NEW YORK — Unfortunately for the Flyers, goaltender Carter Hart can’t copy and paste himself in the crease.
In the second period, Flyers winger Scott Laughton attempted to clear the puck from the defensive zone as winger Travis Konecny and center Kevin Hayes cleared out early to try to create an odd-man rush. To Laughton’s dismay, defenseman Jacob Trouba picked off his backhand and sent a flurry of blue jerseys barreling toward the Flyers’ net.
A series of perfect tic-tac-toe passes left the Flyers out of position defensively and ended with winger Chris Kreider putting the puck past a vulnerable Hart and the Rangers went on to a 4-1 victory. The Flyers could not create enough offense through 60 minutes to overcome the Rangers’ attack.
“That’s a play that you have to make,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said of Laughton’s failed clear. “Just like when you’re on the power play, and there’s some openings and some lanes that are open, there are some plays that our guys have made in the past that they have the talent to make. And they’ve got to find a way to make it.”
In total, Hart faced only 27 shots on goal, which is the fewest he’s seen since Nov. 2 against the Arizona Coyotes. However, the Rangers managed to capitalize on quality opportunities and handed the Flyers their seventh straight loss.
Special teams falter
Throughout a nightmarish 10-game stretch in which the Flyers went 2-6-2 and converted on 6.1% of their power-play opportunities (30th in the league), their penalty kill served as one of the few bright spots. In those same 10 games, the Flyers killed 86.7% of their opponents’ man-advantages, good for 16th in the league.
Early in the first period against the Rangers, however, the Flyers allowed their first power-play goal since Nov. 24 against the Florida Panthers. Trouba’s one-timer from the point made its way through traffic in the slot and found the back of the net to put the Rangers up 1-0 less than four minutes into the game.
“I couldn’t see anything,” Hart said. “The guy just blasted the puck through traffic and finds the back of the net. So, it’s unfortunate.”
In the second period, the Flyers’ struggling power play came up fruitless on a five-minute boarding major called on winger Dryden Hunt. Goalie Igor Shesterkin denied seven shots in that stretch, and while Vigneault asserted that that power play gave the Flyers some momentum, the team failed to score a man-advantage goal throughout all three of their opportunities.
Farabee exits with injury
Just when it seemed like the Flyers were starting to turn the corner of health with Hayes’s return to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 16, their injury woes resumed against the Rangers. In the first period, winger Joel Farabee fell into the wall with Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller. His body weight crunched Farabee into the boards and the winger skated off the ice in pain while clutching his left shoulder.
Farabee remained on the bench until the Rangers scored their second goal at 9:32 in the first period. Then, Farabee skated off the ice, walked down the tunnel back to the Flyers’ locker room. He would not return to the game. Over the last three games, Farabee has provided a slight boost of offense to a struggling Flyers team, with three goals.
Although the severity of his injury is unknown, Farabee joins a list of banged-up Flyers, including center Derick Brassard (lower-body strain) and defenseman Ryan Ellis (lower body).
Frost finishes his chance
Forward Morgan Frost, who was called up to replace Brassard in the lineup on Nov. 24, earned the opportunity to play on the second line for the first time with Claude Giroux at center and Cam Atkinson on the right wing. His presence aided the Flyers on their quest to boost puck possession and create quality scoring opportunities, which was desperately needed over the course of the last 10 games when the Flyers scored just 1.70 goals per game (29th in the league).
In the second period, Frost created his own scoring chance when he carried the puck through the neutral zone and fired a wrist shot on Shesterkin. The puck went off Shesterkin’s glove and the rebound ended up behind the net, where Frost collected the puck. He stuck with the play, dropping the puck off for Giroux, who fired a shot from the right faceoff circle. The shot deflected off Atkinson and Frost drove to the net and poked the puck past Shesterkin. Frost finished the night with four shots on goal.
“They’re really special players,” Frost said of Giroux and Atkinson. “The first time I came up two years ago, I played with G a bit. We had some good chemistry there. He makes it real easy to go out there and play. So I really enjoyed playing with those two guys. Hopefully get a chance to do that again.”
After playing just one game in six days, the Flyers play five games in seven nights starting Sunday. They’ll take on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the third and final time this season at home at 6 p.m. in the first leg of a back-to-back.