TAMPA, Fla. — Five days after the Flyers pushed the Stanley Cup champions to a shootout, they suffered a 4-0 loss to the same team.
Just as the Flyers did on their home ice against the Lightning last Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t hesitate to score Tuesday night. Zach Bogosian scored within three minutes Tuesday and the visiting team was never able to respond. The Flyers extended their first losing streak of the season to three games.
The Flyers generated dangerous chances by passing the puck low and outshot the Lightning 12-6 the rest of the first period. However, some of those passes weren’t clean, and the shots were all stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy, whom coach Alain Vigneault called the “best goaltender in the world.” Vasilevskiy finished with 34 saves as he registered his first shutout of the season.
“For the last 30 minutes of the game, we weren’t very good,” Vigneault said. “Our passing game was off. Created a numerous amount of grade-A opportunities for them.”
After another Flyers power play failed to create momentum, Steven Stamkos scored the Lightning’s second goal on a rebound after a scrum down low. The Flyers then let another power play pass by, and three minutes later, the Lightning scored their third goal of the game.
The Flyers have come out strong in the third period lately, but couldn’t maintain that as the Lightning kept up the momentum and scored a fourth goal on the night.
Two centers down
With Kevin Hayes injured again, the Flyers were already short a center. Shortly after the puck dropped against the Lightning, Derick Brassard, the fill-in second-line center, disappeared into the locker room. The Flyers announced he had a lower-body injury and was questionable to return.
The last time the Flyers played the Lightning, Brassard assisted on two of the three goals. He also scored the only two goals for the Flyers in their last game, a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.
“Brass is a huge part of our team for sure,” goalie Carter Hart said. “It’s unfortunate. I hope he’s OK, and I hope he can play [Wednesday at the Florida Panthers]. But we just need guys to step up and fill in for his role.”
With Brassard out, the remaining centers had to put in some extra minutes. Both Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton played with Cam Atkinson and Giroux, Brassard’s linemates. The lines continued to shift as the game went on, with not only the centers changing but the wings as well.
None of the combinations provided an offensive spark, and the Flyers went goal-less for the third time this season.
Bottom pair, bottom line
Two of the Lightning’s three goals, the first and the third, came while the Flyers’ fourth line was on the ice. The first and second goals came while the Flyers’ third defensive pairing was on the ice.
This has been a theme all season. When Zack MacEwen and Nate Thompson have skated with each other on the fourth line (which has included a rotating cast on the left), teams have scored seven goals. When Keith Yandle and Nick Seeler have been the team’s third pair, as they were to start this game, teams have scored 10 goals. Four have been scored when all four of them are on the ice together.
Yandle is now minus-9 for the season while Seeler is minus-5. Thompson and Oskar Lindblom, who started on the fourth line, are each minus-6, while MacEwen is minus-5.
Where’s the offense?
The entirety of the Flyers offense in the last two games went into the locker room in the first period. Brassard has now scored the only two goals over the Flyers’ last two games. Flyers opponents have scored nine goals in that time frame.
In the last 10 games, the Flyers have been outscored by 27-18. They have not scored more than three goals in that stretch, and they’ve scored more than two only twice (one of which included an empty-netter). While 14 players have scored a goal this season, only three have scored in the last two games, and they’ve accounted for five goals.
The scoring may be spread through the team, but not many are consistently producing. This season, only six players have scored more than three goals. Only eight have scored more than one. Thirty-two of the team’s 43 goals on the season have been scored by the top-six forwards.
Against the Lightning, MacEwen, who has played on the Flyers’ fourth line, not only had the second-most shots on goal but also had the most dangerous chances. Vigneault called him a “positive note” of the night.
“Guys made good plays to me,” MacEwen said. “I think obviously you want to finish some of those. It’s one thing getting chances, but when they start going in, that’s a different story. I just think it’s something for me to build off of. And obviously, this was not the result we were looking for.”
The Flyers finished with just one fewer shot on goal than the Lightning’s 35, but the quality of the Flyers’ shots was not as high.
After the loss, the Flyers immediately flew to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for Wednesday’s game against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers won the teams’ first meeting, 4-2 on Oct. 23. “One positive is we’re playing again tomorrow,” Vigneault said. “So you’ve got to have a short memory, get back at it, and get going tomorrow.”