Even though they pummeled the goal with shots and played a dominant second period to spark a comeback, the Flyers once again lost the game in the third period, falling, 4-2, to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers had a season-high 49 shots on goal in the loss.
The excitement of Sunday’s shootout win over the Rangers did not carry over. Within minutes of puck drop, the Flyers were already losing. The Blue Jackets extended their lead to two before the Flyers got on the board with Noah Cates’ goal.
That goal sparked the Flyers. While they outshot the Blue Jackets in both the first and second, their 18 second-period shots were of better quality. The shots came from up and down the lineup with every player except Keith Yandle recording a shot on goal by the end of the second. Morgan Frost (5), Joel Farabee (5) and Ivan Provorov (4) led the way, but it was James van Riemsdyk’s deflection goal that tied it ahead of the final period.
“We should’ve had a pretty darn good lead after two periods,” interim coach Mike Yeo said.
After being outshot by 38-16 in the first two periods, the Blue Jackets finally managed to even the offensive pressure with the help of their first power play of the game. While they didn’t score on the power play, they used the momentum to score shortly after. They scored an empty-net goal to put the game away.
“The whole story of this game was their goalie [Elvis Merzlikins, who made 47 saves], to be honest with you,” Yeo said. “I’m disappointed for our players, because I thought that we did a lot of great things tonight, to be honest with you. Those are games that more often than not, you’re gonna win.”
First full of firsts
All three of the goals scored in the first period were NHL firsts. Blue Jacket Carson Meyer scored his first NHL point when he assisted on Brendan Gaunce’s goal, the first of the game. Minutes later, Meyer added his first NHL goal.
Not to be outdone, Cates went to work for the Flyers, battling for position in front of the net and finding open spots. When Patrick Brown passed it from behind the net, Cates was in the perfect position and scored the Flyers’ first goal of the game and his own first NHL goal.
“It’s been a lifelong dream to score that goal and it was a pretty big goal for us,” Cates said.
When Ronnie Attard realized it was Cates who scored, he “probably jumped two feet in the air.” It made him want to get in on the action, too. He fired a one-timer from the blue line as he was falling to the ground, and van Riemsdyk deflected it in for Attard’s first NHL point.
“I’ve watched him growing up, for sure, and seeing his art in front of the net,” Attard said. “He’s very good. So whenever he’s there, just try to get pucks through. Most of the time, he’ll get a stick on it.”
Power play keep-away
The Flyers went on the power play four times before the Blue Jackets had one. It didn’t do them much good.
The six minutes with the man advantage turned into a game of keep-away. There was good puck movement as they circled the puck around the offensive zone. The Flyers took four shots on the first power play, although they weren’t quality shots. After that, they took just three on the second, one in the third, and one on the fourth.
Their game of keep-away didn’t go so well at times. They cleared the puck themselves accidentally, and they also set up a solid shorthanded chance for the Blue Jackets. The Flyers were 0-for-4 and are 12-for-115 in 2022 (10.4%).
However, Ivan Provorov said it was an improvement from Sunday’s game, and Yeo also said it looked better and generated higher quality chances.
“Today, first power play wasn’t good, but after that, I think we found a rhythm, got set up, had a bunch of looks, a bunch of shots on net with a few tips,” Provorov said. “And yeah, just got to find a way to put the puck in the net.”
Tippett and Frost, split up
Although Frost and Owen Tippett had good chemistry, they just couldn’t produce. In the first game Yeo split them up, Tippett scored and Frost played so well he got moved up to the top line for Tuesday’s game.
Against the Blue Jackets, Frost created chances for both himself and his teammates. He battled in front of the net, coming inches from scoring on two opportunities. He drew a penalty and played good defense, including one takeaway that set up a good shift in the offensive zone.
“Frosty, thought he was just buzzing for the first two periods,” Yeo said. “Then in the third period, not that he was bad, but I would like to see that continued confidence.”
Meanwhile, Tippett continued to build on his connection with Kevin Hayes, who sprung him for numerous breakaway chances, but Tippett wasn’t able to capitalize on any of them.
The Flyers fly to Columbus, Ohio, to play the Blue Jackets again with puck drop at 7 p.m. Thursday.