TORONTO — James van Riemsdyk returned Saturday night to Toronto, the city where he turned into a star and earned a big free-agent contract with the Flyers in the summer.
"It feels a little odd," he said before facing his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, at Scotiabank Arena. "Almost like a stranger in your own house."
The Maple Leafs were not gracious hosts.
Oh, they did put together a classy highlight video of van Riemsdyk that they showed early in the game, causing the left winger to get teary-eyed as he waved to the crowd while they gave him a standing ovation.
But the Leafs also did this: They scored four first-period goals — three by Andreas Johnsson — in a 7-minute, 35-second span that chased goalie Cal Pickard en route to a 6-0 victory.
The Flyers (10-11-2), who were coming off an impressive 4-0 win over the visiting Rangers on Friday, suffered their fifth loss in the last six games.
"I don't have much to say. We're ticked off," said captain Claude Giroux, who was minus-3 in the game, as were linemates Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny. "After a great game at home, we come on the road and play like this. It's frustrating. Twenty-two points on the season, we're not where we want to be. Do I think we're going to make the playoffs? Yeah, I think we're going to make the playoffs. But we need to start playing better as a team, and it has to start soon."
For the second time in three games, the Flyers fell into a 4-0 first-period hole. It happened with Alex Lyon in the net Wednesday in a 5-2 loss in Buffalo and he was replaced after the opening period.
In between those dreadful performances, Pickard made 31 saves Friday and blanked the Rangers, 4-0.
Because of numerous defensive breakdowns, the Flyers spent Saturday's first period allowing a slew of two-on-ones and breakaways — against a team that had lost two straight and was missing two of its best offensive players: top-line forwards Auston Matthews (injured) and William Nylander (unsigned restricted free agent).
The Flyers' up-and-down play this season is nothing new. They have been Team Inconsistent in Dave Hakstol's four coaching seasons.
If the trend continues, general manager Ron Hextall figures to make a major move — whether it's shaking up the roster with a trade (Wayne Simmonds?) or changing coaches. Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup winner as Chicago's coach, is available — at least for now.
Nylander, 22, a center who collected 61 points last season, would obviously be a huge upgrade for the Flyers. He will not be eligible to play this season if he does not sign by 5 p.m. Saturday.
Pickard allowed four goals on six shots and looked over-hyped while playing against his former team and his former goalie partner with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, Garret Sparks, who was the Leafs' starter Saturday.
"It was an awful start to a hockey game," Hakstol said. "We got beat to pretty much every play in the first 20 minutes."
Pickard over-committed on Toronto's third goal, coming far out of his net on a two-on-one. Patrick Marleau picked up a loose puck on a rebound and scored into an empty net. That made it 3-0 with 12:16 left in the first.
"I didn't give our team the goaltending we needed," Pickard said.
Less than five minutes later, Johnsson, who entered the night with two goals this season, went in alone and scored on a backhander to complete his hat trick and make it 4-0.
"We have to own it as a group. It's not a one-man game," Hakstol said. "The opportunities we gave up tonight came on turnovers. There were about seven or eight of them and they ended up in Grade-A opportunities early in this hockey game."
Anthony Stolarz, the fifth different Flyers goalie this season, replaced Pickard and played brilliantly in the final 7:40 of the first, stopping Marleau on a breakaway and a two-on-one, and John Tavares on a breakaway.
Stolarz (32 saves on 34 shots) stopped the first 15 shots he faced before Josh Leivo finished a three-on-one, putting Toronto (16-8) ahead, 5-0, with 8:53 left in the second period. Tavares later made it 6-0 during a second period in which the Flyers allowed 19 shots.
The six-goal loss matched the Flyers' most lopsided defeat of the season. In their home opener Oct. 9, they were blasted by San Jose, 8-2.