More than 15 minutes into the first period Monday with the Avalanche up 3-1, defenseman Cale Makar embarrassed the Flyers’ penalty kill.
Makar carried the puck from behind his own net, through the neutral zone, and past defenseman Ivan Provorov and Justin Braun at the blue line to score bar-down on goalie Martin Jones.
That very moment, the second of back-to-back Avalanche power-play goals, could’ve been enough for the Flyers to give up entirely. After all, they did exactly that the night before when they were embarrassed, 7-1, by the Tampa Bay Lightning, which ultimately led to former head coach Alain Vigneault’s firing.
But even though the Flyers would lose, 7-5, to the Avalanche, Makar’s goal sparked a push from the Orange and Black. Winger Oskar Lindblom scored his first goal of the season less than a minute after Makar’s tally and captain Claude Giroux earned his second of the night less than two minutes after Lindblom’s.
For the first time since their 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 26, the Flyers registered more than three goals in a game. However, going into their matchup against the Flyers, the Avalanche led the NHL in goals per game (4.00) and performed well above average on Monday night.
With interim head coach Mike Yeo at the helm for his first game following Vigneault’s ousting, the Flyers’ winless skid extended to nine games.
“After the game, basically my message to the players is this is a period where we have to go to work and go to school,” Yeo said. “There was a lot of examples of the things that we want to do and the way we want to play. And we can show how that leads to success.”
Giroux gets going
Three days before the Flyers would go on to fire Vigneault, Giroux acknowledged that the team’s inability to score on the power play started with him. Throughout the 18 games leading up to their tilt against the Avalanche, the Flyers had capitalized on only 5 of 56 power plays (8.9%). With the weight of Vigneault’s firing on his shoulders, Giroux scored two goals Monday.
One of those goals came on the Flyers’ second power play of the first period. Defenseman Keith Yandle had a good keep-in on a high pass from Giroux at the blue line and passed the puck to winger Travis Konecny. He closed in and sent a cross-ice pass to Giroux, whose one-timer found the back of the net to put the Flyers, previously down 4-2, within one. With his goal, Giroux tied Bobby Clarke for most power-play points in franchise history (333).
Earlier, Giroux also tallied the first goal of the night, firing a one-timer from the high slot with plenty of unobstructed ice between him and goalie Justus Annunen.
No Therrien, still problems on special teams
With assistant coach Michel Therrien’s ousting on Monday morning, this game would mark the Flyers’ first without their former power-play coach. On their first man-advantage opportunity, the Flyers struggled to get going and paid the price. When Giroux lost the puck at the blue line in the offensive zone, a two-on-one developed between Avalanche winger Logan O’Connor and defenseman Erik Johnson. O’Connor navigated the puck around Yandle and connected with Johnson, who beat Jones over his glove to tie the score at 1.
» READ MORE: What's wrong with the Flyers' power play?
The shorthanded goal marked the Avalanche’s sixth of the season, tying them for first in the league with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Flyers did manage to go 1-for-3 on the man advantage, Giroux’s goal making it two straight nights with a power-play goal.
While the penalty kill has been one of the few bright spots for the Flyers this season, they conceded goals on back-to-back minor penalties in the first period. The first of those goals came from center Alex Newhook on a shot that deflected off the stick of defenseman Justin Braun. Makar scored on the second power play roughly 30 seconds later. The 23-year-old defenseman was the Avalanche’s fourth-overall pick in 2017, the same year that the Flyers drafted forward Nolan Patrick with the second pick.
“We can’t put a team like that, that dangerous firepower, on the power play that many times,” Yeo said. “Especially having a couple of our key penalty killers [Nate Thompson and Joel Farabee] out.”
Disappointment for Jones
With the Flyers coming off of a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning that saw Carter Hart pulled early the night before, Jones got the nod against the Avalanche. Jones allowed seven goals on 50 shots, and while certain instances were high-percentage opportunities for the Avalanche, Jones would’ve liked some of the goals back.
One of Jones’ more disappointing efforts came against center Nathan MacKinnon and winger Gabriel Landeskog on a rush. MacKinnon passed the puck to Landeskog, whose wrist shot sailed above Jones’ left shoulder and made its way to the back of the net to put the Avalanche up, 2-1. Jones didn’t receive much help from defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and Travis Sanheim, but a timely save could’ve kept the Flyers on even terms.
“They’re a good offensive team,” Jones said. “They funnel a lot of pucks to the net. They had a few power plays tonight, but yeah, I try not to worry about the shot volume too much. I think our goal here is to find a way to play a little bit more structured all over the ice and hopefully that can limit some of the shots and chances against.”
The Flyers play their third game in four nights when they head to Newark on Wednesday to take on the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia). It’s the Flyers’ second game against the Devils in 11 days — their last meeting was on Nov. 28 in which the Devils won, 5-2.