SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. ... especially a first period in which you allow four goals.
That’s the Flyers’ mantra as they prepare to face Arizona on Saturday, two nights after they were beaten in Vegas, 5-4. They surrendered four first-period goals for the second straight game.
The Flyers need to shake off their first-period defensive meltdowns, get their penalty kill working again, and regain the momentum they had when they started this six-game road trip.
The Flyers had a four-game winning streak when the trip began; they are 1-3 on the journey, which resumes in Arizona and finishes Tuesday in Carolina, and are just two points ahead of Florida for the last wild-card spot .
“Missed opportunities, but I think guys recognize that,” Niskanen said. “I think we’ll have a real desperate effort (Saturday) to kind of right the ship. It’s an important couple games for us before we head home. It’s about response, and we’re going to have it.”
In their last two games, the Flyers’ penalty kill has allowed four power-play goals on all four of their opponents’ chances.
“I think we just have to go back to the basics, being in the attacking lanes, being in the passing lanes, jumping on loose pucks, getting the clears,” said center Sean Couturier, who had two goals and an assist in the loss to Vegas, one in which the Flyers squandered a late six-on-three power play. “Once we get back to doing that, we’ll be successful again.”
Over the last handful of games, the Flyers have fallen from No. 3 to No. 14 in the NHL on the penalty kill.
“It’s (been) a tough stretch, but it happens during the year,” Couturier said. “We can be a confident group; we know we can be good.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said the Flyers have not done a good job with their “trigger points” while on the PK in recent games. “One of the things that has made us really efficient is that when one guy goes (after an offensive player), all four guys go,” he said. “We sort of end up with four one-on-one situations, and then one of our guys wins and the puck is down the other end. Lately, we haven’t been able to find those trigger points.”
Vigneault also said the Flyers (22-14-5) need more production from the bottom-six forwards. The Golden Knights got goals from two bottom-six players in their win on Thursday.
“They found a way to contribute and make a difference in the game,” Vigneault said. “We need that from our group, also.”
For that reason, fourth-line right winger Nic Aube-Kubel is expected to go back in the lineup Saturday in Arizona (23-16-4). Bruising Chris Stewart, who played sparingly Thursday and had six hits against the physical Knights, figures to be a healthy scratch.
Vigneault said he was leaning that way but wanted to “sleep on it.”