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Flat-footed Flyers’ lacklustre performance proves costly against the Red Wings

Needing two points against the Detroit Red Wings tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers failed to add to their two-game winning streak as they fell 6-3 on home ice. The Flyers neither started or ended this game well and it proved rather costly as the Wings now have a 10 point edge in the Wild Card race. Isaac Ratcliffe scored his first career NHL goal but the top guns for the Red Wings showed up tonight.

FIRST PERIOD

Holding a two-game winning streak and facing a team that’s ahead of them in the wild card race, the Flyers needed to come out guns blazing to make sure they stole the valuable 2 points. That was not the case as the Detroit Red Wings took full control of the start with offensive zone time, scoring chances, a power play, and incidentally a power play goal. 

With the Red Wings all over Carter Hart and jamming away in the blue paint, Travis Sanheim got called for a holding penalty. It only took the Red Wings 25 seconds to break the deadlock as Dylan Larkin, fresh from the All-Star Game, got a fortuitous bounce off Ivan Provorov’s skate. In saying that, his intended pass for Tyler Bertuzzi would’ve worked as well but either way, Hart was left languishing again and the Wings took the lead. 

Fortunately on the very next shift, the fourth line tied the game from a turn around shot by Zack MacEwen with a heavy screen in front of Alex Nedeljkovic. MacEwen chased down the dump in and gained the puck in the corner. He sent it along the boards to Nick Seeler who returned the favour and fed it back to MacEwen. He spun around and fired the shot towards the net as Isaac Ratcliffe did a good job pestering the goaltender. It was challenged by the Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill but he lost and gifted the Flyers a power play. It was initially announced as MacEwen’s goal but after the first intermission, it was given to Ratcliffe as he earned his first NHL goal. 

The power play, which is now run by newly appointed assistant coach John Torchetti, looked as lost as it’s ever been and they failed to create any chances. In fact, the Red Wings had a few of their own and gained momentum off the penalty kill. That momentum helped the Red Wings take the lead shortly after as Lucas Raymond followed his own rebound after being initially stopped by Hart to give the Wings a 2-1 advantage. It only took them 2 minutes and 59 seconds to re-take the lead.

However, after Ratcliffe tied the game 20 seconds after Larkin had opened the scoring, the Flyers tied the game again only 24 seconds after Raymond took the lead, courtesy of Travis Sanheim. After his first slap-shot was stopped by Nedeljkovic, Oskar Lindblom grabbed the loose puck off the rebound, took it behind the net and fed a backhanded pass to Claude Giroux. Noticing there was open ice to work with, Sanheim darted towards the slot, something that Giroux noticed, and Sanheim was able to one time his pass blocker-side to tie the game. 

Max Willman almost gave the Flyers the lead only 2 minutes later, as he was flying off the rush and his shot got past Nedeljkovic’s glove, hit the post, and was rolling on the red line, but Marc Staal got back just in time to clear it out of trouble and keep the game tied at 2. His aggressive play is a nice sight for the Flyers, with the bottom six flexing their offensive muscles. However, he was called for an offensive zone penalty not too long after his scoring chance. Luckily for him and the Flyers, Hart made 5 saves on the penalty kill to keep things tied.

SECOND PERIOD

After a flurry of giveaways on another penalty kill, this one because of a trip by Lindblom, Sanheim corralled the loose puck and took it upon himself to set the Flyers up on an odd man rush. He bodied his way through a defender before trying to find Willman on a one time feed. Willman was cross checked from behind by Larkin, and the 4 on 5 turned into a 4 on 4 for 57 seconds. The ensuing power play wasn’t any better as the Wings had the best chance on a 3 on 2 odd man rush that was swallowed up by Hart. 

With nearly a full minute of offensive zone time, Pius Suter, Robby Fabbri, and Tyler Bertuzzi’s hard work finally paid off as they were able to get another one past Hart. The Flyers had sagged in the defensive zone and couldn’t get the puck back. Cycling was the name of the game as Bertuzzi found Fabbri in the corner who then quickly fed a wide open Suter in the slot and he made no mistake as Hart was still trying to slide over and find his footing. 

The Red Wings doubled their lead after the Bertuzzi-Fabbri-Suter line struck again. Keith Yandle cleared the puck out of the zone, which seemingly allowed the Flyers to change up, however Moritz Seider corralled the puck too quickly and caught the Flyers flat-footed. He sent an outlet pass to Pius Suter entering the zone. He the pushed it forward to Fabbri who ripped one past Hart, who had some trouble with the initial save. 

21 seconds later the Flyers did it again, scoring in quick order after a Red Wings goal for the third time in the game. The Wings won the defensive zone face-off, got the puck out of the zone, but the suddenly aggressive Nick Seeler pushed the puck back into the offensive zone in short order. Grabbing the puck at the blue-line, Travis Konecny passed it up to Scott Laughton, who had it poked off his stick. Konecny corralled the puck, spun around and took a shot that deflected off of Seider’s skate and right back to Laughton, who was able to score with a wide open cage.

THIRD PERIOD

After the first 40 minutes produced a flurry of chances, the final 20 wasn’t so kind for the Flyers as they failed to record a shot on goal for the first 7 and a half minutes, which is not the best recipe for a third period comeback. With the Flyers not able to control the puck let alone gain the necessary momentum to tie the game, the Red Wings added to their lead after Givani Smith tucked one through Hart’s five-hole. 

Still with only one shot on goal through the first 13 minutes, the Flyers found themselves on the power play for 5th time this game. Like the previous 4, there were constant difficulties with zone entries, setting up once in the zone, creating chances, and getting shots on goal, let alone credible scoring chances. No shots were taken on the man advantage and the Red Wings, once again, had more chances than the Flyers while down a man. 

The Red Wings were the worst team statistically in the third period heading into this game but the way they thwarted the Flyers, you would never know that. Just two shots through 18 minutes, while down 1-2 goals, and none of them being credited as scoring chances either is the icing on the cake for the season and this game. The power play was a disadvantage yet again, the penalty kill was salvaged mostly because of Carter Hart, and their 5 on 5 play was decent at best during the first 2 periods but they lost the plot in the third period. 

With the net empty with 3:30 remaining, the Flyers had a few chances but never really tested Nedeljkovic and the Red Wings. Off a face-off win in the defensive zone and a board battle win against Cam Atkinson, the Wings’ Sam Gagner forced a turnover, found Vladislav Namestnikov who made a move at the blue line, and he scored the empty net goal with Giroux chasing. 

The Red Wings played a phenomenal third period, limiting the Flyers to 2 shots in the first 17 minutes before they pulled the goalie for the extra man. In doing so they were able to stay well ahead of the Flyers in the wild card race, now up 10 points even with 2 games in hand. They face off once again on Saturday but at this point the season is slipping away, if it already hasn’t. 

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation, living in Guelph

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