This time, the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t blow a third-period lead, like they did in their previous two losses.
That’s because they never had a lead, period, in Thursday’s 2-1 loss against visiting Columbus. It was their 10th straight defeat, including five of the last six decisions by one goal.
Amazingly, the Flyers now have two winless streaks of 10 games this season, the first time that has happened in the once-proud franchise’s history.
The Flyers became the first NHL team since Colorado in 2010-11 to have a pair of 10-game winless streaks in the same season.
After the loss, interim coach Mike Yeo said the team’s frustration level was “the highest I’ve seen at any point, to be honest with you. … There’s a number of players that take it very personally, so I can see the frustration. … We can try to beat them down and get mad at them. I think when you’re doing that, you’re sort of trying to motivate them. I don’t think motivation is an issue right now.”
Right winger Cam Atkinson seemed to have a different view.
“Our bench tonight was pretty deflated,” he said. “No energy. No pop.”
Here are some quick observations.
1. Forget about trying to climb into a playoff spot. (The odds are about 1%.) This season is all about learning who should be a part of the Flyers’ future.
Bring up right winger Wade Allison and defenseman Egor Zamula from the Phantoms. Put most of the veterans on the trade block. Try to stockpile draft picks and young prospects. Start rebuilding from the ground up.
2. A nice scene unfolded as video snippets of Jake Voracek’s career with the Flyers were shown on the scoreboard during a first-period timeout.
As the fans cheered, Voracek patted his heart and clapped as if to say he was applauding for them. He then lifted his stick to salute the fans. Or maybe he was saluting Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski?
3. The Flyers wish Elvis left the building.
Philly peppered Elvis Merlikins with several quality shots, but the Columbus goalie stood tall as he made 33 saves. He was particularly good against former Blue Jacket Atkinson, who had two Grade A opportunities in the first 23 minutes.
The 6-3, 183-pound goalie also made a big stop on defenseman Ivan Provorov, who was ahead of the pack, with 13:38 left in the second. And he was strong in the third, when the Flyers dominated the action, outshooting the Jackets, 11-4..
Merzlikins, 27, didn’t resemble the goalie who was pulled after allowing four goals in 13:28 in his previous start, a 9-2 loss to Florida.
Yeo didn’t think the Flyers had enough traffic in front of Merzlikins, who was screened on the only goal he allowed.
“Not to take anything away from their goalie, but I thought he was able to see pucks,” Yeo said.
4. Provorov made two mistakes on the game’s first goal
First, he made an ill-advised pass trying to get out of the defensive zone. The pass was intercepted and the puck came back to Oliver Bjorkstrand, who got behind Provorov (mistake No. 2) and beat Carter Hart with a nice move and a backhander from in close. That gave the Jackets a 1-0 lead with 8:07 left in the second.
The Blue Jackets won a board battle to set up Patrik Laine’s goal — he put a right-circle shot over Hart’s right shoulder — to put the visitors ahead, 2-0, with 14:10 remaining in regulation.
Gerry Mayhew’s first goal with the Flyers — and third tally of his career — cut the deficit to 2-1 with 7:20 to go.
Too little, too late.
“We’re being challenged,” Yeo said, “and we have to rise up to that challenge.”
The Flyers (13-19-8) will try to stop their skid Saturday afternoon in Buffalo (12-21-7).
5. Props to Scott Laughton for defending Oskar Lindblom after he took two hits from Gavin Bayreuther late in the second period. Laughton then went after Bayreuther.
The Flyers got a power play out of it, but it was futile. Again. Later, they had a third-period power play and had zero shots, making them 0 for 4 on the night.
“I think our personnel is there,” said Atkinson, whose team is missing key power-play performers like Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, and Ryan Ellis. “We just have to want the puck, and our battle level (has to be better). It’s not always going to be pretty and you’re not always going to score, but you can’t play like we did tonight. We got zero momentum, and it’s tough. But at the end of the day, it’s the guys on the ice. It’s not what the coaches are doing or saying or drawing up plays. It’s us.”
During their losing streak, the Flyers have been outscored, 37-19. … Voracek, who played after coming off the COVID list earlier in the day, was pointless in 16:25 and had two shots and a plus-1 rating. Atkinson was pointless in 20:37 and had three shots and an “even” rating. … The Flyers are 5-9-4 under Yeo. … Public-address announcer Lou Nolan returned after missing two games because of COVID. … The Blue Jackets had a second-period goal erased after Yeo won a challenge for goaltender interference against Columbus’ Alex Texier. … Laughton has points in four straight games. … The Flyers have allowed the first goal in eight of the last nine games.