Flyers blow lead in final 52 seconds

Carolina Hurricanes' Patrick Dwyer (39) checks Philadelphia Flyers' Michael Raffl (12), of Austria, during the first period. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH, N.C. -- It was a perfect storm of sloppy hockey:

Two of the NHL’s bottom five teams in scoring. Two teams buried at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. And two teams fighting for any glimmer of relevancy playing in a sparsely populated arena in a non-traditional, southern hockey market.

Add all of those up and you get nearly three full periods of scoreless of hockey and a poorly rated game on national television.

The ending was even sloppier for the Flyers. After Scott Hartnell broke the scoreless tie with 3:58 to play, for his first point of hte season, the Flyers suffered a brutal defensive breakdown and the Hurricanes' Jordan Staal knotted the game with just 52 seconds remaining. Kimmo Timonen even added his first point of the season on Hartnell's goal.

But the Flyers' feel-good moment didn't last long. Manny Malhotra scored on a breakaway in overtime to give Carolina a 2-1 win.

Before that final minute flurry, the two teams were teetering on the edge of futility. The last time the Flyers played three periods without any score was on Feb. 6, 2012, a 1-0 shootout loss against the Islanders. Prior to the shootout era, the Flyers played six scoreless ties in their franchise history.

Carolina entered the game 26th in the NHL with 1.93 goals per-game. The Flyers weren’t far behind (29th) with 1.56. They’ve scored a total of two goals in their last three games.

Frankly, it’s hard to tell which number is more poignant:

> The fact that the Flyers hadn’t allowed a goal in 133:45, following their 7-0 pounding against Washington on Friday. Steve Mason was just 52 seconds away form his 20th career shutout and first as a Flyer.

> Or the fact that they had scored just once, prior to Hartnell’s goal, in a span of 219:28.

Just about the most interesting part of the night happened before the game even started, with two-time Philadelphia Eagle and Super Bowl winning coach Bill Cowher cranking the “Hurricane Siren” inside PNC Arena. (Fun fact: Cowher’s daughter, Meaghan, is married to Hurricanes forward Kevin Westgarth, who was a healthy scratch.)

From puck drop, the game action digressed considerably. Flyers were tripping over each other, skating aimlessly without any idea how much time remained on the clock, and turning the puck over at will.

Mocking fans inside PNC Arena’s upper level chanted “We Want Curling” repeatedly in the third period. They didn’t get their wish. But the action wasn’t far off.

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