The first goal came quietly. The lamp didn’t light. The fans at the Honda Center in Anaheim didn’t cheer. Even Troy Terry, who tipped the shot, didn’t react. But a review revealed that the puck hit the bar inside the net, not the crossbar as it appeared at first glance. And suddenly, with delayed fanfare, the Anaheim Ducks took the lead just 3:21 into the first period, and Terry had the first goal of his hat trick in a 4-1 win over the Flyers.
“It was kind of a weird one,” Terry said in a TV interview after the game.
With the Flyers a step behind on most plays, the Ducks quickly scored another when Terry beat Travis Sanheim for a breakaway goal just over six minutes later. But, with just over a minute left, the Flyers sparked some offensive momentum. Joel Farabee connected with Cam Atkinson, who redirected the former’s shot-pass into the goal, cutting the Ducks’ lead to one.
Atkinson’s goal ended up being the only Flyers goal of the night. The Ducks restored their lead to two via Sonny Milano with 2:11 left in the second. Then, helped by Flyers penalties, Terry scored his third, an empty-netter, to complete his first career NHL hat trick and seal the Ducks’ win.
Anaheim-native Cam York’s made his season debut for the Flyers. The Ducks saluted York, who turns 21 on Wednesday, while the defenseman finished with three shots, three hits and a blocked shot.
With the loss, the Flyers ended their annual holiday road trip with a losing record (1-2-1) for the sixth season in a row.
“Unfortunately, we’re in a position where we’re chasing everybody, and it’s really difficult to sit here and say, ‘Oh, we did this well,’ or ‘We did that well,’ ” coach Mike Yeo said.” Bottom line is we need to grind some points out. We got to stay with the pack here.”
However, Yeo thought the team showed fight despite missing some of its best players. Even though the last two games were losses, he said they were their best performances of the trip, which gives them something to build from.
A ship without its captains
When the COVID-19 test results came back Tuesday morning, they left the team to “scramble,” Yeo said. The positive tests knocked out two of the Flyers’ best players, both of whom happen to be part of the team’s leadership group.
Claude Giroux is the team’s best in the faceoff circle and has played both left wing and center as needed. He’s the team’s captain and one of its most experienced players. Ivan Provorov is the team’s top defenseman. He’s also the team’s alternate captain.
COVID-19 also removed Sean Couturier, the team’s No. 1 center and another alternate captain, from the lineup prior to the trip. Although he has since cleared COVID-19 protocols, he remained out with injury.
The Flyers not only had to re-evaluate the lineup, they also had to replace three players with letters on their jerseys. Tuesday night, Scott Laughton and Kevin Hayes wore the “As”. No one stepped into Giroux’s place as captain.
High risks, no rewards
For almost 20 minutes after Atkinson cut the Ducks’ lead to one, the Flyers held their ground. Then Milano snuck one past Carter Hart on a power play. With the deficit at two, Yeo decided to challenge the goal, arguing it should have been disallowed for goaltender interference.
Yeo, who has won his other two challenges as the Flyers interim head coach, saw that Vinni Lettieri’s skate caught Hart’s and kept Hart from being able to make the save. The review, however, revealed that Rasmus Ristolainen’s caused Lettieri’s interference.
By losing the challenge, the Flyers went right back on the penalty kill. Zack MacEwen served the two minutes while the players on the unit got no respite and had to kill yet another power play off.
Yeo took another risk in the final minutes of the game when he pulled his goalie in a 4-on-4 situation. With five skaters, the Flyers successfully tired out the Ducks and got a series of quality shots on goal off. But when they lost the puck, Keith Yandle commited a tripping penalty to keep the Ducks from scoring an empty-net goal. The Ducks eventually scored on the empty net with just under 50 seconds to go anyways to put the game away.
“I thought that our guys did a great job, except for like I said, [not] scoring a goal,” Yeo said. “We had a number of opportunities. Just missed the side of the net. Goalie made a couple saves. So in hindsight, I would probably continue to do the same thing in a situation like that.”
Farabee a holiday highlight
Amid yet another Flyers’ holiday road trip that finished with a losing record, Farabee’s performance was a positive light.
In three of the four games that made up the holiday road trip, Farabee notched at least one point. He scored goals against the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings and had assists against the Kings and the Ducks. Farabee now has eight points in nine games, one of which he was injured in early on.
“He stepped up big for us this road trip,” Atkinson said. “He was able to make plays every single time he’s on the ice and had some great looks and scored some big goals for us over this road trip.”
Farabee’s assist against the Ducks led to the only Flyers goal. Although Atkinson scored the goal, Farabee orchestrated it, intentionally passing it right where Atkinson could get the desired redirection.
“We’re going to need him to step up even more going forward,” Atkinson said.
The Flyers return home and prepare to host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. It will be the second time the two teams have faced each other, while they also still have to make up the postponed Dec. 23 game.