Even though we haven’t hit the halfway point of this kooky season, they were calling this a playoff series in the Flyers’ locker room. Three games in five nights, all in Pittsburgh, was going to be a nice measuring stick.
Verdict: There’s still work to do.
The Flyers lost two of these games in regulation after Saturday’s 4-3 decision. Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, and Shayne Gostisbehere scored for the Flyers, who do not have a whole lot of time for analysis. The Capitals await for a visit Sunday night (7 p.m., NBCSP).
“There’s things that we can clean up,” said Travis Konecny, the Flyers’ best player on Saturday. “I did think in a lot of areas we played the right way. They’re a good team and they capitalized on some stuff.”
That’s precisely what happened on Jared McCann’s game-winning goal. The Flyers made a mistake, and Pittsburgh pounced.
“It was a bad [line] change on our part,” coach Alain Vigneault sighed. “Our forwards thought it was a two-on-two. They changed quicker than we did. We should have had at least one forward come back to help out our D on that even-man rush. All three forwards came to the bench and it ended up in the back of our net.”
Nolan Patrick, Jake Voracek, and Oskar Lindblom were on the ice, and had a good shift, just prior to the goal. Lindblom, Sean Couturier, and Joel Farabee trailed the play as McCann put home a rebound off a Brandon Tanev shot.
It was a disappointing result after Thursday night’s three-goal comeback gave the Flyers their only win in the series.
“Obviously, you want to come in here and sweep all three games, but it’s a tough league,” Farabee said. “I thought we gave a pretty good effort and that third period could have gone either way.”
Pittsburgh forced the Flyers into five icing calls in the first five minutes of the third period, though the Flyers held the advantage in shots on goal (9-8) and scoring chances (7-5).
Vigneault went with goaltender Brian Elliott for the second time in three games. One, he deserved the start. Two, it allows the coach to play Carter Hart on Sunday. Hart plays better at home, and there will be fans in the house for the first time all season.
Elliott was adequate, giving up a soft goal to Zach Aston-Reese from a bad angle at the end of the second period. He also was fortunate the Penguins missed a couple of empty nets.
But he atoned with a sterling save on Jake Guentzel midway through the third just before McCann’s goal.
It’s a shame these two teams won’t meet again until April 15, because the animosity seemed to rise throughout the three-game set.
Farabee, back in the lineup after a one-game stay on the COVID-19 protocol list, was taken awkwardly to the boards by Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson.
The Flyers’ penalty kill, which has been better lately (10 of 11 in the last four games), let them down twice in the first period. Malkin crossed up Elliott with an Allen Iverson-like move for a wide-open wraparound goal.
The PK leaked again as the Penguins went cross-ice twice before Bryan Rust buried his second goal in three games. Can’t let teams pass through your penalty kill.
The Flyers play the Capitals three times in the next seven days, which could be trouble. Washington’s power-play is fifth-best in the NHL.
“Obviously, you want to win them all, but you can’t win them all,” said Konecny, before dipping into his Psychology 101 textbook. “The only way to get better is to lose a few games, make a couple of mistakes, look at them, and regroup.”
Michael Raffl did not play the final 15+ minutes after taking a shot by Brian Dumolin off the right hand.
Phil Myers, injured on Thursday, did not play. He was replaced by Nate Prosser, and not free-agent defenseman Erik Gustufsson, who sat for the fourth consecutive game.
Voracek registered his 500th career assist on Gostisbehere’s goal, a blast from the point. Of Voracek’s 500 apples, 405 have come as a Flyer. He was acquired in the 2011 deal that sent Jeff Carter to Columbus. The Flyers also got the Blue Jackets’ first-round pick that year, which they used to select Sean Couturier.