Is it time to be worried about the Flyers?

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Is it time to be worried about the Flyers?

Maybe it wasn’t their worst effort of the season. It was their worst loss.

There have been some ugly results for the Flyers this year. They fell to Florida in a shootout at home. They dropped a game early to Tampa on the road. They got upended by Toronto -- twice. All of those were bad. But this? As beatings go, this beat them all.

The Flyers were up three goals. They were at home. They were facing their cross-state rival midway through a truncated season. It was a game the coach and the players all agreed they needed to win.

They didn’t win. Penguins 5, Flyers 4 (see game recap).

So, was it the worst loss of the year?

“Yeah,” Claude Giroux allowed. “I mean, when you’re up 4-1, you have to find a way to close a game up. We know they’re a good team offensively. If we give them power plays, they’re going to put it back in our net and that’s what happened.”

The Flyers needed a win on Thursday. They knew it and you knew it. There is no denying the importance or the leftover disappointment after a game like that. Because they had it. It was there for them. Then they gave it away.

There were five goals in the first period alone. The Flyers scored four of them. Jake Voracek registered two by himself, at least one of which was a gross victimization of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. It was an embarrassing start for Fleury, who looked like he wanted to slink out the side door and bury his head in all the snow that never came this week. In what can only be described as a mercy move by Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, Fleury was yanked to start the second period -- probably so he could lick his wounds and stitch together what was left of his pride.

It was a great first period. But, as Peter Laviolette later lamented, “the second period was, really, the opposite of the first period.”

The Penguins scored. Then they scored again. Then they tied the game. The Flyers looked like someone had come along and sucker punched them in the gut. Except it wasn’t a sucker punch. They saw it coming and they still couldn’t stop it.

“Before you know it, it’s 4-4,” Scott Hartnell said. “We just can’t do that. It’s embarrassing to the fans, it’s embarrassing to one another, and we let two points slip away.”

By the third period, Ilya Bryzgalov was out and Brian Boucher was in. It didn’t matter. Penguins winger Chris Kunitz scored 18 seconds into the final frame and that was that. Another game. Another upside-down result for the flailing Flyers.

Boucher said they took their “foot off the gas just a little bit,” but it was more like they stomped on the brakes while going full speed and then everyone went flying through the windshield. It was a grotesque crash.

“It was a big letdown,” Scott Hartnell said. Then he added, “If we play like that, it will be a long summer.”

Hartnell was hinting at what you already know: The season just began -- and yet it’s almost over. They are running out of time.

The Flyers (11-13-1) only have 23 games remaining. They are currently on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, their smudged noses pressed against the glass looking in at all the other teams ahead of them. Beating Pittsburgh could have acted as a catalyst to propel them through the rest of the year. Instead, you wonder if it will slow their progress.

As only Bryzgalov could put it, over the first half of the season, the Flyers were “not good” (see video). Win one. Lose win. Suffer an injury. Repeat. As treading water goes, the Flyers managed to keep their heads right around surface level despite the skates and pads and heavy expectations weighing them down. They can’t keep that up forever. Either they find a way to buoy themselves or they will be dragged under before long.

That’s where the Flyers are at the moment. Despite the harsh reality, Zac Rinaldo tried to play it cool in the locker room after the game.

“We’re not worried,” Zac Rinaldo insisted.

Then he said it again.

“We’re not worried,” Rinaldo repeated.

Given the circumstances, that is hard to believe. If they aren’t worried, they ought to be.

NHL Notes: Kings activate goalie Jonathan Quick from injured reserve

NHL Notes: Kings activate goalie Jonathan Quick from injured reserve

LOS ANGELES -- Goalie Jonathan Quick has returned to the Los Angeles Kings after injuring his groin in the first period of the season opener.

Quick led the Kings during warmups before Saturday's game against the Anaheim Ducks.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner missed 59 games with the injury, which occurred Oct. 12 against San Jose. He has been skating with the Kings for several weeks, but he didn't make any rehabilitation starts in the minors.

The Kings only announced his return by activating him from injured reserve 40 minutes before the opening faceoff.

Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012 when the eighth-seeded Kings steamrolled the competition on their way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup title.

When healthy, Quick has been the Kings' starting goalie since December 2008.

Ducks: Vermette's 10-game suspension upheld
NEW YORK -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 10-game suspension assessed to Anaheim Ducks center Antoine Vermette.

Vermette slapped his stick against the back of linesman Shandor Alphonso's legs after losing a faceoff to Minnesota's Mikko Koivu during the third period of the Ducks' 1-0 win on Feb. 14. Vermette had a hearing with Bettman on Thursday after appealing the initial suspension.

Bettman announced Saturday that the 10-game ban would remain; Vermette has served four games already.

Vermette will lose $97,222 in salary.

The normally mild-mannered Vermette appeared to act out of frustration when Alphonso dropped the puck before the forward had put his stick in place on the ice. Officials immediately assessed a game misconduct to Vermette.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.