MONTREAL - When the rumors started flying on Friday that Mike Richards was possibly ready to relinquish the "C" and his captaincy to Chris Pronger, he was quick to defend his turf.
Unfortunately, the Flyers did nothing to defend theirs - or their new coach, Peter Laviolette - the next day. An embarrassing 8-2 defeat to the Alex Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals, a game that would have been better played with a mercy rule, was all the Flyers could muster.
As usual, the blame was passed around the locker room.
Dan Carcillo admitted no wrongdoing in punching out Matt Bradley, which cost the Flyers three goals against in his 9-minute penalty kill.
Ray Emery was yanked after allowing five goals on 17 shots. He has allowed 21 goals in his last five starts.
After the game, Emery didn't want to talk. He tried to skip out on the media for the second start in a row. When he finally showed, he answered five questions with 34 words.
No one wanted to be held accountable. Except Richards.
For perhaps the first time in his captaincy, he spoke with purpose. He spoke like he plays: with his heart on his sleeve. Surprisingly, his powerful words took a few minutes to digest.
"We should have responded better than that," Richards said. "I should have responded better. We should have responded as a team better. I'm confident in the people we have in this dressing room.
"It has to get better and it's going to get better."
A lot has been made of his leadership style and qualities in the last few days. But he seemed to put them to rest on a night where it looked like his team got nothing but rest. They looked like the same uninspired team that cost John Stevens his job.
"I'm confident in the leadership that I have to improve the team. I think it's going to get better," Richards said. "We're at a dead end right now. And I'm ready to move the team forward."
Richards has said beating this slump isn't a one-game process. So far, he hasn't led them forward. Maybe, just maybe, that change in attitude and demeanor is a step in the right direction. Now, they're going to have to do it with Laviolette behind the bench.
With 12 games in the next 20 days, a stretch that could make or break the Flyers' season, Richards has his work cut out for him.
After Saturday's game, Dan Carcillo knew it was coming. He said that you could "probably" bet on him being suspended by the league.
Without surprise, NHL dean of discipline Colin Campbell yesterday slapped Carcillo with a four-game suspension for his "deliberate blow to the face" of Washington's Matt Bradley.
Carcillo was about to square off with Bradley - who was slow to throw off his gloves - in the first period when he caught Bradley with a right hand that nearly knocked him out. Bradley was so woozy he couldn't skate off under his own power.
Carcillo received a whopping 19 minutes in penalties, not including his game misconduct. His sucker punch cost the Flyers a 9-minute penalty kill that ultimately decided the game.
"It happened pretty quick," Carcillo explained. "I don't know why he waited so long to drop his gloves. Once you see the gloves off, as a fighter, you don't wait to get punched. You punch."
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau called Carcillo an "idiot" yesterday.
"It's not like this guy's in his first year or first chance doing it," Boudreau told the Washington Post. "Whether it's in this league or the American league, where I saw him for 2 years, where he was just as big an idiot there, too, it's just a dirty play."
Defined by the NHL as a "repeat offender," Carcillo will forfeit $43,597.56 in salary. This is his third suspension. If he wasn't a repeat offender, Carcillo would have surrendered $18,524 to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. He is eligible to return on Dec. 14 in Boston.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren expressed his displeasure with the ruling yesterday but also said Carcillo needs to stay out of that type of stuff.
"I certainly do not agree with this one," Holmgren said. "We do not have a lot of recourse in this situation. Dan will serve his suspension and we will move on."
Keep it classy
It's true. There wasn't much to get excited about on Saturday. But there was no excuse for the buildingwide cheers that erupted when referee Stephane Auger was hit in the head with an errant slapshot in the second period.
Yes, Auger was the one who made the Carcillo penalty call. But how would you feel if we cheered after you were hit in the head with a piece of frozen vulcanized rubber traveling at a blurring 100 mph?
The injury wasn't serious and Auger returned to the game in the third period.
Others haven't been so lucky. Some 13 surgeries later, linesman Pat Dapuzzo still has not made a full recovery from what happened in Philly in 2008, when Steve Downie's skate severed off his nose, nearly killing him and ending his officiating career.
There was no word from the Flyers last night as to who will replace Dan Carcillo in the lineup. Peter Laviolette could opt to go with seven defensemen or use Riley Cote. Stefan Legein told the Daily News that he had not been called up. Legein, 21, has seven goals in 17 games with the Phantoms since the trade with Columbus . . . Simon Gagne hopes to return to contact drills this week . . . Darroll Powe and Blair Betts (shoulder injuries) are still weeks away.
By the numbers
2: Number of goals scored by the Flyers in the last three games. Also the number of power-play goals scored by the Flyers in their last eight games.
6-7-4: The Flyers' record in debuts under a new head coach. Edmonton's Ted Green had the worst start for a head coach in NHL history, a 9-2 drubbing by Calgary on Oct. 4, 1991.
12-5-1: The Flyers' record just 20 days ago.
22nd: NHL rank for the Flyers' penalty kill. Four power-play goals against on Saturday didn't help. They started November ranked fifth in the NHL.
The week ahead
Much like in Philadelphia, it has been a subpar season for the Canadiens in Montreal. There is little hope in this year's "Drive for 25" Stanley Cups. Still, Montreal is one point ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings. The Habs picked up a big win on Friday night, 5-1, over Boston, but lost their last four before that. Tomas Plekanec (26 points) and Mike Cammalleri (25 points) have flourished under new head coach Jacques Martin.
vs. New York Islanders
Tomorrow, 7 o'clock
In a claw-it-out 2-1 win on Thanksgiving eve, the Flyers saw just how tough a team the Islanders are this season. After playing the doormat of the Atlantic Division for the last few years, New York is 11-11-7 and two points ahead of the Flyers. Matt Moulson is one to watch. He scored a hat trick in Atlanta last week and leads the Isles with 22 points.
Thursday, 7 o'clock
The Flyers beat up on the Senators, 5-1, last month in Ray Emery's first game against his former team. Will Emery get the start again on Thursday? Ottawa just wrapped up a five-game road trip out West. Before last night's game in Anaheim, the Senators had lost four games in a row.
vs. New Jersey
Saturday, 7 o'clock
You could certainly make an argument for the Devils being one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now. New Jersey is 6-3-1 in its last 10 and has 39 points in 27 games. The Devils are just two points behind the Penguins for first in the Atlantic with three games in hand. Marty Brodeur has an incredible 2.20 GAA and .920 save percentage.