Flyers need to find elusive answers quickly

Wednesday, 03.13.2013 / 11:57 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said he has run out of answers. His team is beginning to run out of time.

"To be honest, I have no idea what to say to you guys," Bryzgalov said to a gathering of reporters after the Flyers fell to the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, at Prudential Center on Wednesday. "Just tired [of] losing, tired [of] losing. I have no emotions right now, nothing to say to you. Just another disappointment."

There have been a lot of them this season, but perhaps none hit the Flyers harder than the one they experienced Wednesday night in the first game of a home-and-home set with the Devils that will conclude Friday in Philadelphia.

The Flyers, who are 11th in the Eastern Conference with 25 points and 20 games remaining, were guilty of too many turnovers in both the neutral zone and the defensive zone. They were chasing early as Patrik Elias scored 2:02 into the game. It took Adam Henrique 36 seconds to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead after Jakub Voracek tied the game with a power-play goal.

The Flyers gave up a shorthanded breakaway goal to Ilya Kovalchuk that proved to be the game-winner. The Flyers also couldn't solve Devils goalie Johan Hedberg (23 saves), who was rock solid all night long.

To make matters worse, the Flyers lost their cool in the third period, when Scott Hartnell picked up eight minutes in penalties, including two minors for slashing (one right in front of Hedberg with the Flyers controlling the puck), one for boarding and an unsportsmanlike conduct.

It was their seventh consecutive loss to the Devils dating to last season.

"We're not playing desperate enough," Hartnell said.

They'd better start soon or the season will slip away from them in a hurry.

As it stands now, the Flyers potentially could fall to 12th in the Eastern Conference after the games are finished Thursday night. Regardless, they know they will be five points out of a playoff spot by the end of the night because the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, eighth and ninth, play each other and one has to pick up two points to get to 30 for the season.

Worse yet, the Flyers have played 28 games, the most of any team in the Eastern Conference. Of their 20 games remaining, two are against the Devils, the team Hartnell said they just can't solve.

New Jersey is 3-0 against Philadelphia this season.

"It seems like the Devils have just stymied us the last couple of years and it's frustrating, we can't figure it out," Hartnell said. "It's not like we're not trying; it's just that everything you do, you pick your head up and there is a defender right in your face. That is frustrating hockey and we let our emotions (go), especially me with eight minutes of penalties."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was asked if the loss Wednesday night put the Flyers at rock bottom. He was nearly speechless.

"I don't know the answer to that," he said quietly. "We've got to put it back together and win a game."

The Devils know the feeling of trying to put the pieces back together to win a game, perhaps even get on a hot streak. They're forming the blueprint for how to do it right now.

They've won two in a row and three out of four since a six-game winless streak (0-5-1) from Feb. 23 through March 5.

New Jersey started with a shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres on March 7. That was followed by a stinker at the Carolina Hurricanes two nights later, but the Devils put together a strong performance for another shootout win Sunday against the Jets and built off of that with a dominating effort against the Flyers on Wednesday.

If the Devils can win Friday at Wells Fargo Center they will put eight points between them and the Flyers, arguably enough to not have to worry about Philadelphia again this season provided they don't fall into prolonged rut.

"I don't think we're a team that has a mindset that we're happy to split with anybody," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We know it's not going to be easy. There is going to be some pushback there from them. It's a tough building to go into. But I also think that we can play better than we did [Wednesday night] even."

The Flyers still feel they can too.

"You can use every adjective you want, but tomorrow is a new day," Hartnell said. "We have to come to the rink with a working attitude and we'll get through this."

They have to feel that way, or at least talk that way, because once belief leaves the room hope for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth typically follows.

The Flyers believe there is enough season left for them to get on a roll and get into the top eight in the Eastern Conference, but they're going to have to find some answers quickly.

They've been hard to locate this season.

"All I can do is just come to the next game and try to play better," Bryzgalov said. "We have to all try to play better to win the game. That's all we can do. We can't talk hours and hours about this; that never helps."

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