After an emotional comeback that produced five straight late goals and a stirring win Saturday over Columbus, the Flyers were outskated, outhit, and outscored as they dropped a 5-3 decision Sunday to the Islanders.
The emotion should return Tuesday in Pittsburgh. The archrival Penguins, you see, have a way of raising the Flyers’ level of urgency.
“They’re playing some good hockey right now,” captain Claude Giroux said about the 7-5 Penguins. “I think for us, it’s about focusing on ourselves. We know we can play better and we will.”
The Flyers (5-4-1), whose three-game winning streak was snapped by the Isles, need to play with much more physicality than they did Sunday, when they were outhit, 34-14, and failed to capitalize on the momentum built by their 7-4 home win over Columbus the previous night.
“We had an emotional game,” Giroux said of the comeback against the Blue Jackets, “and we needed to put that behind us and move forward, and I don’t think we did that.”
The Flyers will face a Pittsburgh team that has been missing three top-nine forwards this month because of injuries, including Evgeni Malkin (leg).
In Sunday’s loss, the Flyers had too many turnovers, struggled on defense, had no answers for the Islanders’ active forecheck, and received subpar goaltending from Carter Hart.
“All of them were stoppable,” Hart said of the five goals he allowed on 14 shots before being replaced in the second period by Brian Ellliott, who stopped all 19 shots he faced.
The Flyers did not practice Monday, so it won’t be known until Tuesday’s morning skate whether coach Alain Vigneault will give Hart (3.32 GAA, .862 save percentage) a chance to redeem himself against the Penguins or go back to Elliott (2.28, .926), who was named the league’s No. 3 star of the week Monday.
The last time Hart faced the Penguins, he was brilliant, stopping 41 of 42 shots as the Flyers won in Pittsburgh, 2-1, in overtime last March 17 to keep their wild-card hopes alive. James van Riemsdyk tied that game with 18.8 seconds left in regulation, and Sean Couturier won it with 3.4 seconds to go in overtime.
Hart had a 1.62 GAA in his first three starts this season and a 5.85 in his last three, including two games in which he was yanked.
After his latest performance, Hart said perhaps he was “overthinking” some things.
His teammates shared some of the blame.
“It’s all of us; we have to help each other, support each other,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “There were definitely some rebound goals where we could have helped him. … We didn’t break out [of their zone] as quick, and lots of times they got out of their zone quick and got odd-man rushes.”
The new defensive pairing of Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin struggled. Morin made his season debut and looked rusty from the long layoff. Robert Hagg might return to the lineup against the Penguins.
The Flyers have dominated the Penguins since they helped open the Pens’ new building (now known as PPG Paints Arena) on Oct. 7, 2010, compiling a 14-3-3 regular-season record in Pittsburgh.
On the flip side, Sidney Crosby, who leads the Penguins with 14 points, has been a certified Flyers killer. In 67 games against the Flyers, he has 41 goals and 99 points. That’s the most goals he has scored against any NHL team, and the second-most points; he has 113 against the Isles.