The Flyers were able to slow down the bleeding, but they continue to hemorrhage points.
Nolan Patrick capped a furious third-period comeback when he scored the game-tying goal with 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation in helping the Flyers earn their first point since Jan. 23, but they failed to pick up that crucial second point, losing to the Senators 4-3 in a shootout (see observations).
“The puck just bounced at my feet and I knew the goalie was down and out,” Patrick said. “We were just lucky enough to get enough guys at the net to get a bounce.”
“It’s a big point,” Claude Giroux said. “We worked hard to come back in the game and tie the game up. I think the third period was one of our best periods this year. We really grinded it out and started playing our game.”
However, their overtime luck also dried up after winning their last three in OT. Not only did the Flyers fail to manage a shot on goal during the five-minute overtime session, but they were collectively 0-for-6 in the shootout. Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman scored the only goal in round six of the shootout to give the Senators the win.
“We need to play a 60-minute game to earn those two points,” said Sean Couturier, who scored his 27th goal of the season. “Tonight, the first 20 minutes were probably questionable. We battled hard to get a big point. It would be nice to get two.”
The Flyers have managed to earn just that one point during their current four-game losing streak after previously winning four straight, but they have now allowed 17 goals over their last four games — the most they’ve surrendered in regulation during any four-game stretch this season.
Not only are breakdowns resulting in goals, but the opposition is also cashing in on costly turnovers and mistakes. The Senators, who are now 12-23-5 since the last time they faced the Flyers in November, have been routinely outshot this season. Their success has been mainly the result of capitalizing off opponent’s mistakes and to underscore that point the Flyers had 79 shot attempts to the Senators' 44.
“Through this last stretch of four games we’re doing a lot of good things in our play with the puck,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “We’re not giving up a ton defensively, but one of the things we need to do and we can do within our control was clean up some of the ‘A’ opportunities. For me, the first goal against is an example.”
On that goal, the Flyers lost a puck battle deep in the Senators' offensive zone. However, the problem was compounded as the Senators made a clean breakout which led to a 3-on-2 and eventually a 4-on-3 goal with Matt Duchene skating cleanly around Scott Laughton and beating Alex Lyon top shelf.
“That’s a puck that I felt we should have been able to win down in the offensive zone. That’s where it starts by not being able to hold down that puck, and then that turns into a 200-foot play, and that’s a tough play for our goaltender.”
The comeback may not have been possible unless Hakstol had also successfully challenged Ottawa’s 4-1 goal in the final minute of the second period. Duchene thought he had scored his second goal, but replay concluded he was clearly offsides when the puck re-entered the Flyers zone.
“I started laughing as soon as they challenged,” Duchene said. “I was hoping they weren’t gonna challenge because I think they were wishy-washy about it at first.”
Looking to provide an additional boost, Hakstol also replaced Lyon with Michael Neuvirth to begin the third period with the Flyers trailing 3-1.
“I felt good today,” Lyon said, who stopped 20 of 23 shots, “I felt like I had good preparation. It didn’t obviously end up the way that I anticipated, or hope it would. Neuvy did a great job coming in. All I can do is focus on when I get in there. The boys did a great job battling back. It’s a big point.”
Neuvirth was perfect over the final 25 minutes, stopping just six shots, and was 5-for-6 in the dreaded shootout. However, Neuvirth admitted he still has lingering effects from a week-long stomach bug. Right now the Flyers would greatly benefit from a more stabilizing presence in net as Brian Elliott has missed the last four games, all Flyers losses, with a lower-body injury.
“I think we’ve had that for the majority of the year,” Hakstol said. “Elliott has been rock solid for us, and that’s very important to have leadership in the goaltending position.”