'A lack of focus' in Flyers' overtime loss to Wild

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Mike Richards sits along the boards after taking a hit during last night's loss to the Minnesota Wild. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )

SCOTT HARTNELL called it embarrassing.

Chris Pronger said it was a lack of desire.

Danny Briere chalked it up to the Flyers being overconfident, or thinking they're a better team than they really are.

Words alone - which sounded more like a broken record than anything insightful, self-revealing or forthcoming - could not describe the Flyers' two-goal, third-period collapse last night against a Minnesota Wild team that seemingly packed in its playoff push long before arriving at the Wachovia Center last night.

It ended 2:33 into overtime, poignantly, with what was supposed to be a routine glove save for Brian Boucher on a shot by Kyle Brodziak. The puck bounced off Boucher's glove and into the air. By the time Boucher could spin around and track the puck, he already had kicked it into his own net - and dealt the Flyers yet another crushing blow in their chase for the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

Last night's 4-3 overtime loss, never should have come down to a do-or-die save in overtime. Much like their playoff chances never should have come down to the final eight games of the 82-game march.

The Flyers carried a 3-1 lead into the third period. They were 27-1-2 when leading after two periods this season.

"That game should be locked down at 3-1,'' Pronger said. "This late in the season, that's just unacceptable. [It's] a lack of focus, a lack of concentration, a lack of desire."

With the loss, the Flyers not only kept Minnesota's slim playoff hopes alive, they only increased their lead on eighth-place Boston and ninth-place Atlanta - both losers last night - by one point.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said all he had stressed to his players during the second intermission was making sure they were ready to "dig in'' and hold the lead.

"The focus, the intensity . . . it's the only thing we talked about going into that period,'' Laviolette said. "It was flat, flat, flat, goal, timeout, goal. Then you're in a ballgame.''

It started when Dan Carcillo lazily had his pocket picked by Guillame Latendresse at the top of the circle inside the Flyers' zone. Latendresse fed the puck to Martin Havlat, whose one-timer beat Boucher 6:37 into the third period.

Havlat's goal cut the deficit to one. An incensed Laviolette called a timeout. And just 7 minutes later, Andrew Brunette tipped in the dagger that knotted the game with 6:37 to play.

Minnesota almost won it in the closing seconds of regulation.

While Boucher didn't make the stops the Flyers needed to win the game, no one could place the blame squarely on the goaltender's shoulders.

"We could've done a lot better things in front of him to not allow tips and screens and turnovers that resulted in goals,'' Pronger said. "You win as a team, you lose as a team. I don't fault him. I don't think anyone should. There's a lot more to that game than the goals that they scored to make it 3-3, and then to win the game in overtime.''

"We're not going down that road,'' Laviolette said when asked about Boucher. "This is a team sport we play. The goaltender didn't come out flat in the first 3 minutes of the third period.''

The Flyers didn't - for once - come out flat to start the game. They drew a penalty in the first 55 seconds and scored twice within the first 5 minutes, after being outscored 10-3 in the first period of their previous five games.

Oskars Bartulis scored the first goal of his NHL career when he redirected a puck off his skate and behind a helpless Nicklas Backstrom. Simon Gagne followed that with a goal 39 seconds later to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead after he picked off an errant Andrew Ebbett pass just inside the blue line.

The Flyers outshot Minnesota, 12-3, in the first period. The bigger stat, though, was that the Wild scored twice on their first five shots in the third period.

"There's no excuses to lose a game like that to a team like the Wild, who we had on the ropes,'' Briere said. "I don't know if it's overconfidence, where it feels like we're going back out for the third period where we think we have the game wrapped up.''

And it could get worse.

"I don't know if we've learned our lesson,'' Pronger admitted. "We can't continue to do this and expect bigger things from our team.''

 

Slap shots

 

The Flyers outshot Minnesota, 35-21 . . . In all, the Flyers threw 69 shots on or around Nicklas Backstrom (35 on goal, 18 attempts blocked, 16 missed net) . . . Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell paced the Flyers with five shots each on goal . . . Dan Carcillo and Guillaume Latendresse tied for the lead in hits with six . . . Blair Betts played just 8:01 but had an assist . . . Ryan Parent, James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham were the only Flyers to not have a shot on goal.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.