Flyers lose 10th straight shootout
STEVE MASON tomahawked his stick over the bench on his way off the ice, splintering it into pieces in pure frustration.
Florida's Dave Bolland slipped a puck through his five-hole seconds earlier to hand the Flyers their 10th consecutive shootout loss.
Even stopping five out of seven Panthers shooters in the breakaway competition wasn't good enough, given his teammates' brain scramble at the other end of the ice.
The lost extracurricular point was the most tangible example of one of many games-within-the-game last night, with Mason's anger seeping through in his words for more than 5 minutes. Matt Read and Brayden Schenn both had the puck on their stick in front of Roberto Luongo with the chance to give the Flyers their first shootout win of the season.
To the surprise of no one who has watched the Flyers since 2005, they failed - even against a team that needed an NHL record 20 rounds to win on Tuesday night.
"We've got to find a way to win them," Mason said. "We're not scoring enough, we're not stopping enough. Tonight, we had two opportunities to win and we couldn't. We've got to find a way to bear down on these things. That's five shootouts we've lost this year and five points we've left out there. Five points would've put us to the playoffs. There's your difference."
The Flyers' 2-1 decision to the Panthers last night, though, wasn't lost in the shootout - or even overtime for that matter.
It was lost in a horrifying, lifeless first period that, if played against a team that has averaged more than 2.2 goals per game this season, would've seen the Flyers trailing by three or four goals.
"There were some good things and bad things," Mason said. "I think overall, we've got to up the intensity. We've got to create more."
Yes, it was a positive the Flyers were able to crawl back in and claw for a point. That is not entirely meaningless. About to embark on a season-long eight-game road trip that begins with four playoff opponents in Toronto, Winnipeg, Minnesota and Nashville, the point lost in a mostly flat effort felt like the beginning of the season leaking away.
The Flyers rose to 13th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference by virtue of getting beyond regulation. But they are now eight points back of both third place in the Metropolitan Division and the East's second wild-card spot with eight teams to jump over.
They have points in six out of their last seven games. They went 2-1-1 on their four-game homestand, which wrapped up the 2014 slate at Wells Fargo Center.
Yet nothing about the style of those points inspires much confidence.
"It looked like we were, I hate the word nervous, but it looked like we were waiting around to see what happens," Craig Berube said. "It was tight. There wasn't a lot of room out there. We had some great chances in overtime and we couldn't capitalize on them. And then the shootout . . . who knows what's going to happen there?"
Everyone knew what was going to happen there, even the 19,582 on their feet. No NHL team has a worse record in shootouts since 2005.
Shootout chatter only masks the real, underlying issue currently surrounding the Flyers. Mason said the Flyers lacked intensity. Defenseman Mark Streit called the Flyers "passive" and "hesitant."
Why would a team with so much to play for, especially before an eight-game road odyssey, be uninspired?
"I have no idea," Mason said. "Honestly, I don't know. Guys have to step up. We can't just look for a couple guys to provide the spark, it's got to be everyone."
Streit admitted the first two periods were "pretty poor." The Panthers, long the East's doormat, are now 12-2-8 in one-goal games this season - a big reason why they are now enjoying a wild-card position. The Flyers, with arguably more talent and definitely more experience on the roster, are a struggling 4-6-6.
"We wanted to have a good start, come out hard, bring a lot of energy and that didn't really happen from the beginning," Streit said. "You know, that's now how you're going to win games like that. We had a good stretch here, but the last two games are not what we wanted it to be. We are still searching for our game."
And so, the Flyers will skate out onto the road - on a trip that includes at least four very winnable games - with the opportunity to make or break their season. They will do so with a sour taste and a goaltender who needs a new stick.
"We needed that extra point tonight," Mason said. "You get two points and then it becomes a pretty good homestand. We've just got to find a way to win them."
With his second period goal, Jake Voracek tied Dallas' Tyler Sequin for the league-lead in points with 38. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin is also now tied . . . The Flyers had their NHL-best streak of eight straight games with a power-play goal come to an end. They were 0-for-1 on their only opportunity, which lasted just 62 seconds . . . Twenty-two of the Panthers' 30 games this season have been decided by one goal.