The Philadelphia Flyers hosted the Anaheim Ducks tonight for the first time in over two years. Steve Mason and Jonas Hiller squared off in net as the two teams met from the Wells Fargo Center. Hiller didn't look too great through the first period, but was tested very little after that, while Steve Mason started strong but ended up giving three goals on the night and taking the loss. The loss was far from Steve Mason's fault though, as the Flyers fell apart and fell victim to the Ducks' resurgent energy that helped them beat the Flyers in the second half of tonight's game. Vinny Lecavalier and Matt Read scored for the Flyers, and Wayne Simmonds tallied two assists on the night. Kyle Palmieri plagued the Flyers for two goals tonight to help the Ducks to a 3-2 win.
The Flyers came out hot, scoring a goal just three and a half minutes into the game. Matt Read tallied his third of the year after he was set up deep in the slot by Wayne Simmonds. Read had an opportunity in tight on Hiller who initially stopped him, but Read hammered the rebound home for his third goal in his last three games. The Flyers played a strong rest of the period, dominating offensive zone time and winning the battle to most loose pucks.
They had a number of good chances throughout the period, marked by strong, crisp passing and smart shooting decisions. They would strike on the power play with less than four minutes remaining in the period, as Vinny Lecavalier lit the lamp for the fifth time this season, fresh off his hat trick this past Saturday night. Lecavalier blasted the puck past Hiller on the man advantage from his newly-found spot on the wing, after a great cross-ice pass from Claude Giroux to set him up. The Flyers looked confident and in control in tonight's opening period both offensively and defensively, and took a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
Despite their two goal lead, the Flyers did not let up heading into the second period. They played another strong, smart period, but Anaheim began to wake up towards the end of the period. The Ducks, who had a few good chances of their own through the first half of the game, began to take back the offensive zone time in the second half of the period. This consistent pressure would result in an Andrew Cogliano goal with less than four minutes to go in the second period. The Flyers were outplayed for the last five minutes of the period, and it seemed like a momentum shift may have been taking place heading into the always-tricky third period.
For Flyer fans, a one-goal lead heading into the third period this season has done anything but instill confidence. That was quickly reinforced tonight just one minute into the period, as Anaheim scored on a breakaway. Vinny Lecavalier made a careless play at the blue line, trying to set up a play deeper in the Ducks' offensive zone. Kyle Palmieri stole the puck from Lecavalier, went all the way down the ice, and beat Steve Mason through the five-hole to tie the game up and erase what seemed like a commanding 2-0 lead through the first 20 minutes of tonight's game.
And for what was certainly not the first time this season, the Flyers fell apart in the third period. Turnovers plagued the Flyers, and the Ducks offensive play thrived as a result. The tremendous pressure ultimately got to the Flyers again with just over four minutes to play in the game, as Kyle Palmieri tipped the puck past Mason thanks to a takeaway by Nick Bonino. Palmieri's second goal was an ugly nail in the coffin for the Flyers, whose uninspired play to close out a game haunts them once again. Despite a late power play, the Flyers failed to do anything offensively in the third period. And for the second time in just 11 games this season, the Flyers lost a game in the last 5 minutes of the third period after leading at the beginning of the period.
This one hurts. The Flyers pulled a Jekyll and Hyde between the beginning and end of the game, coming out absolutely dominating the first half of the game, and then let Anaheim take the game back, and do so with a vengeance. Once the Ducks showed up to play around the halfway point of the second period, the Flyers laid down and let the Ducks dominate them. Bruce Boudreau likely made tweaks during the each intermission and helped his team slowly climb the mountain and win a tough road game. The victory is a textbook comeback executed perfectly by the Ducks, and the loss a textbook failure for the Flyers, who seemingly quit about halfway through the game.
There were positives in tonight's game though. They looked incredibly strong in the first period and a half, as it looks like Craig Berube's intense practice drills are giving the Flyers some serious legs. In fact, they looked in midseason form until halfway through the second period. Vinny Lecavalier scored for the fourth time in two games, and Matt Read scored his third goal in three games. Steve Mason played well again, stopping 34 of 37 shots. The shots that got past him were a result of turnovers and defensive mishaps which made his job a lot harder than it needed to be.
But tonight, all those positives were for nothing. The team has serious issues in the third period this season, despite a strong final frame against the New York Islanders Saturday night. Perhaps the aforementioned intensity in Berube's practices is catching up with these guys at the end of games. Regardless, right when it looked like the Flyers were coming together and beginning to hit their stride and start winning some games, they put up another inexcusable, uninspired, horrible third period and blow another two points. The team cannot be taken seriously as a competitor right now; fourteenth in the Eastern Conference certainly speaks volumes.
The Flyers fall to 3-8-0 with their complete giveaway of the game to the Ducks this evening. They'll try again Friday night against the Washington Capitals – hopefully something will have been done about their atrocious third period play by then.
Anaheim – 16:24: Andrew Cogliano (2), Assisted by Ryan Getzlaf
Anaheim – 1:01: Kyle Palmieri (2), Assists: None
Anaheim – 15:51: Kyle Palmieri (3), Assisted by Nick Bonino (4), and Sami Vatanen (4)
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