DETROIT — Plagued by injuries yet again, the Flyers needed to dig deep to find production from every corner of their lineup on Saturday in their rematch against Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
With third-line center Derick Brassard and second-pairing defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen ruled out for the game, the Flyers called on forward Jackson Cates and defenseman Kevin Connauton to start against the Red Wings. While outshooting the Red Wings, 34-23, with a lineup full of backups and AHL call-ups, the Flyers lost, 4-2, and dropped their second straight game out of the All-Star break.
“The response was what we were looking for as far as continuing to fight, continuing to work, continuing to do the right things,” interim head coach Mike Yeo said. “We put ourselves in a position where we could have come back and won this game.”
Despite being down 2-0 by the halfway mark of the game, the Flyers didn’t give up. Although they couldn’t score on their first power-play attempt in the first period, the Flyers got into a rhythm of sustaining pressure against the Red Wings’ penalty killers.
They carried that momentum into their second opportunity of the afternoon, when defenseman Keith Yandle scored his first goal as a Flyer. His slap-shot from the high slot soared past goalie Thomas Greiss, who was screened by 6-foot-6 winger Isaac Ratcliffe in front of the net.
A late power-play goal from rookie defenseman Moritz Seider extended the Red Wings’ lead, 3-1. Although center Scott Laughton scored on a rebound off an initial shot from Travis Konecny to pull the Flyers within one roughly halfway through the third period, the team couldn’t find an equalizer before Michael Rasmussen iced things with an empty-netter.
“[Konecny] was moving his feet, keeping it simple, and prime example of the goal — it’s right on the goal line, it’s a tap-in,” Laughton said. “But he shoots the puck, and I get a rebound. So we continue to build off the little things that are making us successful. And obviously, not the result we want tonight. But you keep building off that, we’ll win more hockey games.”
Flyers generate opportunities, but struggle to finish
Through the first two periods of the game, the Flyers outshot the Red Wings, 28-19. However, thanks to the efforts of Greiss, the Flyers struggled to finish their chances. Roughly halfway through the second period while the Flyers trailed by one, defenseman Travis Sanheim attempted to set up forward Connor Bunnaman during a long shift in the Red Wings’ zone. Bunnaman’s shot went wide, and while Sanheim tried to score on the rebound, his shot was blocked by Dylan Larkin.
Sanheim was caught deep in the Flyers zone as the Red Wings initiated a breakout. Larkin carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, passing the puck to Filip Zadina on the right wing. Zadina put the puck on his forehand from his backhand in the slot and scored bar-down on Carter Hart to put the Red Wings up, 2-0. Later in the second period, Greiss denied Laughton on a breakaway with the toe of his left pad. In total, Greiss finished with 32 saves on 34 shots.
Lindblom does the little things
Since moving to top-line left wing alongside captain Claude Giroux and right winger Cam Atkinson, Oskar Lindblom has seen a spike in production. In his last four games, Lindblom registered a goal and two assists. At the root of his success is his ability to do the little things well. Early in the first period, Lindblom won a board battle in the Flyers’ zone, ringing the puck around the boards for Giroux, who put the puck on net.
Five minutes later, defenseman Danny DeKeyser attempted to initiate a breakout from the Flyers’ zone. Lindblom’s poke check kept DeKeyser from advancing the puck and bought the Flyers more time in the offensive zone. With less than seven minutes remaining in the first period, Giroux nearly set up Lindblom at the front of the net for a goal, but Lindblom wasn’t able to get the puck past Greiss. While Lindblom’s play didn’t get him on the score sheet, his efforts were indicative of how the Flyers ought to play.
“Oskar is a guy who doesn’t cheat the game at all,” Yeo said. “The way he plays without the puck. The way he plays with the puck. He’s a guy that people want to play with because they can trust him.”
Hart’s response after five-goal game
In Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Red Wings, goalie Carter Hart allowed five goals, including a couple he self-admittedly wanted back. Yeo decided to give Hart the start again on Saturday over backup Martin Jones, who hasn’t started a game since Jan. 25 against the New York Islanders. In the first period of the Flyers’ rematch against the Red Wings, Hart put his shaky performance on Wednesday behind him.
Hart only faced nine shots in the first period and allowed one goal, a tap-in from winger Tyler Bertuzzi on a centering feed from center Robby Fabbri. However, Hart kept the Flyers in the game early on by making several key saves. One of his most critical saves came within the final two minutes of the first period with center Vladislav Namestnikov on a breakaway. Hart denied Namestnikov, who tried to go five-hole, to keep the score 1-0, Red Wings.
A defensive breakdown led to the Red Wings’ second goal and a worn-out Flyers penalty kill unit that had been on the ice for 1 minute, 40 seconds contributed to the third. Hart finished the game with 20 saves on 23 shots.
“It was better,” Hart said of the team’s defensive play. “We gave up less shots. But they still find a way to get good, quality chances. So we’ve got to try and limit that. It was a tough, tough PK at the end there for them to score.”
The Flyers head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins on Tuesday at 7 p.m.