PITTSBURGH — For the Flyers, the last two games were Groundhog Day, only not nearly as entertaining as the old Bill Murray movie.
That the Flyers lost both games wasn’t the alarming part. It was the way they were beaten by the Islanders and Penguins by a combined 12-4 score.
The 7-1 loss Tuesday in Pittsburgh was painful to watch. The Flyers had no answers for the Penguins’ speed, forecheck, and tenacity as they fell behind, 4-0, in the first period.
“We had a day off [Monday],” defenseman Matt Niskanen said after the blowout defeat. “Rivalry game. On paper, guys should have been fired up, but we weren’t able to muster enough energy and execute well enough and they took it to us.”
The Flyers came out slow in their last two games — allowing a total of seven first-period goals — and never recovered.
“In the games where we’ve played really well so far, we were really aggressive with the pressure and we caused a lot of turnovers. We tilted the ice,” said Niskanen, the only Flyers defenseman who is a “plus” player this season, at plus-2.
“We were better on our breakouts to set up the pressure. The last couple games, that’s been missing. We have to get back to that.”
Their next chance will be Friday in New Jersey, which took a 2-5-2 record into Wednesday’s game against Tampa Bay.
“At the end of the day, we need to push the reset button here and our leaders have to lead by their play on the ice,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Flyers need to reestablish their forecheck and their puck possession. They excelled in those areas in the first nine games.
Carter Hart figures to make just his second start in goal in the last six games. Hart relieved an under-siege Brian Elliott at the start of the third period in Pittsburgh and allowed one goal on nine shots.
“You go in and try to stop the puck and try to stop the bleeding,” said Hart, who had struggled in his previous three outings, including two in which he was yanked. “We came out with a mission in the third. I thought we came out hard. We generated some chances. They’re a good team, but we’re a lot better than that. I know that we’ll bounce back.”
Hart was asked if there were any positives he could take into the next game.
“Yeah, honestly, I felt good on the shots that I got,” he said. “I just tried to take things puck by puck. Just kind of go in there and play my game and not worry about too many other things. Worry about one thing, and that’s just stopping the puck.”
Hart said his teammates have had his back during his slump.
“The guys have been really good. Very supportive. Moose has been really supportive to me,” he said, referring to Elliott. “He’s an awesome goalie partner, a great guy. I felt bad for him [Tuesday]. He made a couple of huge saves at the start and gave it everything he had, and got left out to dry on a couple.”
Hart said the Flyers have “a good group of guys here and a good veteran leadership group. Like I said, this is stinging right now, but we’ll come back better.”
Assuming Hart gets the call Friday in Newark, he would face a Devils team he blanked, 4-0, in the Flyers’ home opener Oct. 9 for the first shutout of his career.
Justin Braun is a team-worst minus-8, while Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom are minus-6. Claude Giroux (plus-5), James van Riemsdyk (plus-2), and Niskanen (plus-2) are the Flyers’ only “plus” players. … Lindblom and Travis Konecny are tied for the team lead with six goals.