When the Flyers walked out of the Wells Fargo Center for the final time last season, it came on the heels of an absolute epic meltdown.
Poised to force a Game 7 in their first-round series against the Penguins, the Flyers grabbed a 4-2 lead when Scott Laughton scored with 7:46 remaining in the second period.
Before the Flyers could make hotel reservations for Pittsburgh, the Pens proceeded to score five unanswered goals as they motored out of Philly with an 8-5 victory, winning the series in six games.
On Tuesday, the Flyers collectively fell off the wagon yet again, proving they still have a long way to go to break the bad habit of losing leads. After Claude Giroux scored on a gift of a giveaway from Aaron Ekblad, the Flyers owned a 5-2 advantage with 2:57 remaining in the second period.
It took just 28 seconds for the Panthers to score a power-play goal and put South Broad on high alert once again.
Not only did Dave Hakstol reinforce the importance of protecting a third-period lead during the second intermission, but the event crew that blares music through the speaker system fittingly chose Volbeat’s “Seal the Deal” just before they dropped the puck.
Unfortunately, the Flyers couldn’t seal a leaky faucet at that point.
“We didn’t play the right way in the first 10 minutes of the third period,” Hakstol said after the Flyers' 6-5 shootout win Tuesday (see observations). “We gave up two breakaways and one Grade-A chance from the slot. That’s all it takes.”
The winless Panthers needed just 10:36 to wipe out the Flyers' three-goal lead, and you can’t blame Andrew MacDonald for this collapse. MacDonald was benched in favor of Christian Folin. You can’t point the finger at Folin, who finished with a rather impressive plus-4 rating, including a key blocked shot on Nick Bjugstad with 4:45 remaining.
Interestingly for a coach who rarely singles out one particular player or an ineffective line, Hakstol mentioned his top defensive pairing that was victimized for those two third-period goals.
“That’s our top two guys on the back end,” Hakstol said. “Not being necessarily critical of them, but that tells me the line of thinking at that point in time is not the right way.”
And if a team is not thinking the right way, then they’re certainly not geared toward playing the right way or even winning the right way.
You can forgive the Flyers' top defense pairing for falling apart against the Penguins in the playoffs. After all, Ivan Provorov’s arm was on the verge of falling off.
Tuesday night, Hakstol was so desperate to keep the wheels from falling off, he elected to pull his No. 1 goalie with a 5-4 lead in favor of a backup who had made just two NHL starts in the previous 365 days.
Somehow it all came together as the Flyers found a way to earn a much-needed win in a shootout.
But it sure would be nice to stop the bleeding before it turns into a bloody mess.
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