Edmonton, Alberta — The Flyers’ season has turned ugly.
They dropped a 6-3 decision Thursday to Edmonton before a howling sellout crowd at Rogers Place.
It was the Flyers’ fifth loss in their last six games, and made them 0-6-2 in games played in Western Canada over the last three seasons.
Coupled with the New York Islanders’ win Thursday, the Flyers fell a spot in the standings and now have to climb over two teams to get into a playoff position.
Brayden Schenn’s power-play goal with 12 minutes, 47 seconds left got the Flyers to within 5-3, but there would be no comeback victory like in the teams’ Dec. 8 meeting
Connor McDavid (three points) padded the lead to 6-3 with about five minutes remaining. McDavid didn’t get into any confrontations with his feuding partner, Brandon Manning.
His teammates did.
Manning was booed whenever he touched the puck. Patrick Maroon, a former Flyers farmhand, pounded a game Manning in a fight with 9:25 to go in the second. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Maroon was one of many Oilers taking runs at the 6-1, 205-pound Manning during the game.
“Obviously they were targeting him and chasing him all over the ice all game long,” right winger Wayne Simmonds said. “I thought he did a great job when he fought. Props to him, for sure.”
Manning had a strong game, taking five shots (two on goal), delivering two hits, and playing solid defense,
“He’s first class in terms of competitiveness and old-school mentality. There’s nobody better than Brandon in that regard,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “He played a heck of a game tonight and did everything that he needed to do.”
Manning, who had his parents, his sister, some other relatives, and several friends at the game, said he wasn’t fazed by the Oilers making him a target.
“I’m not scared of fighting. It was just a matter of time. I picked my spot,” he said. ‘We’re down 4-1, so there was an opportunity to go there. Maroon was willing, so you take it.”
For the first time this season, Hakstol dressed seven defensemen, including Michael Del Zotto, and just 11 forwards. The move backfired when winger Jordan Weal, one of the team’s most effective players in the previous two games, suffered an unspecified upper-body injury in the first period and did not return.
That left the Flyers with just 10 forwards for the last two-plus periods.
“It was definitely a factor,” Hakstol said. “The one risk you run is exactly what happened tonight.”
Hakstol used seven defensemen “because I wanted to make sure we had good energy on the back end” against the speedy Oilers.
Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored 75 seconds apart in the second period, enabling the Oilers to pull away from a 2-1 lead.
Burly defenseman Radko Gudas, of all people, had gotten the Flyers to within 2-1 when he scored on a goalmouth scramble 31 seconds into the second period.
It was Gudas’ first goal in 16 games and third of the season.
Jake Voracek nearly scored the equalizer on a breakaway about six minutes later, but Cam Talbot denied his five-hole attempt.
“I thought I had less time than I actually did,” Voracek said. “I should have spread him out a little more.”
Exactly a minute later, Eberle put a backhander into the top corner to give Edmonton a 3-1 lead with 12:46 left in the second. Eric Gryba then fired a shot that deflected off the skate of Manning and Nugent-Hopkins and got past Michael Neuvirth.
That gave the Oilers four goals on 12 shots. The Flyers finished with a 36-25 shots advantage.
Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom and Simmonds traded goals late in the second, so the Flyers headed into the final period facing a 5-2 deficit.
Earlier, the Oilers took a 1-0 lead on Matt Hendricks’ controversial goal — played poorly by Neuvirth — with 17:46 left in the opening period.
Hendricks scored from above the left circle, but teammate Mark Letestu appeared to be offside as he entered the zone on the right. Hakstol challenged the play. Surprisingly, the review upheld the call on the ice.
Leon Draisaitl made it 2-0, redirecting Matt Benning’s pass/shot with 4:41 left in the first. The sequence started when Draisaitl won a faceoff from Sean Couturier, then was able to get good position in front of the net because Couturier broke his stick and headed to the bench.
McDavid triggered the Oilers’ offense in the last two periods.
Last season, McDavid missed 37 games after he broke his left clavicle in a contest against the Flyers. He lost an edge and then collided with Manning and went into the boards. Manning later said he received death threats from fans who thought he intended to injure McDavid.
Fast-forward to the Flyers’ 6-5 home win over the Oilers on Dec. 8. After the game, McDavid said Manning acknowledged that he injured him on purpose.
Manning vehemently denied he said such a thing.
McDavid, uncharacteristically, spent that game chirping at Manning and at the Flyers.
A handful of Oilers went out of their way Thursday to take shots at Manning, including Milan Lucic, who slashed the defenseman late in the first period. Manning went down behind his own net — and was somehow given an embellishment penalty. Draisaitl scored on the four-on-four that was caused when Manning went to the box.
“Let’s hope so. I’d love that,” said Manning when asked if he thought there was some finality to his feud with McDavid and Edmonton. “Connor didn’t say a word on the ice today. Patrick (Maroon) said ‘good job’ afterward. We’d do the same thing if one of our superstars got hurt. I understand it. Just the chirping and the non-stop stuff kind of gets annoying, but like I said, we only see these guys twice on the year.
“The focus is on the playoff push now and try to get back on track in Vancouver,” he added, referring to the Flyers’ opponent Sunday night.