RALEIGH, N.C. — Six shots.
That was all the Flyers could muster through nearly the midway point in the third period, a disheartening and downright non-competitive figure that set the tone for a 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).
Though a late flurry with the outcome long decided put the Flyers’ final total for the night at 16 shots on net, it was that number six that stuck in the craw of the players in a dejected postgame locker room.
“If you have six shots on net after two periods, that’s just a devastating performance,” defenseman Mark Streit said. “It’s tough for me to explain it.”
“Just a real dismal effort on all fronts,” added defenseman Andrew MacDonald. “We didn’t move our feet, they were all over us, we didn’t forecheck, we didn’t defend well. All around, a terrible game.”
Indeed, the Flyers had to rally just to avoid shattering an embarrassing franchise record. Trailing 5-0 at the 10:30 mark of the third period with only those six shots to their name, the Flyers unleashed a late flurry of 10 shots in the waning minutes — including Brayden Schenn’s power-play goal to avoid a shutout — that allowed them to surpass the previous franchise low of 13 shots on net in a game (see feature highlight).
Though they avoided the dubious record, it was no consolation as the Flyers saw their three-game winning streak snapped in their first game back from the All-Star break.
“Any time you take a loss like that, it’s going to be bad timing,” defenseman Brandon Manning said. “But coming off the break, it’s a tough one. It just wasn’t there tonight.”
The last time the Flyers had so few shots through two periods was Dec. 4, 1968, when they had five in a 3-1 loss to the Kings, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Flyers’ lack of shots was in large part because of turnovers preventing them from mounting even the beginnings of a rush. Carolina came up with 14 takeaways, many in the Flyers’ zone, to generate easy scoring chances and stop the Flyers from ever getting started.
The Hurricanes, 15-3-1 in their last 19 home games, forced their first turnover in the Flyers’ zone less than four minutes into the game and never let up.
“We knew coming in here they were a really good home team and they come out hard,” Streit said. “We just executed poorly or not quick enough. We turned the puck over a few times and you can’t do that against a speedy and skilled team.”
Added Manning: “We knew they were going to come hard. When you turn the puck over, and turn it over deep, you’re just not going to get anything going.”
A postgame insinuation that it was the Flyers’ worst effort of the season didn’t draw an argument from any of the players.
“It’s just up to us if we decide to play. Tonight we didn’t play,” Streit said. “We didn’t play our game. They came out hard, you have to give them credit, but you have to be prepared for that and execute what our game plan was. Most of the time, we didn’t do that. Unacceptable loss.”
As bad as it was, the Flyers still own the second wild-card spot with Toronto’s loss to Dallas on Tuesday night. With 31 games to go in a tight playoff race, coach Dave Hakstol was one of the few in the Flyers’ locker room to strike a forward-looking tone.
“It’s one game, that’s the thing that’s got to be kept in perspective,” Hakstol said. “We’ll answer the bell and go back to work tomorrow.”