After a much needed five-day break, the Philadelphia Flyers took on Metropolitan Division rival, the New Jersey Devils, on Saturday Night. Coming into the game, the Flyers have only won three of their last 14 games, not something to write home about. The Flyers needed to take this chance to get themselves back into the playoff race.
In a game where the Flyers should have had their skating legs, they ended up taking a total of eight penalties which would eventually lead to their downfall. Special teams leading up to, and during, the ten game winning streak was something that the Flyers prided themselves on, however that has fallen flat in the 15 games since. By the end of Saturday’s game, the Flyers would find themselves on the losing end of this special teams battle.
The Flyers wanted to get off to a quick start after their five day break and bring the crowd into the game. After a riveting national anthem by the one and only Lauren Hart, the energy was flowing in the building.
That energy soon dissolved as Pavel Zacha opened up the scoring 7:11 into the game with a backhand after a terrible giveaway by the Flyers in their own zone. This was not a goal that the Flyers wanted to give up; they have only scored 27 goals in the first period leading up to this game and needed to get off to a good start to keep the crowd in the game.
The first period was full of penalties and both teams had two power plays as well as a fight. The Devils took the first two penalties of the period, Karl Stollery for hooking and Miles Wood for interference. The Flyers were unable to connect on the first power play after consistent pressure, but Travis Konecny was able to connect right after the second minor expired, bringing the Flyers to a 1-1 tie.
The period ended with Wayne Simmonds fighting Miles Wood after Wood threw Radko Gudas into the boards. Luckily, Gudas was okay to return to the game but that fight did result in a roughing penalty for Simmonds. However, the Devils could not capitalize on their chance and the first period would end in a 1-1 tie.
This year, the Flyers have controlled second periods and hoped to do the same going into the second race of this game. However, due to a slew of penalties, the Devils would take control of the game going into the third period.
The parade to the penalty box would continue into the second period for both teams.
The Flyers would take three penalties in the second period, Michael Del Zotto would take a tripping call and then Simmonds and Gudas took unsportsmanlike and clipping penalties, respectively. What looked to be a clean hip check from the stands, turned out to be a clipping penalty to the referees on the ice. It seemed that Simmonds would let the referees hear his opinion as well, which landed the Flyers having to kill a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage for the Devils.
That did not end well for the Flyers.
Kyle Palmieri scored just 17 seconds into the five on three, much to the displeasure of the crowd. The Flyers were able to kill off the remaining penalty but gave up a backbreaking breakaway goal to Miles Wood with less than a minute to go in the period.
No matter how much the crowd disagreed with the calls by the referees, the Flyers did not help themselves out, either. They also had two power play opportunities in the second period and failed to capitalize on either of them, landing them 0/4 going into the third period.
The Flyers would need to amp up their special teams play in the third period if they wanted to make the comeback.
Again, the Flyers made a goalie change going into the third period as Steve Mason was the one between the pipes going into the final frame. Hakstol tried to bring some life into his team but they continued to just fall flat.
The third period would just bring more of the same for the Flyers, they would take two more penalties bringing their total in the game to eight. Miles Wood was able to capitalize on a tripping call by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare bringing the Devils lead up to 4-1.
The game would end at that same score even though there were two Flyers power plays before the end of the game. The Flyers went 0/6 on their power play chances tonight, while the Devils were able to score on two of their seven opportunities.
The Flyers lost the special teams battle tonight, which is something they should have had the legs for after their bye week. They have a quick turnaround as they play the New York Islanders today in New York.
One may wonder if Hakstol’s seat on the bus is a little warm on the trip.