Without Ryan Ellis, the Flyers faced a tall task Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the undefeated Panthers.
They couldn't complete it as the Flyers lost to Florida, 4-2, failing to punctuate their season-opening four-game homestand.
Ellis, the club's prized offseason acquisition, missed the game because of an undisclosed injury. He's day to day and head coach Alain Vigneault believes the all-situation defenseman will be fine for the upcoming road trip.
The Flyers (2-1-1) suffered their first regulation loss of the season. A win for them would have felt like an upset.
Jonathan Huberdeau did damage to the Flyers with a power play goal and shorthanded goal, the latter of which ended up being the game-winning tally in the third period. He finished with a three-point night.
The Panthers (5-0-0) came to Philadelphia allowing only 1.75 goals per game. They sport a plus-13 goal differential and added the Flyers to their impressive list of victories, which has the Lightning, Islanders, Avalanche and Penguins on it.
• The Flyers were whistled for seven penalties.
But they were actually burned on the man advantage. An errant pass from former Panther Keith Yandle on the power play nailed the side boards and sprung Florida for its game-winner 7:53 minutes into the final frame.
The Panthers finished things off with an empty-net marker. The Flyers' power play went 1 for 4. The fourth and final opportunity was a game-changing sequence.
• There was another critical one in the second period. The game swung a few times.
The Flyers erased Florida's one-goal lead and then seized their own in under seven minutes. Claude Giroux scored a power play goal and Cam Atkinson did more work at shorthanded to put the Flyers ahead, 2-1, halfway through the middle stanza.
Giroux's goal was off a familiar cross-ice pass from Sean Couturier. The two have years of chemistry.
Atkinson's shorthanded goal was his 13th since 2016-17, the most in the NHL over that span.
But the Flyers surrendered a killer goal with 26 seconds left in the second period. Owen Tippett tied it back up as the Panthers scored on a 3-on-2 rush. Travis Sanheim had a golden chance to break up the pass in front of Carter Hart but missed the puck, which appeared to be bouncing.
"The second goal, they had a 3-on-2, G was backchecking and the guy just kind of threw a nothing backhand toward the net," Sanheim said. "I thought I had it and it just got through, off a skate and in. An unfortunate bounce but you’d like to have that one back."
• Starting three of the four games on the homestand, Hart went 1-1-1 and stopped 85 of 93 shots.
Hart made 27 saves against Florida. He denied the initial shorthanded attempt in the third period but the Panthers got him on the second effort.
"It was a hard-fought game by two teams that came to play and came to compete," Vigneault said. "Both teams got goals from their power plays, both teams got goals from their penalty killing, both teams got some great saves.
"Unfortunately, from our side, two missed plays with the puck — one at the end of the second period, one on our power play in the third — led to them countering and scoring those two goals. But we did a lot of right things. There are obviously a couple of areas that we need to be better.
"The way this game shaped out, both teams were battling. At 2-2 there, we got some real good looks initially after killing that first penalty and weren’t able to put it in the back of the net."
Florida netminder Sergei Bobrovsky matched Hart with 27 saves and improved to 4-0-0. He came in with a 1.99 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner is 16-5-1 lifetime against his former club.
• The Flyers had not trailed at first intermission on the homestand until the Panthers' speed put them on their heels.
Florida can give defensemen fits in transition and it drew interference penalties on Sanheim and Nick Seeler during the first period. The second one resulted in a goal only five seconds into the Panthers' power play as Huberdeau got his first of the night to hand Florida its 1-0 lead.
• The Flyers' penalty kill was busy. It finished the night 6 for 7 and is now 13 for 16 on the season.
Fourth-line winger Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who committed a team-high 18 penalties last season, had what could have been a costly one in the third period when he was whistled for tripping. The Panthers didn't capitalize on the power play. Ironically, they got their go-ahead shorthanded goal moments later.
Fourth-line center Nate Thompson had two penalties, the second of which was an ill-advised roughing infraction with the Flyers trailing 3-2.
The Flyers will have a decision soon in their bottom six. Patrick Brown is nearing game action. Zack MacEwen originally looked like the odd man out (and he still may be), but Vigneault won't like the penalties from guys playing fourth-line minutes.
• Veteran referee Gord Dwyer left the game in the first period and did not return. There was no immediate reason for Dwyer's exit. A three-man crew finished the game.
"Unfortunately one of the referees got hurt," Vigneault said. "They were put in a real tough spot. ... It wasn't an easy game to referee tonight; both teams were playing hard and chippy a little bit."
• The Flyers are off Sunday and practice Monday in Voorhees, New Jersey before heading off on a three-game Western Canada road swing. The trip opens Wednesday against Connor McDavid and the Oilers in Edmonton, Alberta (10 p.m. ET/TNT).
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