TAMPA - The Flyers played hard on Monday and, on most nights, would have salvaged at least a point.
But not this season. This is a season in which the Flyers hit the post more times than their opponents (2-1 on Monday), a season in which their defensemen allow too many odd-man rushes and leave their goalie hung out to dry.
They dropped a 4-2 decision to host Tampa Bay on Monday and fell into 12th in the Eastern Conference, five points out of eighth.
The Lightning, one of the NHL’s worst teams in the last month, won it on a hard-earned deflected goal midway through the last period. Tampa iced it with an empty-netter in the closing seconds.
What is the biggest reason the Flyers have struggled this year?
For the mostc part, the Flyers (13-16-1) showed more fight than in a lot of games this season, but they couldn’t produce the big goal when needed.
They are now 0-11 when trailing after the first period.
That tells you all you need to know about this season.
Except for maybe this: The Flyers have been outscored, 33-20, in the third period, and they are 1-6 when games are tied (like Monday’s) heading into the final period.
As a sidelight, coach Peter Laviolette demoted top-line left winger Scott Hartnell to the fourth line for about half the game after he was guilty of a roughing penalty on Cory Conacher 4:28 into the second period. Hartnell returned to the top unit with about eight minutes left.
Said Laviolette: “We’ve got to play a clean game, and it seems like we do things and shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Laviolette, who inserted Zac Rinaldo onto the top line, said he wasn’t trying to send a message to Hartnell.
Hartnell took the demotion in stride.
“If that’s the way it’s going to be, that’s the way it’s going to be,” Hartnell said. “I finished my check and hit him a couple extra times where I shouldn’t have, but the boys did a good job of killing it off. Is Lavy trying to send a message to me? He was trying to send it to the team, and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t come back tonight.”
Hartnell still believes the Flyers _ who have lost five of their last seven games and don’t play again until Sunday _ are a playoff team.
“We have to be confident. But these losses keep adding up and they still hurt,” he said. “It’s frustrating; it’s not like guys aren’t trying. It seems like our…third and fourth-line guys are playing our best hockey, and it’s on us to be better and get focused and get ready to work.”
The Flyers have 18 games to save their shortened season. Yes, it’s enough time, but only if they start showing resiliency and learn how to finish off games.
Contact Sam Carchidi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.