COLUMBUS, Ohio — Flyers forward Vinny Lecavalier returned ahead of schedule and did some good things Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s poor defensive performance in a 6-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Just like Thursday, this one came down to the third period.
Columbus outscored the Flyers in the final 20 minutes Saturday, 4-1 (including an empty-netter), to pull away from a 2-2 tie.
On Thursday, the Flyers used a stunning 5-1 third-period outburst to erase a 3-0 deficit and jolt the Blue Jackets, 5-4, at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers, who are supposedly emphasizing a defense-first mentality under new coach Craig Berube, have allowed four goals or more in six of their last eight games.
As for Lecavalier, he was thrust into the lineup because of an injury to Steve Downie. Lecavalier was not expected to return for another week, but GM Paul Holmgren said he couldn’t do any more damage to his back and the veteran forward played on the third line, alongside Sean Couturier and Matt Read.
Lecavalier, who was also used on the second power-play unit, had an assist in 16:36, won seven of eight faceoffs and took three shots. He was minus-1 for the night.
“I thought my legs would be kind of tired because I didn’t skate much the last few weeks, but I felt good out there,” he said.
Lecavalier had been sidelined since Nov. 30 with a non-displaced fracture in his lower back. He wore padding to protect the back on Saturday.
“It got really better the last three days,” he said.
While Lecavalier returned, the Flyers were without defenseman Nick Grossmann (flu) — and his crease-clearing and shot-blocking ability was missed. Columbus (15-17-4) had traffic in front of goalie Ray Emery all night.
The Flyers (16-16-4) also lost defenseman Erik Gustfasson to a third-period leg injury; he will be re-evaluated on Sunday, the team said.
There’s a chance the NHL will have a hearing with Zac Rinaldo for a first-period hit on Marian Gaborik, who broke his collarbone on the play. No penalty was called.
“I’m not worried. Not at all,” Rinaldo said.
The Flyers host Minnesota on Monday, their final game before the Christmas break. They fell into fourth place in the Metro Division, one point behind the New Jersey Devils, who have played one more game.
Breakaways. Winger Wayne Simmonds had his first two-goal game of the season….Jake Voracek had an assist and extended his points streak to a career-best seven games….Claude Giroux (assist), who had a game-high six shots, has points in six straight, equaling a career high…. Emery has allowed a total of 11 goals in his last two starts....Former Flyer RJ Umberger had two goals, including an empty-netter, for the Blue Jackets…..The Flyers have allowed the first goal in the last four games....Hal Gill replaced Grossmann and was minus-1 14:31. It was Gill hadn't played in the last 20 games, and Berube surrpisingly bypassed Andrej Meszaros, who is an expensive healthy scratch.
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