Perry Como might have enjoyed being home for the holidays, but the Flyers are finding no joy here as the Christmas season approaches.
They lost their third consecutive game at the Wachovia Center last night - their fourth straight overall - as the Phoenix Coyotes outhustled them in every way, 3-2.
"We talked about building an identity all year," coach John Stevens said. ". . . We can't lose that many board battles. We've got to find some excitement in the little things in the game that make a big difference. Trouble getting pucks out of our end, turning pucks over, losing puck races, giving up a shorthanded goal: It's a recipe for disaster."
There was a 15-minute team meeting after the game, followed by an announcement that winger Ben Eager had been dealt to Chicago for a former Flyers defenseman, Jim Vandermeer.
Peter Mueller broke a 2-2 tie at 6 minutes, 25 seconds of the third period as he swept in a rebound against goalie Martin Biron. The Coyotes' work ethic in overcoming an early 2-0 deficit was far greater than the Flyers' to the bitter end.
"Absolutely, and that is one of the things we addressed in there," defenseman Derian Hatcher said. "Sure, confidence comes with it. I'm not using that excuse at all. But that is not why we lost. We have to initiate [emotional play] as a team instead of waiting."
Of perhaps greater concern is that the Flyers have given up seven goals in the final minute of a period this season, not counting empty-netters.
Seven in 32 games. The cardinal rule in hockey is that you don't give up a goal in the final minute of a period. Phoenix scored twice in the last 2:53 of the second period to steal the game, including a tying goal with just 22 ticks left.
"Goals at the beginning of a period and end of a period are killers," Stevens said. "You've got to be focused on 60-minute hockey. . . . [If] you give up goals late because of a lack of focus on detail, it really gives the team on the road energy. All kinds of bad things can happen."
And they did.
Despite being outplayed early, the Flyers scored first, on just their fourth shot of the game against goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. On the power play, R.J. Umberger skated the puck into the zone up the right side, angled toward the net, and sent a backhand pass for Scott Hartnell in the crease for a 1-0 lead at 12:03.
Danny Briere could have made it 2-0 with a breakaway at 6:27, but he banked the puck off the right post and Bryzgalov's left skate, drawing a whistle for a stoppage.
Mike Richards continued his scoring assault with his 16th goal early in the second period to make it 2-0. He stole the puck from veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski, went right to the net, and backhanded the puck off Bryzgalov's right pad.
During the second period, Comcast SportsNet suffered technical problems, causing its viewers to miss most of the period. According to Shawn Tilger, the Flyers' senior vice president of business operations, several channels on the Comcast cable system were affected - not just the hockey game. Service was restored for the third period.
Here's what the TV viewers missed: Phoenix scored twice in the final three minutes.
"It's unacceptable and just can't happen," Biron said. "Up 2-0 in your building, it's late in the second period, it should be 2-0 until the end of the third."
Keith Yandle's first goal of the season was a gift. The Coyotes' Niko Kapanen forced a turnover in the Flyers' end and fired the puck at Biron's head. He ducked and the puck went over the net, off the back boards, and right onto Yandle's stick. He crashed the crease for a lucky open-net goal.
The Coyotes scored again, shorthanded, with 22 seconds left. Randy Jones let a puck get behind him. The Coyotes' Shane Doan came into the zone shadowed by Alexandre Picard, but he spun and fired the puck into the slot for Fredrik Sjostrom, who tied it at 2.
"Goals at the end of a period hurt a team," Hatcher said. "It's a big deal. The other team goes into the [locker] room, it creates momentum. . . . When you are losing, the lack of confidence is there, no matter what you say or think. It's no excuse.
"We've got to go out and initiate and not wait around. We talked about a lot of things in the room. Hopefully, we addressed it."
Watch a slide show of the Flyers-Coyotes game at http://go.philly.com/photos.EndText