NEWARK, N.J. – In the first period of Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to New Jersey, the Flyers outshot the Devils 9-3. The won 56 percent of the faceoffs. They had more hits; more takeaways.
As a matter of fact they completely dictated play in the period, which was spent almost entirely in the New Jersey end.
And yet, when they went to the locker room, they trailed by two goals, coach Peter Laviolette was steamed and his players were frustrated.
But rather then bottle up that anger and frustration and put it to good use, the Flyers instead let their emotions get the better of them.
They took 14 of their 15 penalties in the final 40 minutes, including two penalties for abuse of the officials – one from somewhere on the bench and one from the captain, Claude Giroux.
Giroux later took a slashing penalty out of frustration while his teammates got into two fights late in the third period, were involved in a series of other scrums and melees, and all told let the effects of an unexpected 0-3 start to the season bleed out onto the Prudential Center ice.
“I feel like we played solid for a good part of the game,” said Max Talbot, who played with a renewed energy after a sluggish first two games. “But we seemed to get frustrated and lost our cool… We played some solid hockey after allowing goals – we only allowed three shots in the first period. I think we played solid hockey.”
And for a portion of the game, Talbot’s right, the Flyers did play well. But they were stymied by an inability to cash in on their chances, either by missing on their own, or being turned aside by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who registered his tenth career shutout against the Flyers (and No. 120 overall).
“We had a lot of good intentions in the game, certainly at the start of the game, but then you’re on the wrong end of 3-0. I think the guys are a bit frustrated,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We came out and competed hard tonight. But frustration set in on a lot of different levels. I thought it was the most competitive start to a game yet… we came out with the right attitude, but we didn’t get the right result.”
It started going kablooey for the Flyers early.
Travis Zajac scored on the rebound of a Bryce Salvador shot on his first shift of the game, giving the Devils the lead 1:07 into the contest.
The Flyers didn’t let that goal bother them too much though, and controlled the temp for the rest of the period, until Braydon Coburn was whistled for interference, and 10 seconds later David Clarkson scored on a bank shot off of Ruslan Fedotenko’s skate for 2-0.
The Flyers bench was livid after the goal because Clarkson had plowed into Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, knocking the goalie’s stick from his hands in the process, and while Bryzgalov was reaching for his stick, Clarkson threw a centering pass off of Fedotenko and into the net.
However, no goaltender interference was called, which drove the Flyers bonkers, especially after having a goal called off Sunday in Buffalo when Ruslan Fedotenko barely brushed up against Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
But the Flyers ills, are not related to goaltending or the areas around their crease for that matter. Instead, the Flyers have to figure out what’s wrong with their offense. The No. 2 scoring team in the NHL last season has just three goals in three games.
“Everyone is doing their job,” Giroux said. “We just have to find ways to get more offense, get pucks to the net and get those greasy rebounds. It doesn’t always have to be a pretty goal.”
The two-goal deficit was eating at the Flyers, and that only manifested itself after Kimmo Timonen was forced to hook Ilya Kovalchuk on a shorthanded breakaway, setting up a penalty shot for the Devils star.
And while Bryzgalov gave his best effort, Kovalchuk was too good, lifting the puck over the sprawled goalie to make it 3-0 Devils just 2:44 into the middle frame.
From there the game slowly degenerated into a mess of penalties, arguments and fights, and left very little in the way of opportunity for the Flyers to rebound.
The power play was again anemic, going 0-for-5 and now sits at 1-for-15 this season and the penalty kill, while better, still gave up a goal.
The Flyers start 0-3-0 for onlt the third time in team history with the last time being the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.
That Flyers team started 3-7-1 but went on to win the Atlantic Division title anyway in a 48-game season.
Of course, that had a lot to do with an in-season trade for John LeClair and Eric Desjardins, but a recovery from this early hole is still possible.
“I wouldn’t call it a crisis,” said Wayne Simmonds. “I think it’s fair to say the next game is a must win though.”
That game comes Thursday back at the Wells Fargo Center against the New York Rangers, a team that swept all six games from the Flyers a season ago.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37