It was the home opener Thursday night and his team went 1 for 7 on the man advantage with five such opportunities in the second period alone.
However, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol remembers one play more than any other in his team’s 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Wells Fargo Center (see game recap).
The Flyers had swung and missed on their final power play of the middle stanza, when the Ducks came pushing up ice with post-kill energy. Somehow, Anaheim came barreling down on the Flyers with a four-on-two rush seconds after the orange and black just had the benefit of an extra player.
Center Ryan Getzlaf dumped a pass back to winger Corey Perry, who had all the time in the world to wind up and blast one home thanks to 6-foot-4 Getzlaf’s screening of 6-foot defenseman Ivan Provorov.
Just like that, the game was tied when it looked like the Flyers would add cushion and cruise into the third period with a lead to protect.
“Our power play was OK,” Hakstol said. “The bigger thing for me is the goal that we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals as a team that we can’t give up.”
The rookie Provorov couldn’t find his way around the veteran Getzlaf, while defenseman Brandon Manning stayed in retreat, allowing Perry to unleash a slap shot.
“It’s the best league in the world, the best players play here,” Provorov said. “Even a little mistake can cost you, slightly out of position can cost you. I’m still learning.”
Provorov has endured his rookie lumps through the Flyers’ 1-2-1 start. A game after finishing with a minus-5 rating against the Blackhawks, the 19-year-old committed two giveaways and a cross-checking penalty for a minus-1 mark Thursday.
Nonetheless, the Flyers went from a man up to two down in a matter of seconds to relinquish the lead.
“We didn’t handle that well,” Hakstol said. “When you give up a four-on-two after you’ve had those kind of opportunities, it’s going to change the momentum of the game.”
Were the defensemen in a bad spot?
“Yes,” Hakstol said.
Poor defensive coverage cost the Flyers momentum in the second and the game in the third.
About midway through the period, Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer carried the puck behind goalie Steve Mason before adeptly finding Ryan Garbutt uncovered with a reverse pass. The Anaheim center scored easily top shelf as Flyers defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Shayne Gostisbehere were caught standing in front of the net without seeing Garbutt.
“We had a little bit of tired legs,” Hakstol said. “We lost coverage on that play. There was a switch. We didn’t lose coverage for long. We had communication, we had talked, but we lost coverage for a split second and that allowed them to make the play to the same side on the backdoor.”
Gostisbehere had trouble working his power-play magic and played big minutes with 22:58 of ice time.
“They’re a big-bodied team,” Gostisbehere said. “We just have to make our plays a little quicker.”
Even on the Ducks’ first-period marker, an outlet pass found its way behind the defense of Provorov and Gostisbehere. Over the first four games, the Flyers have allowed 16 goals, tied for the NHL’s most.
“You’re playing against a heavy team and they put a lot of pressure on the group back there when they’re able to get pucks deep,” Hakstol said. “So, I don’t think it was particular to one or two guys. When you let them gain the zone with some speed and get in on pucks, they’re a heavy team to handle.”
Facing a heavy team or not, the Flyers know defensive execution must be cleaned up.
“I think that from everyone’s personal standpoint we can all be better,” Mason said. “When you lose three games in a row, we can’t worry about what other people are doing, you just have to focus on your own job. From a goaltender’s perspective, personally, I have to find ways to come out and get a win here.”