RALEIGH, N.C. _ Excuse the Flyers if they probably feel like petitioning the NHL to kindly hit the “reset” button on the start of the season.
For the second straight season _ and just the fourth time since the franchise started in 1967-68 _ the Flyers have opened with three consecutive losses.
They dropped a 2-1 decision Sunday evening to the host Carolina Hurricanes, a team projected to finish toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers play host to Florida on Tuesday and will try to avoid their first 0-4 start in their history.
In three games, the Flyers have scored a total of three goals. Asked if he thought his forwards were pressing, coach Peter Laviolette was curt.
“Could be,” he said.
The Flyers were outshot, 34-18, and managed just three third-period shots.
If this pace continues, it’s fair to wonder how patient general manager Paul Holmgren will be with Laviolette, especially since the Flyers are coming off a year in which they missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons.
Carolina, playing without two injured regulars, embarrassed the turnover-plagued Flyers in the first period, outshooting them, 17-5, and taking a 1-0 lead when goalie Steve Mason allowed defenseman Jay Harrison’s long drive to squirt between his legs. A bad clear by Mason had enabled the Hurricanes to keep the puck in the zone prior to the goal.
The new NHL rule that reduced the goalies’ pads a few inches, on average, may have contributed, Mason said.
“It’s a stop I should have made,” he said. “It might have been easier if I had those extra inches on my pads, but I’m not going to make an excuse there. It’s a save that needed to be made.”
Besides that gaffe, Mason was terrific in the first period, stopping 16 of 17 shots. He kept the Flyers in the game with 32 saves.
The Flyers were coming off a 4-1 loss to Montreal that ended 19 hours earlier.
“We got in late last night and it was a tough game in Montreal, so I think the first period, we were running around a little bit,” Mason said. “But for the remainder of the game, the guys were fighting hard. Things just aren’t happening for us right now and it’s frustrating, but we just have to keep working through it.”
The Flyers tied it on a goal by defenseman Luke Schenn early in the second period. It was the Flyers’ first even-strength goal of the young season, ending a 143-minute, 1-second drought. Schenn fired a shot that ricocheted off the right post and past Anton Khudobin with 16:59 left in the second period.
A little over five minutes later, however, Schenn’s turnover helped put Carolina ahead, 2-1. Operating from behind his net, Schenn tried an ill-advised pass up the middle of the ice. But the pass deflected off the skates of Jeff Skinner (two assists) to Radek Dvorak, whose slot shot sailed over Mason’s glove.
Schenn said he saw Sean Couturier open in the middle and “just tried to make a play. There was nobody behind him, so if I could have gotten him the puck, we would have had a clean exit out of the zone. Sometimes, when you try to make plays, you don’t always get the bounces you want. It went off his skate and on the other guy’s (Dvorak’s) tape. Mistakes like that become big in games when we don’t get much offense going.”
Breakaways. The Flyers made the playoffs just once in the three other times they started a season 0-3 _ that was in 1994-95, when they turned around a 3-7-1 season by acquring Eric Desjardins and John LeClair. Meanwhile, Holmgren is working the phones for a poential deal. Another option: Rolling the dice and promoting someone like Nick Cousins or Jason Akeson from the Phantoms......The Flyers have a day off on Monday.