Dave Hakstol is Mr. Stoic. After the most dramatic wins or the toughest losses, the Flyers’ third-year coach is usually emotionless.
Not Saturday. Not after the Flyers suffered their fourth straight loss, a 5-4 overtime defeat to Calgary at the Wells Fargo Center.
For the first time in a while, offense wasn’t a problem. The Flyers got traffic in front of the net, were strong on the puck, and scored more goals in the first period than they did in the previous three games combined.
No matter. They blew a two-goal lead for the second consecutive game, and the undisciplined manner in which they did it had Hakstol filled with anger as he walked into the post-game news conference.
If he was a cartoon character, smoke would have been pouring out of his ears.
The Flyers had a 3-1 lead and were dominating the early stages of the second period, but they then committed four straight minor penalties during a stretch of 9 minutes, 8 seconds. Calgary converted them into three goals, all by Sean Monahan, who had the first hat trick of his career.
“They’re penalties that could have been within our control,” Hakstol snapped.
Dale Weise was called for high sticking. Brandon Manning was guilty of slashing, and Shayne Gostsibehere received two separate penalties, one for unsportsmanlike conduct, the other for elbowing.
“It’s not deflating. It pisses you off. Pardon my language,” Hakstol said about blowing another two-goal lead. “We did a lot of really good things in this hockey game, and that 10-minute span cost us a point.”
“We did a lot of good things” has become Hakstol’s mantra after a loss, but he wasn’t exaggerating this time.
They fired their second-highest shot total of the season (39). They got two goals from defensemen (Manning, Ivan Provorov), and received their first goal from a forward who is not on the top line (Nolan Patrick) in the last five games. They also had a huge territorial edge in five-on-five play.
But their penalty kill was weak — it fell to 26th in the NHL after allowing three goals in five power plays — and Jake Voracek (two assists) allowed Michael Frolik to get behind him and finish off a two-on-one against defenseless goalie Brian Elliott in overtime.
Gostisbehere, who apparently was upset that a Calgary player wasn’t penalized on an earlier play, wouldn’t disclose what he said that drew the unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
“Just wasn’t a good team player in that sense on that play,” he said. “Heat of the moment. Obviously, there are no excuses for something like that to happen. … I really let the team down. I took it out on the wrong guy.”
The march to the penalty box erased a two-goal lead.
“It wasn’t our smartest period,” Patrick said. “I don’t know if we gave the game away. We still had the third period in a tied game. We had a chance to win, but we’ve got to be more disciplined.”
“The best penalty kill is to not take penalties,” said right winger Wayne Simmonds, who has no goals in his last 12 games. “We kind of just lost our heads out there, groaning and moaning at the refs. But some of those penalties were penalties.”
The Flyers couldn’t finish off a team that was coming off an 8-2 loss in Detroit and playing without one of its leading scorers, the suspended Matthew Tkachuk.
“It was a big win for us, especially after the last game we had,” said diminutive Calgary left winger Johnny Gaudreau, a South Jersey native who may someday be known as the best player to come out of the region. He had three points, including his seventh goal in the last nine games, and seemed to be in the middle of a Grade A scoring chance every time he was on the ice.
While Gaudreau had a happy homecoming — he had numerous friends and relatives watching from a suite, including his former Gloucester Catholic High principal, John Colman — the Flyers continued to struggle on home ice.
They have won just four of 10 games (4-3-3) at the Wells Fargo Center, where they have lost five of their last six. That needs to change quickly, or general manager Ron Hextall may be recalling players from the AHL’s Phantoms.