GLENDALE, Ariz. – For the Flyers, the Road Trip to Nowhere continued Saturday night in Arizona.
Oh, they’ve traveled lots of miles, but they are going nowhere in the standings -- except maybe backward.
For the third straight game, all on the road, they had a first-period meltdown.
This time, they allowed three first-period goals in a span of 3 minutes, 42 seconds en route to a 6-2 loss to the Coyotes at Gila River Arena.
Clayton Keller finished with two goals for Arizona as the Flyers fell to 1-4 on their season-high, six-game road trip, which mercifully ends Tuesday in Carolina.
They have been outscored 13-3 in the first period of those five games, including 11-2 in the last three games, all losses. In their four defeats on the trip, they have allowed 22 goals.
Carter Hart, who suffered his seventh straight road loss, allowed three goals in 16:15 and was removed from the game.
“A couple of [expletive] bounces, a couple things that just didn’t go our way,” Hart said. “It kind of seems like it’s been the same story the last couple games. On the road, we just have to overcome that first period. We need to stick to our game; just come out hard and set the tone."
The Flyers had a four-game winning streak when the trip started. They have had a lead for a total of just 68 seconds during the first five games of the trip.
In other words, they have been chasing games.
“A lot of those games, we’ve put ourselves in a hole early,” coach Alain Vigneault said before the latest loss. “We need to make some saves. We need to make some better defensive plays.”
The Flyers were playing a solid, defensive-oriented first period for the first 12-plus minutes Saturday until Hart surrendered a bad goal, opening the floodgates for three Coyotes tallies in that 3:42 span.
Brad Richardson scored from beyond the left circle when his shot bounced past Hart with 7:27 left in the first.
“We can’t let one goal [bother us]. It happens,” winger Tyler Pitlick said. “We’ve got to keep fighting. I thought we worked hard. The fight is there. We just have to play smarter.”
Just 57 seconds after Richardson’s goal, defenseman Jordan Oesterle’s point drive deflected off Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen’s leg and into the net to make it 2-0. It was his first goal in 59 games.
Keller made it 3-0 with a one-timer from the high slot while the Coyotes were on the power play with 3:45 to go in the first. At that point, the Flyers had killed just one of six power plays in the last three games.
“You’re not going to win many games when you give up three goals in the first period,” center Sean Couturier said. “It’s catch-up hockey. ... It’s tough playing catch-up hockey in this league.”
Brian Elliott replaced Hart after Keller’s goal.
In an evenly played second period, Arizona made it 4-0 when Lawson Crouse scored on a backhander -- he beat Elliott to the glove side -- with 0.3 seconds left in the session.
Antti Raanta, the Coyotes’ starting goalie, left with a lower-body injury after the second period and was replaced by a shaky Adin Hill.
Pitlick, arguably the best Flyers player Saturday, broke the shutout with 17 minutes left in the third. Just 1:27 later, Keller scored on a one-timer from the left circle to make it 5-1.
Justin Braun cut it to 5-2 with 11:14 to go, but it had little significance. The Flyers, so dominating at home (13-2-4), would fall to 9-13-1 on the road.
“We’re very inconsistent in our execution,” Vigneault said. “I’m not doubting this group’s will or preparation, but our execution is not where it needs to be.”