Philly Phaithful
Better With Popcorn

Flyers Revert to Old Ways In Loss to Panthers

A seven-game point streak offers plenty for a hockey team.

It provides hope for the fans, confidence for the players and in Craig Berube’s case, a pat on the back.

The stretch also makes things shinier than they were before. Bright lipstick is applied. When removed like it was in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 3-1 loss at Florida on Monday, it’s clear to see the pig that still remains.

These Flyers have problems. They aren’t good. At times they play like they’re a decent club, but it’s hard to excuse a 3-1 loss to the Panthers in an empty road arena. Goalie Steve Mason played well for the most part.

The cavalry didn’t show up. They say that’s a familiar feeling.

Vincent Lecavalier and Sean Couturier provided some brilliant chances in the first frame. No one converted against Tim Thomas. The offense couldn’t hold possession in the neutral zone through much of the period.

A Florida team that entered the game 6-13-5 suddenly looked like it knew what to do and how to play. The jumbled mess of an offense Philadelphia implemented – or willingly participated in – missed out on a late power play.

Despite a 9-7 shot advantage, the game stood scoreless after the first.

Two penalties brought the lipstick back early in the second period. One came on a well-earned trip on Claude Giroux from Scott Gomez. The other, a delay of game on Erik Gudbranson, gave the Flyers more than 80 seconds of 5-on-3 advantage.

A couple more minutes might have been enough for a goal.

Giroux, Lecavalier and defenseman Kimmo Timonen contributed to the empty opportunity with point shots that lacked traffic in front of Tim Thomas. This seemed like a theme throughout the game. Philadelphia put plenty of shots on the Panthers net-minder – it just put the shots in his line of sight without much to move him around.

Once the advantages expired, Florida earned momentum. Soon after, they earned the game’s opening score.

Sean Bergenheim – scoreless before Monday’s game – went around Mason’s left side behind the net. He lost the puck, got it back and looped around the back of the net to Mason’s right.

His second wrap-around chance worked. It wasn’t the goal that should’ve infuriated the groups of orange sweaters in the stands. Instead, their anger would have been best directed at Mark Streit and Jay Rosehill.

After Bergenheim’s first miss, the two stood without movement, without physicality and with little regard for finding the puck. Their opponent played with urgency and was rewarded before either of them realized what occurred.

Ten minutes later, Bergenheim supplied the traffic – and the deflection – in front of Mason to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

The doomed 5-on-3 adequately spelled out the result for the Flyers. Bergenheim’s conversions merely forced the faithful to read it aloud.

Good teams convert two-man advantages and good teams don’t lose to Florida due to being outworked.

Despite a third-period goal from Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia’s point streak ended.

The exclamation point came on Gudbranson’s point shot that wiggled through Mason with 4:08 to play. His first goal in 101 games, it came the way the Flyers shot all night – directly at the goalie with force, as if they could knock Thomas through the net and the puck would follow suit.

It wasn’t poor execution, because it looked like a strategy. Rather than moving side-to-side or providing traffic in front, Philadelphia’s sticks launched at Thomas. He responded with 38 saves.

Although the game was played in Sunrise, the game signaled something very different. The brightness of a point streak and an opportunity to own more wins than losses faded away in the second period.

A team lost in an arena with no one watching and it still counted in the standings. The lipstick – once as red as the Panthers’ home sweaters – disappeared.

It seems the pig is still there.

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Mark Trible
Prodigal Son
Twitter: @mtrible; @TCLFlyers