MONTREAL — The Flyers fell to Montreal on Thursday, 5-1, and suffered their first two-game losing streak in six-plus weeks. Some observations:
Some of the Flyers’ veteran forwards are in scoring slumps at the same time. That was masked when Carter Hart was on a certified roll, but it’s more noticeable with Hart struggling in the last two games.
The rookie goalie has allowed three early goals in each of the last two games — his defense hasn’t exactly helped him — and had to be replaced.
As for the scoring slumps, they continued Thursday. Wayne Simmonds has one goal in his last 15 games, Claude Giroux has one goal in his last nine games, and James van Riemsdyk — who hit the post on a shot Thursday — has two goals in his last 12 games.
Van Riemsdyk spent most of the game on the fourth line, while Michael Raffl played a lot of minutes on the top unit.
Simmonds, a fan favorite who has had eight mostly outstanding seasons with the Flyers, could be playing his final game with the Orange and Black on Saturday. A pending unrestricted free agent this summer, he is expected to be dealt by Monday’s trade deadline.
During their 12-1-1 run, the Flyers scored first in eight of the 14 games.
But they have been flat at the start of their last two games, falling into early 3-0 holes against Tampa Bay and Montreal.
“We’re chasing the game and that makes it tough,” van Riemsdyk said.
Turnovers and poor defensive coverage led to too many odd-man rushes for the Canadiens.
“They’re a team with a lot of speed and they create a lot of turnovers,” Giroux said.
Starting with Thursday’s game in Montreal, the Flyers are in a four-game stretch that could determine whether they stay in the playoff hunt. The four games are against teams they are chasing: Montreal, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Columbus.
“We’ve had little margin for error for a while,” van Riemsdyk said. “We have another crack at it Saturday against a team we’re going to be jockeying for a position with.”
That game is against the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field.
“Every game is a must-win with the situation we’re in,” center Sean Couturier said.
Giroux said the Flyers “need to figure it out quick because there’s not a lot of games left and we have some big games coming up.”
The Flyers have 21 games remaining and are seven points out of the last wild-card spot. They are trying to become the first team in NHL history to reach the playoffs after being 16 points behind at one point during the season.
“It’s good to know there are big games (coming up),” Giroux said, “and we need to find a way to deal with big games.”
Defenseman Phil Myers, who replaced the suspended Radko Gudas, did an outstanding job for the Flyers and was probably their best player Thursday.
That said, the Flyers missed Gudas’ physicality. The Canadiens looked too comfortable cruising into the Flyers’ zone.
“Obviously against a team like that, they’re smaller and you really have to try to be physical on them and knock them off the puck,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “I think we did a little too much stick checking and not separating them from the puck. Gudie is a big, physical presence out there and anytime he’s not in there, we’re going to miss him. But Phil stepped in and did a great job. He skates really well and he played really calm out there and made the smart play.”
Hart is expected to get the call Saturday night against Pittsburgh. The 20-year-old goalie has allowed three goals on nine shots and been pulled in consecutive losses.
The Flyers aren’t worried.
Interim coach Scott Gordon blamed the latest loss on the defensive breakdowns in front of Hart, and van Riemsdyk said the Flyers were in the playoff race because of Hart’s superb play since he was recalled from the minors on Dec. 17.
“He’s a great goalie. Maybe he’ll want one of those (goals) back, but it’s going to happen,” Giroux said. “He’ll be good.”
Hart tried to look at the bright side.
“It doesn’t feel great right now,” he said after the lopsided loss, “but you learn from it and try to take the positives out of it. You just move on and put (the defeat) away. … and just have to worry about the next challenge moving forward.”