Freshly bonded Flyers lose together
SUNRISE, Fla. - The old proverb says that it isn't how you start, it's how you finish. For the Flyers, despite a 5-day layoff between games, the start was just fine last night. It included a one-goal lead before 7 minutes had expired on the clock at the Bank Atlantic Center, where it was a balmy 88 degrees when the puck was dropped.
SUNRISE, Fla. - The old proverb says that it isn't how you start, it's how you finish.
For the Flyers, despite a 5-day layoff between games, the start was just fine last night. It included a one-goal lead before 7 minutes had expired on the clock at the Bank Atlantic Center, where it was a balmy 88 degrees when the puck was dropped.
But the heat and humidity, which seeped into the building and made pushing through the slushed ice extra taxing, wore down the Flyers. The Panthers - searching for their first win since their season opener in Finland 2 weeks ago - were simply hungrier.
Florida broke a tie 7 minutes into the third period with a top-shelf, shorthanded, breakaway goal by Radek Dvorak and went on to top the Flyers, 4-2, sending them home empty-handed after a weeklong bonding trip.
"They were desperate," Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said. "They've been looking at this game for the last 2 or 3 days as a statement game to get their team going.
"I thought we played a good first period, but then they started coming in waves. We didn't answer the bell."
It was the second consecutive disappointing final frame for the Flyers, who blew a 2-0 third-period lead against Anaheim a week ago at the Wachovia Center.
If the sloppy ice weren't enough, the Flyers were stuck skating with five defensemen for the final two periods after Ryan Parent left with an apparent groin injury just 14 minutes into the contest. Consider that normal sixth defenseman Danny Syvret played just 8 minutes and 11 seconds, and the Flyers were really playing with four.
"It was tough," coach John Stevens said. "You're playing big minutes with guys already, so that may have been a factor on special teams as well."
But that isn't to say the Flyers didn't have enough chances to win. They coughed up leads of 1-0 and 2-1.
"As soon as we got a goal, it seemed like they would get one right after," Scott Hartnell said. "That shorthanded goal [in the third] really killed us."
Arron Asham, who was the Flyers' best player last night, chipped a backhander behind Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen just 6:35 into the game.
In the second period, Claude Giroux blasted a cross-ice one-timer from Simon Gagne midway through the second period to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. That was Giroux' first goal of the season.
For whatever reason, the NHL's war room in Toronto needed to replay the goal to make sure it was legit - even though the overhead angle clearly showed the goal crossing the line on Giroux' original shot.
After the go-ahead goal, it looked like the Flyers were pulling away from the Panthers.
They had multiple scoring chances but could not capitalize. Hartnell and linemates Jeff Carter and Danny Briere were buzzing around the net all night. Hartnell's line combined for eight of the Flyers' 27 shots on goal.
"We were creating a lot of offensive opportunities but we're not executing right now," Stevens said.
"We did a lot of good things," Hartnell said. "We had a lot of chances. Maybe it's because of the layoff, you're half-a-second off or your shots aren't as sharp as they usually are. But you can't blame this [loss] on that. We need to be better than that."
Instead, Nathan Horton netted the equalizer for Florida with 54 seconds remaining in the second period when he redirected Jordan Leopold's slapper from the point behind Ray Emery.
Then, 7:02 into the third, Dvorak put the Panthers ahead for the first time - and for good. Pronger batted at a long pass out of the Panthers' zone and it sent Dvorak racing in on Ray Emery.
Steven Reinprecht's empty-netter with 80 seconds left just iced the Flyers' out-of-gas third period.
"We've got to score on those [opportunities]," Asham said. "It cost us the two points. We're on the road and every goal is hard to come by. We just got a bad bounce and it cost us."
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren confirmed that defenseman Ryan Parent's "lower-body" ailment was a non-contact injury and said he expects Parent to be out for 10 days . . . The Flyers changed the time of their game on Monday, Nov. 2, from the usual 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. to avoid any potential conflict with a Phillies home game in the World Series . . . The Flyers outblocked the Panthers in shots, 18-8 . . .
Dan Carcillo and Ian Laperriere dropped the gloves within 41 seconds of each other in the second period . . . Riley Cote, who was a healthy scratch, filled in for Chris Therien - who missed the game for personal reasons - as the color commentator on WIP (610-AM) during the second and third periods . . . The attendance at the Bank Atlantic Center was a generously announced 15,557 - and that was with a lot of help from visiting Flyers fans.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.