Late comeback bid falls short for Flyers, who have surprise absence


Despite some late-game theatrics, the Flyers fell to the Lightning, 4-3, in a shootout Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Claude Giroux forced overtime with nine ticks left on the regulation clock.

After a back-and-forth bonus session didn't produce a goal, Tampa Bay took care of business in the skills competition.

Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point scored on their attempts. Giroux and Sean Couturier were denied.

The Flyers (8-4-3) haven't won consecutive games in November. However, they haven't dropped two straight all season.

The two-time defending champion Lightning (9-3-3) overcame a 2-0 first-intermission deficit.

• Off a faceoff, Giroux scored the equalizer with under 10 seconds remaining, sending fans into a frenzy. The Flyers put a ton of traffic in front of Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Fewer than two minutes prior, Stamkos beat Carter Hart from a crazy side angle to stake the Lightning to a 3-2 lead. In deflating fashion, the puck narrowly squeezed past Hart.

• Against the trends, the Flyers jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

In its 14 games, Tampa Bay had allowed only five first-period goals, the fewest in the NHL.

Meanwhile, the Flyers hadn't scored a first-period goal since Oct. 28, a span of eight games without one.

Giroux and Travis Konecny provided the Flyers' goals in the opening 20 minutes.

The Lightning answered in the second period with a pair of goals — one on the power play, the other at even strength.

Both goalies were sharp and entertaining. Hart made 29 saves, Vasilevskiy 27.

• Kevin Hayes was a surprise absence considering the head coach said he expected him to play.


Hayes was the first Flyer on the ice before a highly optional morning skate. The 29-year-old center skated briefly on his own and took a few passes from Keith Yandle, who was a step on the ice in a T-shirt and shorts. Hayes then departed harmlessly as Hart, Martin Jones, Cam Atkinson, Oskar Lindblom and Zack MacEwen got in work.

Following the skate, Alain Vigneault said he couldn't disclose his line combinations because there was "a possibility someone else might not play" aside from the injured Patrick Brown (thumb).

"I'm going to find out in about an hour and something," Vigneault said, "so might have some surprises for you tonight."

When Vigneault was asked in a follow-up if Hayes was OK to play, he said:

"Obviously he's coming back from that injury. As far as I know, yesterday went fine, so I'm expecting him to play tonight."

Well, clarity be damned, Hayes turned out to be the surprise. In his second game back from an abdominal surgery recovery, Hayes had a lower-body injury scare during the second period of the Flyers' 2-1 OT win Tuesday over the Flames. He was able to return for the start of the third period, practice Wednesday and skate Thursday, so maybe his absence isn't overly serious. Perhaps the Flyers just wanted to play it safe. The entirety of it all is confounding and somewhat concerning.

"He wasn't available tonight and that's all I can get into at this time," Vigneault said postgame.

"I'll probably know a little bit more here within the next 48 to 72 hours."

Max Willman was called up under emergency conditions and played on the Flyers' fourth line.

• The Flyers' power play went for 0 for 2. Both opportunities came with the game tied 2-2. The Flyers' man advantage is 4 for its last 40 and has been a momentum thwarter in a way.

After practice Wednesday, Vigneault took ownership of the power play woes, directing the blame at himself and away from assistant coach Michel Therrien, who runs the team's man advantage.

“This is a coaching group here," Vigneault said. "We get together before everything and discuss the different ideas, fundamentals, principles, what we’re seeing about personnel. We do this PK, we do this power play, we do this 5-on-5. I empower my guys — I empower [assistant coach Mike Yeo] and Michel, 'French Mike,' to run different things in practices and stuff like that.

"But at the end of the day, it's my call. I'm the one that decides to put which personnel on the ice, whether it be on the power play and penalty killing. So when it's not working, like right now our power play is struggling, it's not French Mike's fault, it's the big guy. I'm the big guy, I'm the guy in charge of it. And I've got to find ways to make sure that power play works."


• The Flyers honored Lindblom, a cancer survivor, during a first-period stoppage. The game was Lindblom's first Hockey Fights Cancer night in front of a full capacity since beating Ewing's sarcoma.

Lindblom was saluted last season, as well, but in front of a small crowd because of COVID-19 restrictions.

In conjunction with the league-wide Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, the Flyers wore special purple and white jerseys during warmups.

• Ryan Ellis is set for more rehab on his nagging lower-body injury. The top-pair defenseman is expected to miss four to six weeks.

• The Flyers are off from practice Friday before they wrap up their three-game homestand Saturday when they host the Bruins (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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