Fans were welcomed back to the Wells Fargo Center with a resounding thud as the Philadelphia Flyers’ losing skid continued on Sunday night in a 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
“There’s no doubt [it was disappointing],” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “We came out here with the best intentions playing in front of our fans with good jump. We didn’t finish the job. We rest up and we’ll have a quick morning skate on Tuesday and get ready for our next opponent.”
The Flyers have now lost three of their last four, including back-to-back regulation losses for the first time since Dec. 31-Jan. 4 last season.
Certainly, a packed schedule that saw Philadelphia play six games in nine nights — reclaiming some stability after a run-in with COVID last month — hasn’t done any favors. But each of the other 30 teams in the NHL are dealing with uncertain and packed schedules, and the Flyers are dropping chances to move up in the standings.
“I definitely think that the will was there,” Vigneault said. “Our guys came out and competed.”
Having played three fewer games than the Eastern Division-leading Islanders, the Flyers sit seven points back, currently in fifth.
Now Vigneault and the Flyers are left to sift through their mistakes and breakdowns, which most recently saw them squander an early lead against Washington on Sunday.
Just moments after squandering premier chances in front of the Capitals goal, the Flyers allowed two goals in the final 4:49 of the second period, including Dmitry Orlov’s go-ahead goal with just 16 seconds to go.
It wasn’t a defensive breakdown from our D on the second goal, it was a missed assignment,” Vigneault said. “We should’ve been able to pick it up. That was the game-changer. Instead of going in after two periods with a tie game, we’re one behind.”
Four minutes into the third period, the Capitals — with an assist from the officials — broke things open when Nick Jensen just six seconds after Zdeno Chara caught Joel Farabee up in the face with a high stick that wasn’t called.
Not the best look for NHL officiating after the last week it had, most notably not calling a penalty on Tom Wilson after his dangerous and predatory hit to the head of Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo. Wilson was suspended for seven games on Saturday night, forcing him to the sidelines for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia.
“In the third, they got their third one there and I think it should’ve been a call on Chara there to Joel’s head but the referee let it go through and we miss an assignment coming back into our zone,” Vigneault said. “Guys competed and we’ll regroup here, reenergize and get ready for the next game.”
Of the few positives Vigneault was able to take out of Sunday’s loss was the play of Carter Hart — the young Flyers goaltender muddling through an inconsistent season that began with Vezina Trophy aspirations. He made 24 saves on 27 shots.
“Carter gave us a chance to be in this game and that’s what you want your goaltenders to do,” Vigneault said. “At the end of the day, before they scored their tying goal, the one they made 1-1 off a puck we should’ve gotten deep. We had three great looks… We bury one of those, we’re in a good spot with plenty of gas in the tank.”
The Flyers have a golden opportunity to get back on track Tuesday night when they meet the last-place Buffalo Sabres, who have lost seven straight games, including a recent three-game sweep on Long Island at the hands of the Islanders.