PITTSBURGH— For the Flyers, a team that huffed and puffed to admirably get back into playoff contention, what will forever be known as the “Year of Eight Goalies” is not ending well.
Goaltending let them down in their last two games. So did a disorganized defense that seemed in retreat mode.
As a result, the Flyers suffered consecutive losses for just the second time since Jan. 10 and virtually fell out of the playoff race.
The Flyers, who blew a three-goal lead Friday and lost a 7-6 decision in Toronto, lost more ground Saturday while idle, dropping eight points out of a playoff spot with 11 games left — and they need to climb over two teams.
“It’s frustrating, especially having a 5-2 lead and the season basically on the line,” said center Sean Couturier, whose team plays in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, completing a difficult three-games-in-four-nights stretch that, so far, has been a disaster. “It should have been Game Over.”
The Flyers, with goalie Carter Hart looking rusty in his first game in three weeks, dropped a 5-2 decision to Washington on Thursday. On Friday, they allowed five straight goals after building a 5-2 lead in Toronto as Brian Elliott struggled mightily in the second half of the game.
“We kind of panicked and sat back a little bit,” Couturier said. “They just came hard at us. ... They shot a lot of pucks from everywhere.”
Elliott was under siege the whole game as his defense and forwards were continually out of position and were outskated by the much-faster Maple Leafs, who fired 51 shots.
It marked just the third time since 2008 the Flyers had allowed that many shots in a game.
Before the loss to the Leafs, interim coach Scott Gordon was in an upbeat mood. He talked about how his team had been ultra-focused during its two-plus months of excellence, and he noted that a win Friday and a Columbus loss would put the Flyers within three points of a wild-card spot.
But Columbus, with former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky making 46 saves, shut out Carolina, 3-0, and the Flyers wilted in their second game in two nights.
Now they probably need to win 10 of their last 11 games to have a playoff shot.
“We have to battle and hope we can get some help from other teams,” Couturier said. “Keep going and focus one game at a time.”
The next game is against a Penguins team that will be angry from blowing a late 3-1 lead — the Flyers scored two goals with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker — and dropping a 4-3 overtime decision in the Feb. 23 Stadium Series matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.
“When you look back in January and we were last in the league, we found a way to right the ship and give ourselves a chance to even have this conversation,” Gordon said of the team’s playoff aspirations. “That’s an important part of the character of the team. And until it’s final that we’re out of the playoffs, I’m sure our guys will compete the same way.”