larsson made a spectacular move right around Talbot atop the right circle, then ripped a shot off the top of Mason’s right glove hand into the net.
Instead of being tied going into the third, the Coyotes led 2-1. Given the Flyers' scoring woes, it was enough.
“It’s a tight game,” Talbot said. “Phoenix plays really tight hockey and they came in and played well. They played solid defensively, and we worked hard, we did some good things, but it’s a process and we have to keep building.”