Third period dooms Flyers in 3-2 loss to Canucks
HENRIK SEDIN danced behind the net and the Flyers watched as if he was the belle of the ball.
Nick Grossmann hesitated to make a move toward the Hart Trophy winner. Claude Giroux stood motionless while the onetime NHL scoring champ cradled the puck.
Braydon Coburn looked frantically for a Canuck, but was just too confused to move.
"You have to go out and take it to the other team in the third period and win the game," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "We're kind of sitting back, waiting for something bad to happen."
The bad happened twice in the third period. Sedin found a wide-open Chris Higgins in the slot and salted away the Flyers' one-goal lead. It was only a matter of 10 minutes before Ryan Kesler and the rest of Vancouver's potent top line would find the go-ahead goal, as the Canucks stunned the Flyers, 3-2, in the final minutes last night.
All that was left for the Flyers was to count the moral victories from their first two periods - and it's still a little early in the season to be keeping that tally.
"If anybody knows anything about hockey, they'll know we played a good game tonight," Giroux said. "We played our best game [of the season]. We are getting better every game, that's how we look at it. It's a fact."
Yes, the Flyers outworked and outskated Vancouver through much of the first two periods. Yes, the Flyers outchanced the Canucks and Tye McGinn netted his first career two-goal game. Yes, the Flyers caught an unlucky carom off the boards that resulted in Vancouver's fluky first goal. And yes, they limited themselves to just one penalty-killing situation.
But the most important fact is that all those positives were lost with shoddy defensive-zone coverage and a lack of awareness with the game on the line.
"It's tough, but you have to keep believing that we're going in the right direction," Berube said. "It was a hard-fought game. I thought our guys competed hard and did a lot of really good things out there. But you have to be mentally tough and go out there and do it. It's the NHL, you've got to get results."
The Flyers (1-6-0) are off to their worst start in franchise history - even worse than in 2006-07 (1-5-1), when they finished dead last in the NHL. The Flyers are in last place in the Eastern Conference, even behind the brutal Buffalo Sabres - and the Flyers are the only team in the NHL to not score at least three goals in one game this season, something Buffalo accomplished last night.
The Flyers have been outscored, 10-2, in the third period this season. "Confidence is the biggest thing," Berube said, and it's apparent the Flyers have little.
"It's haunted us for the last two seasons," Jake Voracek said. "Two years ago, when I first got here, we had that [good] attitude that we would go out there and take the game, even if we were down 5-0.
"We are scared to make something happen on the ice. Nobody is going to help us, we've got to find a way to win these games."
Truth be told, the Flyers have struggled playing with the lead this season, no matter the period. They have held a lead four times this season - for spurts of 17:13 (vs. Toronto), 55:11 (vs. Florida) and 10 seconds and 25:21 against the Canucks last night - but only once have they hung onto the lead to win. Doing so against the Panthers hardly is worth celebrating.
Overall, the Flyers have played 420 minutes. They've trailed 54 percent of every minute they've been on the ice (227:03), been tied for 23 percent (95:02) and led for 23 percent (97:55). They trailed for just 2:25 last night against Vancouver, but it was the only 2-minute stretch of the game that mattered.
"When we did make mistakes, we made them at the wrong time," goalie Steve Mason said. "With 2 1/2 minutes left, we can't be giving up goals."
Defensive forward Adam Hall said it came down to "awareness," and Berube said guys "got a little mixed up." Part of that is adjusting to a new system, part of that is a lack of confidence.
With their confidence leveled, the Flyers head into tomorrow night's home game against the Penguins with some serious weight on their shoulders. With a loss and a 1-7-0 record and one full week between games, there will be a lot of soul-searching going on from the top to the bottom of the Flyers organization.
"I thought the guys deserved a better fate," Mason said. "It's coming, but it doesn't seem like it's coming soon enough."
Flyers players wrapped purple tape on their sticks in conjunction with Hockey Fights Cancer . . . The Flyers won just 30 percent of their faceoffs, their worst performance in draws since Feb. 15, 2009, when they won 28.8 percent at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers . . . Not including the late games, the Western Conference is now 30-10-3 against the East this season.
On Twitter: @DNFlyers