Here are five observations from the Flyers’ 5-2 home loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night:
You might recall that once upon a time the NHL decided to enforce its interference penalty as part of a conscious effort to bust up the excitement-deadening neutral-zone trap as a strategy.
The league succeeded. The game is as wide open as it has ever been, leading to exciting playmaking, breathless rushes and — this is the part I don’t get — the disappearance again of the interference call.
Ultimately, that’s what Tyler Johnson was called for, after one referee (Graham Skilliter, I think) watched from the corner for a good 10 seconds as Johnson impeded Wayne Simmonds from advancing farther into Tampa’s zone. The puck was on the other side of the ice for virtually all of this, but no call was made until Simmonds, with no other option, attempted to throw Johnson, literally, off his body.
Simmonds was called for roughing. It was head-shaking stuff.
The refs did not have a good night. Jake Brenk got totally sucked in when Tampa goalie Louis Domingue launched himself backward as if electrocuted when Phil Varone came near him as he played the puck. Varone, who earlier had been flagged for the rarely called faceoff delay-of-game penalty, even dropped his stick, to no avail. It should have been an embellishment call.
Later, of course, Skilliter waved off a goal by Sean Couturier, claiming goalie interference. Replays seemed to show that Domingue’s own momentum carried the puck across the goal, but the league did not reverse the call after the Flyers challenged.
Maybe the NHL felt there was not enough evidence. Which leads to another pet peeve. The announcement by Skilliter, which further infuriated the home crowd, was that the ``call on the ice is confirmed.’’ How about just say, after review, the call stands?
Domingue’s pad save on Jake Voracek with 4:35 left in the second period was not only ridiculous, but it also defused a chance for some much-needed momentum by the home team heading into the third period. Instead, the Flyers entered the third period needing three goals to catch the best team in the NHL, and lately, one of the hottest.
Late in the third period, the Flyers’ Radko Gudas and the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos tangled along the boards. Stamko flipped Gudas’ stick, and Gudas instinctively reacted by bopping Stamkos over the helmet with his stick.
Uh-oh. You might recall that Gudas is one of the more suspended players still around in the NHL. He served a 10-game suspension last season for a more aggressive stick to the head.
``It was a pretty soft stick to the helmet,’’ Flyers coach Scott Gordon said. ``There was no chance of an injury. It wasn’t like it was vicious or anything. There was no intent there like we saw a week ago.’’
That reference was to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, who received a one-game suspension, his first, for swinging at Michael Raffl’s head — and missing.
Gudas and Stamkos are former teammates, so maybe Gordon’s right about it being a love tap. Still, given Gudas’ reputation with the league office and the penalty assessed on the play, it wasn’t the best play the otherwise stellar (this season) defenseman has made.