SUNRISE, Fla. – Since moving atop the Metropolitan Division, the Flyers have taken some steps backward.
Three of them, actually.
They suffered their third consecutive loss Sunday, dropping a 4-1 decision to the surging Florida Panthers, who won their sixth straight – all at the BB&T Center.
Evgenii Dadonov scored his 19th and 20th goals and Roberto Luongo made 39 saves to pace the swift-moving Panthers.
The Flyers, who played their third game in less than four nights and allowed a plethora of odd-man rushes, missed a chance to tie idle Washington for first place in the Metro. The Capitals remained two points ahead and now have a game in hand.
“It’s tough to get momentum when you give up three or four breakaways in a game,” center Sean Couturier said, “so we have to be better. We have to be more aware.”
“Obviously, it wasn’t our best defensive coverage, for sure,” said defenseman Radko Gudas, who had three penalties, including a first-period fight. “They play a lot of hockey with their stretch passes and their guys are gone and it took us a while to adapt.”
Coming off Saturday’s 7-6 shootout loss to best-in-the-NHL Tampa Bay, the Flyers could not solve Luongo, a likely future Hall of Famer, until Travis Konecny scored with 3 minutes, 21 seconds left.
The Flyers had an eight-game road points streak (7-0-1) snapped.
Goalie Petr Mrazek, who was superb in his first three appearances with the Flyers, has allowed a total of 14 goals over the last three games.
“I didn’t like my game today,” Mrazek said. “… I have to support these guys better.”
Mrazek has played the last six games, and it was surprising he got the start over Alex Lyon because he was coming off a wild game in Tampa the previous day.
“I felt pretty good. I went into the game with confidence,” Mrazek said after stopping 22 of 26 shots. “I had some saves early on, and a little bad break on the first goal, and the second one I didn’t like. I would like that one back.”
Coach Dave Hakstol said there were 26 hours between games and it “gave Petr a good amount of time for rest.”
Dadonov got behind defenseman Ivan Provorov and took a long stretch pass from Aleksander Barkov before beating Mrazek up high, putting the Panthers ahead, 3-0, with 1 minute, 54 seconds left in the second period.
With 17:13 to go in the third, Jonathan Huberdeau (20th goal) brushed aside a trailing Gudas and scored on yet another breakaway to give Florida a 4-0 lead.
Florida, which has vaulted into the Eastern Conference wild-card race by going 12-3 since the all-star break, took a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Barkov (power play) and Dadonov.
Barkov went around defenseman Johnny Oduya, who was making his Flyers debut and was injured later in the game, and beat Mrazek with a pretty forehand-to-backhand move with 17:19 left in the first.
With 5:11 remaining in the period, Claude Giroux leaped at the blue line and tried to keep a Florida pass in the offensive end, but the puck went over his glove to Dadonov, who had a step on defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. Dadonov beat Mrazek from the left circle.
Mrazek was a bit sharper in the second period, stopping a handful of quality opportunities, including a point-blank chance by Dadonov.
Since Mrazek keyed a 1-0 shootout win in Montreal that put the Flyers atop the Metro on Feb. 26, the Flyers have lost to Carolina, 4-1; Tampa Bay, 7-6, in a shootout; and Florida.
Things don’t get easier. The Flyers’ next four games are against Pittsburgh, Boston, Winnipeg, and Vegas, four teams fighting for first place in their respective divisions.
“We have to regroup,” Mrazek said.
The Flyers outshot the Panthers, 40-26.
“It’s not the volume of opportunities we gave up, but the number of absolute Grade A [chances allowed] and the number of breakaways he had to face,” Hakstol said.