The Flyers were outskated, outshot, and overall outplayed in a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.
For one minute, it seemed the Flyers were off to a strong start. They scored 50 seconds into the game when Ivan Provorov snuck a puck past Antti Raanta from behind Sean Couturier.
The Hurricanes challenged it. The goal was upheld, but the game slowed down. The Flyers went on the power play, but momentum was shifting in the Hurricanes’ favor.
The Flyers held Carolina off the board until Sebastian Aho scored with 6 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first period. Joel Farabee responded with a shorthanded goal, and the Flyers went into the first intermission ahead, 2-1.
When they came back out, the Hurricanes effectively snuffed any attempt by the Flyers to retain control of the game.
Aho scored his second goal 23 seconds in to tie it. Thirteen seconds later, Rasmus Ristolainen scored his first goal as a Flyer to grab the lead back. Before they even finished announcing the goal, the Hurricanes went down and tied it again, this time with a goal from Jesper Fast.
The Flyers did not score again while the Hurricanes added another in the second as well as one in the third. Flyers goalie Carter Hart faced 21 shots and gave up six goals. Antti Raanta faced 35 shots and made 32 stops.
“We’ve got to stick together as a group,” coach Alain Vigneault said as the Flyers fell to 0-3-2 in the last five games. “Everyone, starting with me, needs to find a way to be better. That’s what we’re going try and do tomorrow.”
Farabee steps up twice in a row
With the scored tied up and the Flyers on the penalty kill, Farabee rushed into the offensive zone, faked out Seth Jarvis, and put the puck in the net almost before Raanta could even react.
It’s the second goal Farabee has scored in two games. His last came in the 2-1 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers, a game that ended in a controversial fashion when Farabee’s stick was knocked out of his hands in overtime.
This season, Farabee has struggled offensively. After scoring in the first three games, he scored just one goal over the next 14. The Flyers moved him up to the first line, but that didn’t help.
However, when the team’s forward depth took a hit with injuries to Derick Brassard and Patrick Brown, Farabee responded Wednesday by scoring the team’s first goal in four periods. He was the only forward to score Friday. His two goals in two games were his first set of back-to-back goals since Oct. 20.
Heavy load, weary legs
Even though Vigneault says often that “injuries happen,” the recent rash of them has put the Flyers in a position Vigneault can’t deny.
“We’re obviously being challenged right now and as an organization here, we’re being stretched out as far as player personnel up here and with our farm team,” Vigneault said.
The Flyers suffered a few bumps and bruises within the game, as well. Couturier briefly left when he was hit in the head but returned. Scott Laughton and Nate Thompson were also checked out after collisions. Laughton returned. Thompson did not.
Ahead of Friday’s loss, Vigneault said they called up Connor Bunnaman for a set of fresh legs. Bunnaman provided a burst with two breakaway shots, but it wasn’t enough to help the team against a faster, more skilled opponent.
The team seemed to trail a step behind, letting the Hurricanes control the pace of the game. Carolina easily outskated Flyers defenders for breakaways.
As usual, the top six had to carry the team. The bottom six were on the ice for all the opposing goals and scored none of their own. The top lines have scored over 70% of the Flyers’ goals this season, but Claude Giroux still feels they should be better.
“I mean, the top two lines are not playing great,” Giroux said. “As a team, we’re flat. We’re not playing the best we can, and we know that. There’s a lot of frustration in our game. We need to reset here and figure it out.”
Same old story
The Flyers’ power-play output over the last 15 games equals its output in the first four. After the Flyers went 4-for-11, they have gone 4-for-47 since.
“Power play, obviously, is not working right now,” Vigneault said.
The struggles were especially pronounced Friday when the penalty kill unit created more momentum than the power play.
The trouble was clear early on against the Hurricanes when the Flyers went on a power play in the first minute. The Hurricanes cleared the puck five times and gave up just one shot on goal.
Shortly after, the Flyers went on the penalty kill and turned the tide back in their favor. The Flyers’ second penalty kill lead to a shorthanded goal, giving the penalty kill unit more points than the power play.
Vigneault took the blame for it. He said they Flyers have the personnel, including players who made power plays work at other organizations, and he needs to figure out how to make everything add up.
The Flyers head to Newark, NJ, to play the New Jersey Devils on Sunday at 7 p.m.