Brian Elliott can relate to Antero Niittymaki’s performance for the Flyers 13 years ago.
On Saturday night, Elliott was excellent in the shootout, but was the losing goalie as the Flyers fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3, in 11 rounds.
The Leafs failed to score in nine of 11 shootout shots, giving Elliott an .818 save percentage in the session, well above the league average in last season’s shootouts (.705), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“You just have to trust your instincts sometimes,” Elliott said about the marathon shootout. “That’s kind of what we talked about as a group of goalies and goalie coach.”
Niittymaki suffered a similar fate in his long shootout, stopping 12 of 13 shots on Oct. 7, 2006, but losing to the New York Rangers and goalie Henrik Lundqvist, 5-4.
In both instances, the goalies got little help from the shootout shooters.
On Saturday, in the second-longest shootout in franchise history, the Flyers were 1 for 11 (9.1 percent) — Travis Konecny had their lone goal — against Frederik Andersen in the breakaway session. NHL shooters had a 29.5 percent average in shootouts last season.
In the 2006 game, which is still the longest shootout in team history, they were 0 for 13 against Lundqvist.
In between those two games, the Flyers have struggled mightily in the shootout, usually in both phases of the session. They have an NHL-worst 46-85 career record since shootouts started in 2005-06.
This season, they are 1-2 in shootouts, and they are hopeful the addition of skills coach Angelo Ricci will eventually help the shooters produce more victories. The success or failure in shootouts can play a big role in whether a team makes the playoffs or where it finishes in the standings.
The Flyers would have undoubtedly used Chris Stewart during Saturday’s shootout if he wasn’t a healthy scratch. In his career, Stewart has an outstanding shooting percentage of 44.4 percent (12 for 27) in shootouts, which is 17th in NHL history among players with at least 25 shots. He is also 3-for-3 in career penalty shots.
Defenseman Ivan Provorov, who had been on the so-called second power-play unit, replaced Shayne Gostisbehere on the top unit Saturday and responded with a goal and a primary assist when the Flyers had an extra attacker.
“He skates real well and I like how he moves laterally on the power play,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “It opened up a couple lanes.”
The Flyers (6-5-2) will host a Carolina team Tuesday that is 9-4-1, but coming off a 5-3 home loss to scuffling New Jersey on Saturday.
“We never got enough going to create enough mojo,” former Flyer Rod Brind’Amour, now in his second year as the Hurricanes’ head coach, told reporters. “We were emotionally dead. We were a little tired. We weren’t smart with the puck, so that’s what you get.”
The Hurricanes usually play like their coach did in his NHL career — that is, with relentlessness at both ends of the ice.