NEWARK, N.J. — The Flyers' pipes are in need of repair right now.
Making his first career NHL start, Alex Lyon was a little leaky in a 4-3 loss to the Devils Thursday night at the Prudential Center, as New Jersey connected for a pair of third-period goals, including Nico Hischier’s redirection through Lyon’s five-hole with 1:27 remaining in regulation (see observations).
“He just put it to the net and I thought I was in really good position, but I just opened up a little bit, and things happen fast enough in this league where you’re going to pay for that,” Lyon, who stopped 18 of 22 shots, said. “So I learned the hard way. I’m just going to try and learn from the mistakes and be sharper next time.”
Lyon’s first start also marked the first time this season the Flyers failed to pick up a point when leading after two periods with a record of 18-1-3.
“It’s definitely tough to take a loss like that for sure,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I think we more feel bad for Alex. We kind of let him down there, but it’s about getting back on the horse. There’s a lot of hockey left.”
One night after Michal Neuvirth admitted he wasn’t feeling quite 100 percent over a stomach bug, Lyon had to overcome some early butterflies of his own and another poor performance from the penalty kill, as the Devils scored two power-play goals on their first five shots of the game.
“I wasn’t very sharp in the first period,” Lyon said. “I think my head was in the locker room. I just tried to battle and regroup. Unfortunately at the end there, that’s the main thing. You've got to find a way to get a point or two points at least. I’m disappointed.”
“I’m not surprised that he’s his own worst critic,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s the type of person that he is. I thought he gave us a good hockey game.”
New Jersey’s first goal came on a backdoor play as Kyle Palmieri was left wide open in the left circle, and the Devils converted again as Drew Stafford redirected a pass in front of Lyon that also slipped through his legs. In their season series, five of the eight goals the Devils have scored against the Flyers have come with the man advantage.
“We allowed a seam play on the backdoor to Palmieri. There’s a couple of different ways ahead of that play to defend it a little bit better, and the tip play is a missed assignment at the net front,” Hakstol said. “When you give good players on the power play second and third opportunities, those are the ones that come back and get you. That’s something that we needed to be much better with the missed clears.”
Playing the Devils for the third time in 17 days, tensions started to rise after Radko Gudas collided with Palmieri late in the first period. As Gudas was attempting to skate back to his defensive position on the blue line, he jumped into Palmieri inadvertently. Gudas was assessed a two-minute minor for interference, but considering his history of cheap shots, the Devils rushed to Palmieri's defense.
Jakub Voracek and Taylor Hall were given matching roughing minors, and Brandon Manning and Damon Severson engaged in a brawl.
“I was getting out of the way of [Wayne Simmonds] when he showed up,” Gudas said. “I didn’t see him at all. I was just trying to get back to my position. It was unlucky. I shot it, and it was unfortunate.”
“Maybe it’s not avoidable, but there are ways you can maybe soften that blow,” Devils forward Travis Zajac said. “I don’t think you have to jump at the guy.”
On Gudas’ next shift, Zajac came straight at Gudas as both players dropped the gloves in retaliation for the previous hit.
“I didn’t expect that from him, but it was OK," Gudas said. "It was a pretty good fight."
Still, the dogfight within the Metropolitan Division continues. Just 10 points separate the eight teams all jockeying for playoff position, and unquestionably, every single point matters as the Flyers let one, and quite possibly two, slip away Thursday night, marking consecutive losses with Brian Elliott (lower body) on the shelf.
And if “Ells” doesn’t return sometime soon, those other “L's” may continue to pile up in the standings.