Flyers' center Lukáš Sedlák cut the Devils’ lead to one point in the the third period as winger Zack MacEwen screened Devils goalie Akira Schmid. However, their efforts weren’t enough.
As coach John Tortorella has said repeatedly in the past, hockey is a game of mistakes. Frames Picture
Despite the Flyers’ overall dominance of the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, outshooting them, 33-18, the Flyers struggled to overcome a third-period blunder that lifted the Devils to a 3-2 victory.
Just two minutes into the final frame with the game tied, 1-1, goalie Carter Hart and defenseman Nick Seeler misplayed the puck behind the net. Devils center Dawson Mercer capitalized on the error and scored to put the visitors up, 2-1.
The Flyers needed to respond, but the Devils beat them to the punch. Five minutes after Mercer’s goal, the Flyers gave Devils’ center Jack Hughes time and space to carry the puck to the net out of the corner. His backhander went off Hart’s mask, but Hughes collected his own rebound and jammed the puck past Hart.
“We played a great game, the whole 60,” Hart said. “I think that [the loss] just comes down to goaltending at the end of the day. I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to make a few more saves, make some better plays.”
Although they fell behind 3-1, the Flyers never gave in. Center Lukáš Sedlák cut the Devils’ lead to one goal when he scored from distance as winger Zack MacEwen screened Devils goalie Akira Schmid. Winger Joel Farabee nearly tied the game late in the third, but the goal was immediately waved off due to goalie interference, and the Flyers’ rally fell short.
“I thought we responded well,” Seeler said. “We got a goal there and then we got one called back. So, we definitely didn’t quit. There’s no quit in this group.”
While the Flyers were the better team through the first 40 minutes of the game, the Devils did their best to disrupt them. They were successful six minutes into the second period when defenseman Ivan Provorov lost the puck below the goal line, thanks to the efforts of forechecking Devils winger Miles Wood. Center Michael McLeod collected the puck and slid it back along the boards to Wood, who found winger Fabian Zetterlund as he crashed the net for a tap-in goal past Hart to put the Devils up, 1-0.
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Overall, through the first two periods, the Flyers’ mistakes were minimal. But despite generating five high-danger scoring chances in that span at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick, the Flyers managed only one power-play goal, from winger Travis Konecny. It wasn’t until the third period when Mercer’s goal spelled trouble, and the Flyers couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole created by Hughes’ tally.
After Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tortorella lamented the team’s lack of structure, which initially showed improvement against the Islanders on Nov. 26 and 29. The Flyers couldn’t afford to give the red-hot Devils too much time and space in the offensive zone.
The Flyers started strong against their divisional foe in the first period. They checked decisively and limited the Devils’ offense through the first 20 minutes, holding them to just four shots on goal. Players used their physicality to kill plays in the defensive zone and get back on the attack, registering 12 shots on goal. That trend carried over into the second period, as the Devils managed just seven even-strength shots.
“It started off with our decision-making,” Provorov said. “We were skating fast, pressuring the puck, pressuring the players, and that helped us a lot to kind of control the game for the most part. Obviously there’s a few mistakes that happened that led to goals.”
Over their last seven games, the Flyers’ power play has been an abject disaster, going 0-for-19. But they were missing one key player in six of those seven games — Konecny, who was sidelined for two weeks because of a right hand injury. In his second game back, Konecny provided a much-needed boost to the floundering power play on the heels of a Devils goal.
From the right face-off circle, winger Kevin Hayes held the puck before passing it down low to center Noah Cates at the side of the net. He teed up Konecny, who was parked in the low slot and tapped the puck past Schmid to tie the game, 1-1. Konecny now has two goals in as many games since returning from his injury. He leads the Flyers with nine goals.
“We were working at it,” Konecny said of the power-play goal. “It was just a matter of time. Figuring things out, we knew it was going to come eventually.”
Acryl Frame The Flyers will return to the Wells Fargo Center on Monday to face the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia).