ELMONT, N.Y. — The same night the Flyers’ Keith Yandle broke the NHL record for most consecutive games played, his team broke the franchise mark for most consecutive losses.
Their 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night extended their skid to 13 games, dating back to Dec. 30.
The game started out differently than the rest. After they had given up the first goal 10 times in 11 games, Claude Giroux broke the pattern less than a minute in. He won a battle by the boards and shot it from the corner along the goal line. Although the Islanders controlled the pace for the next 10 minutes, the Flyers added to their lead when Justin Braun scored on a one-timer from a bounce off the boards.
The 2-0 lead didn’t last long. A minute later, Noah Dobson cut the Flyers’ lead to one with a shot very similar to Braun’s. Anders Lee then got a step on Zack MacEwen and scored on the rush to tie the game going into the first intermission.
The Islanders overtook the Flyers when they went on a power play in the second period. Zach Parise passed the puck across to Mathew Barzal, who caught Flyers goalie Martin Jones off guard.
Gerald Mayhew’s third-period goal tied the game for the Flyers, but the Islanders went on another power play. While the Flyers killed the penalty, it set up a rush that led to the winning goal by Parise with 8 minutes, 9 seconds left.
“We come out and we score — 3-3 and the game’s right there for us,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “So 3-3, late in the game again, and we find a way to lose the game.”
Second period breakdown
When asked how to generate more offense, Yeo and his players spoke of the need for more “dirty goals.” To set up those goals, the Flyers needed to send the puck toward the net more to set up deflections and lucky bounces.
The team demonstrated that mentality in the first period and scored two goals that way. They kept up with the Islanders, and finished with eight shots on goal to the Islanders’ nine.
But as their defense and execution slipped, the Flyers spent less time in the offensive zone. At the end of the first, they gave up two unanswered goals. When they came back out, they had trouble getting out of the defensive zone and showed little energy. That led to the Islanders’ third goal in a row.
With little time in the offensive zone, the Flyers had few chances to shoot and fell behind the Islanders, 23 shots to 12, by the end of the second. They were outshot 14-4 during those 20 minutes. The Flyers tied the first and third periods, but the second period did them in.
“We didn’t really have much in the second period, obviously, and I think that they smelled blood,” Yeo said.
With the exception of Monday’s game, the third and fourth lines have been a liability for the Flyers. In the last five games, all of the bottom six forwards have a plus/minus in the negative. They’ve also produced just 37% of the shots on goal.
Their plus-minus stats are not significantly lower than any of the top forwards’ numbers. The third line had two good performances in a row. However, even with improved play, the top two lines have taken on a much heavier load than normal.
Against the Islanders, five of the six forwards in the bottom six were call-ups from the AHL Phantoms. By the second period, first-line center Scott Laughton had spent twice as much time on the ice as the bottom line. At the end of the game, the fourth line played less than 10 minutes while four forwards played close to 20 minutes.
“They’re killing penalties, getting double duty,” Yeo said. “That’s not something that usually happens there. Hard matchups starting in the D-zone against all the tough lines. But those guys, I know they want the game on their stick. We have a chance to win the game, they want to be the ones that are on the ice.”
The defensemen have also taken on a heavier load. With the bottom six less equipped to face every-night NHL players, the five-man defense has weakened.
The Gerry Mayhew experience
When Mayhew joined the Flyers from the Phantoms on Dec. 27, he was another body to help fill in for the multiple injured players. He added a shot here and there and spent a few minutes in the box. He finished his first six games minus-3.
Then, on Jan. 20, he flipped the switch. Mayhew scored his first goal of the season, which was his first with the Flyers and his fourth goal of his career. It was one of two shots on goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it helped him finish in the positive for the first time this season.
“You know, it’s been rough around here,” Mayhew said. “To get that goal, I was pretty pumped, as you saw.”
Mayhew took a downturn against Buffalo along with his entire team, but he rebounded for the game against Dallas. He, Morgan Frost, and Max Willman were the third line that game, but in reality, they were the top line. They created the most offense, and Mayhew finished with five shots on goal in 15:28 on the ice.
The next day, Mayhew brought a similar energy. He flew after the puck. When he took his first shot on goal, he scored his second goal of the season. That goal tied the game at three.
“But it’s nothing if we don’t win,” Mayhew said.
The Islanders game wrapped up the Flyers’ road slate for the first half of the season. They host the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday for their next-to-last game before the All-Star break.