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5 observations: Flyers somehow lose to Habs; Claude Giroux reaches milestone, Yeo rips team

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Travis Sanheim, Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers lost a game, somehow, but gained ground in the draft-lottery race Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Hey, just looking for a positive here.

Canadiens 4, Flyers 3.

Cole Caufield scored on a right-circle blast with 2:50 left in overtime, handing the Flyers another excruciating defeat.

They had a late 3-2 lead — and were on a power play — when the coughed up the win.

“We took our foot off the gas,” said goalie Carter Hart, who slammed his stick against the boards as he skated off the ice following the stunning defeat.

The Flyers broke a 2-2 tie in the third period on Cam Atkinson’s goal, his team-high 22nd. He scored off a pretty feed from Joel Farabee with 17:19 left in regulation.

But the Flyers again had a late-game meltdown.

Rem Pitlick, left all alone in front, tied it at 3-3 when he tapped in Ben Chiarot’s pass with 42.1 seconds left. The Flyers were on a power play, but Montreal pulled its goalie, so it was a five-on-five when the goal was scored.

“We had two D-men in the corner, and I think our mindset is, ‘Let’s get on the move,’ and we’re obviously not protecting that area,” interim coach Mike Yeo said.

Rasmus Ristolainen made a diving block and went down behind the end line, and Travis Sanheim lost the puck to Chiarot, who whipped the pass to the uncovered Pitlick for the tap in.

“We’re finding ways to lose right now,” captain Claude Giroux said.

A least the Flyers’ chances in the draft lottery got a little better.

That, of course, is not something that concerns the players, who have been battling hard over the last six or seven weeks. They have either been tied, ahead, or down by just one goal in third period in 22 of their last 24 games. They have just five wins in that span.

Yeo tore into the team after the loss, talking about their reluctance to do the things needed to win games.

“We’re going to have to keep finding ways to get players to understand that you can play the way you want to play, or you can play winning hockey,” he said, adding they are making too many turnovers and that he will start to “take guys’ time away, put guys on the fourth line, scratch guys if we have to. I don’t even know if we have enough (players) to call guys up. There’s veteran players we’re going to have to do it to, too. You’ve got to get the job done.”

Montreal, the NHL’s worst team, is favored to win the lottery. The Canadiens entered the night having the best chance — 16.6% — to get the top pick, according to tankathon.com

The Flyers had the fifth-best chance before the game, at 8.5%.

Some observations on the Flyers’ 24th loss in their last 29 games.

1. Another game, another milestone for Claude Giroux.

Playing in his 999th game, all with the Flyers, Giroux (seven shots) made a slick deke and scored his 18th goal of the season and 900th point of his illustrious career, giving the Flyers a brief 2-1 lead with 12:49 to go in the second.

The 34-year-old center also moved past Eric Lindros and into eighth place in franchise history with 291 goals. Reggie Leach is No. 7 with 306 goals.

But the luster of his accomplishments was tarnished by the team’s collapse.

With the trade deadline March 21 and Giroux expected to be dealt, there’s a chance it was his final goal in Orange and Black.

2. Morgan Frost had one of his best games of the season.

Moved to left wing on a line with Giroux and Travis Konecny, Frost played with more aggression, jumped into plays, and showed great anticipation all night. Frost was in the middle of numerous scoring chances and set up Giroux’s goal.

“He’s a guy who sees the puck well,” Giroux said. “I’ve played with him before and we’ve had good chemistry together, so hopefully we can build on this.”

Frost, who had five shot attempts, made a creative feed to Konecny (six shots) early in the third period, but the right winger was denied by Sam Montembeault.

3. Travis Sanheim continues to make a case for being the Flyers’ top defenseman.

The smooth-skating Manitoba native jumped into the offense and keyed a three-on-two rush by sending a perfect fed to Kevin Hayes for a tap-in, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 13 minutes left in the first.

That finished a slick tic-tac-toe passing play between James van Riemsdyk, Sanheim, and Hayes.

Sanheim, 25, now has 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) and a plus-4 rating and should win his first Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers’ top defenseman. Ivan Provorov has won the award the last two seasons.

Since Jan. 22, Sanheim has nine points (2-7) in the last 19 games.

Sanheim finished plus-1 on the night, but his late-game miscue proved costly.

4. Good to see Hayes find the back of the net.

If the Flyers are going to be a competitive team next season, they need Hayes to play like he did in 2019-20, his first year in Philadelphia.

Hayes has had an injury-plagued season, and recently returned from groin surgery. In effect, he is using the rest of this season to gain some confidence for 2022-23 — and show he can stay healthy.

His first-period goal Sunday was his fourth in 25 games and his first since Jan. 1; he had gone 10 games without a goal.

5. The Flyers can’t stand to play with the lead.

Just 67 seconds after Giroux gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 2-1 lead, Nick Suzuki scored his second goal of the night, this one on a rebound, to knot the game at 2-all with 11:42 left in the second.

It’s been a recurring theme for the Flyers this season as they frequently give up a quick goal after scoring one themselves.

Breakaways

With a minute left, Chris Wideman knocked down Joel Farabee with his knee and got an interference penalty. … Giroux will play in his 1,000th career game Thursday — the Wells Fargo Center is expected to have a big celebration — against Nashville. … Ritolainen had seven hits and five blocked shots. … Montreal was missing its hottest scorer, Artturi Lehkonen, who was sidelined with an upper-body injury. … Hart made 31 saves, including a two-on-one stop on Brendan Gallagher with 10:30 remaining.

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