CALGARY, Alberta — The culmination of three games in four nights on a western Canada road trip: A whole lot of sleepy Flyers hockey.
The Flyers looked out of sorts offensively while falling, 4-0, to the Flames, who extended their red-hot winning streak to six games. The Flames refused to give the Flyers time and space with the puck, limiting them to 20 shots for the game.
“They’re playing an extremely tight, checking hockey game where there’s not a lot of room on the ice,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “When the team plays that way, well, you’ve got to make plays offensively. Your execution has got to be at its best and obviously, they took that away from us tonight.”
Up until their loss to the Flames, the Flyers had been jumping on the score sheet early. They registered the first goal in five of their seven games this season prior to Saturday night and went 4-0-1 when they did. However, the Flyers struggled to generate scoring chances and when they managed to put a handful of pressure on net, Flames goalie Jacob Markström was in perfect position to answer the call and secure the shutout. In his last four starts, Markström has stopped 125 of 126 shots.
Bucking the trend
For the first two games of the western road trip, the Flyers came ready to play and outscored opponents in the first period. Against the Edmonton Oilers, the Flyers led, 3-2, after the first 20 minutes and against the Vancouver Canucks, the Flyers pulled ahead 2-1. However, against the Flames, they struggled to put pressure on Markström after a scoreless first period. They were were outshot, 8-4, and only had one high-danger scoring chance to the Flames’ five.
The Flyers carried their offensive woes into the second period, managing to put only five shots on goal. The top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny combined for six shots through 40 minutes, while the rest of the Flyers skaters only registered three. The third period saw little improvement for the Flyers, who failed to capitalize on two power plays.
“We just didn’t come out and execute the game plan,” Konecny said. “We were making mistakes. I’m not calling out anybody. Just starting with myself. It just wasn’t a clean game.”
Although the Flyers’ penalty kill has found success early through the first six games of the season (84%), they have been taking up residency in the penalty box too frequently. Heading into their showdown against the Flames, the Flyers ranked second in the NHL in penalty minutes per game (14.5).
The Flyers struggled to stay out of the penalty box against the Flames, especially in the second period. Despite nullifying the first two man-advantages of the game, maintaining a 7-for-7 penalty-killing streak dating back to the start of the Canucks game, the Flames capitalized on their third power play of the game. In the third period, the Flyers failed to stay disciplined. After winger Zack MacEwen was called for hooking halfway through the period, the Flames made the Flyers pay. Winger Matthew Tkachuk scored on a tic-tac-toe goal to put the Flames up, 2-0.
In total, the Flyers finished with 12 penalty minutes and went on the penalty kill five times.
Carter starts: 100 NHL games edition
The Flyers’ loss to the the Flames marked goalie Carter Hart’s 100th NHL start, and he stood tall overall. The Flames had five high-danger scoring chances after the first period, including center Dillon Dube’s attempted backhanded shot off a rebound. Hart slid across the crease and made a toe save, robbing Dube from finding the back of the net.
Hart looked brilliant again in the second period and allowed only one goal — center Sean Monahan’s power-play tip-in goal off a centering pass from defenseman Rasmus Andersson to put the Flames up, 1-0. However, Hart stoned Monahan later when Tkachuk attempted to tee Monahan up with a backhanded pass from behind the Flyers’ net. Despite a mostly strong game, Hart was beat by winger Johnny Gaudreau within the final two minutes of the third period after the Flames had scored on an empty-netter. Hart finished with 31 saves on 34 shots, good for a .912 save percentage.
“It’s disappointing when the team puts an effort like that in front of Hartsy when realistically, he’s the only reason it ended up the score it was,” Konecny said. “I mean, he made some unbelievable saves. Obviously, we try to help him as much as we can, but tonight we didn’t help him at all, and he kept us in the game.”
The Flyers return home after a week on the road to face off against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia).