Just when it seemed like they would close out the Montreal Canadiens in the third period, up 3-2 with less than a minute left in regulation, the Flyers found a way to fall short.
Canadiens center Rem Pitlick scored a shorthanded goal with just 47 seconds remaining in the third period, sending the two teams to three-on-three overtime, where Cole Caufield won the game with a slapshot past goalie Carter Hart. Both scoring chances were results of Flyers turnovers.
“There’s a way to play with the puck where you’re not turning it over and giving free ice and giving freebies to a team that obviously has skill,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “We still refuse to do that.”
The last time the two squads met in Montreal, on Dec. 16, the Flyers fell in a shootout, 3-2.
In their loss to the Canadiens, the Flyers saw scoring contributions from the top three lines — third-line center Kevin Hayes, second-line center Giroux, and first-line winger Cam Atkinson each chipped in with goals. It wasn’t enough though, as the Flyers yet again found a way to lose.
Offensive highs, defensive lows for Sanheim
Going into Sunday night’s game, Travis Sanheim led Flyers defensemen in assists with 16 and was tied for the lead in points (20). Sanheim flashed his offensive skills in the first period, assisting on Hayes’ goal to put the Flyers up, 1-0. Winger James van Riemsdyk entered the offensive zone with the puck, then patiently held it, putting a perfect pass on Sanheim’s tape as the defenseman drove to the net. Sanheim found Hayes for the tap-in at the far post.
But defensively, Sanheim struggled when the Flyers found themselves on their heels on the power play with less than a minute remaining in the third period. After defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen made a diving block on defenseman Jeff Petry’s pass low in his own zone, Sanheim turned the puck over to defenseman Ben Chiarot in the corner. Chiarot set Pitlick up in the slot for the game-tying shorthanded goal.
“It’s a tough one,” Sanheim said. “We got a power play at the end of the game. Got to find a way to win.”
Getting in the zone
For the majority of their previous two games, losses to the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes, the Flyers found themselves defending too frequently. However, in the first period against the Canadiens, the Flyers took advantage of their opponent’s turnovers in the neutral zone and took up residency in the offensive zone.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Flyers managed four high-danger scoring chances to the Canadiens’ one, but only Hayes was able to capitalize on his opportunity. The Flyers passed when they should’ve shot the puck on goal or their shots missed wide-open nets entirely. Late in the first period, winger Gerry Mayhew’s one-timer in the low slot missed wide of the net. Two minutes later, Ristolainen’s cross-seam pass to Morgan Frost on goalie Sam Montembeault’s doorstep slid beyond his reach. Those missed opportunities were felt in the second period when the Flyers put themselves on the penalty kill three times and gave up two Canadiens goals.
“Before that moment [Pitlick’s tying goal] in the game, I’m sure you guys probably agree, it’s not like we all felt real good about our game,” Yeo said. “Even when we have the lead. So, again, we’re going to have to keep finding ways to get players to understand that you can play the way you want to play or you can play to win hockey.”
Frost felt good, until final play
With center Scott Laughton out indefinitely after sustaining a concussion against the Panthers on Thursday, the Flyers called up Frost from the Phantoms to replace him. After centering the third line alongside Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom on Thursday, Frost and Konecny moved up to the second line with Giroux at center.
Frost stood out with his playmaking abilities, especially on Giroux’s second goal — the captain’s 900th career point — in the second period. After Konecny won a puck battle along the boards in the offensive zone, he passed to Frost, who threw the puck at Montembeault’s pads. Giroux was perfectly positioned to put home a rebound for a 2-1 Flyers lead.
However, Frost played a role in handing the Canadiens possession of the puck to score the overtime game-winner. In an attempt to break out of the Flyers’ zone, Frost tried to get a pass off to Joel Farabee, but the puck hit Farabee in the skates. Pitlick took the puck away and found Caufield, whose goal put the Canadiens on top, 4-3.
“It’s not a game we should have lost,” Frost said. “It [stinks].”
The Flyers wrap up their two-game homestand against the Nashville Predators on Thursday at 7 p.m.