PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Brian Elliott stood in the Flyers’ locker room on Saturday night and admitted what transpired at the Wells Fargo Center was partially a result of a “tired bunch of guys” who got in “late” the night before. The Flyers had a 3-0 lead and were 20 minutes away from unseating a New York Islanders team that hadn’t lost in regulation since Oct. 11 after playing in Ottawa the night before.
Then it all disappeared.
“I think it caught up with us with a couple of decisions here and there,” Elliott said. “Just kind of all added up and we tried to weather the storm and we got a point out of it. But it is definitely frustrating.”
The Flyers couldn’t hold off the Islanders’ blitzkrieg in the third period and lost, 4-3, in a shootout. It was as bad of a loss as it comes.
It was their third straight loss and second consecutive bad loss. The Flyers lost, 2-1, on Friday night in Ottawa against a Senators team at the bottom of the standings.
For the second straight weekend, the Flyers had back-to-backs, and they’ve played seven games in the past 12 days. It‘s a brutal schedule, but that’s a crutch that shouldn’t be accepted anymore.
“There’s no excuse from this group. You’ve got a game to play and you’ve got to go out and play it.” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “At the end of the day, it is a challenging schedule, but not making any excuses. The schedule is what it is and you got to play through it.”
While Vigneault has constantly thrown his forward lines into a blender, the defensive pairs have largely stayed together. On Saturday night, the only change on the blue line was Robert Hagg entering for Phil Myers.
After the game, Vigneault explained that decision as performance-based and not because of injury. Myers has three goals in his last five games while averaging 18:13 per game. He had just 14 minutes and 12 seconds on Friday. Before the game, Vigneault hinted that a couple of players were battling some minor injuries, but said Myers came out based on performance. Time will tell if that’s true.
The Flyers’ downfall Saturday night began with two bad changes, which was a recurring theme throughout the game, in the third period.
The first led to Anthony Beauvillier’s first of two goals and the other led to a too many men penalty that the Islanders scored on.
“It had nothing to do with the lines. It was all defensive changes,” Vigneault said. “It had nothing to do with the forwards. In the third, we were in good shape until a couple of bad line changes. The same thing happened in the second. D got confused on three occasions there.”
Simply put, the Flyers saw a 3-0 lead erased with 20 minutes to go and it all came from self-inflicted wounds.
“Those are things that might be fatigue oriented. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t,” Vigneault said. “But those are things that are within our control.”
Some loser points are acceptable — like Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Capitals. Others aren’t, and Saturday was one of those.
The optimist’s spin is, the Flyers are a work in progress who have gone 5-1-2 in their last nine games. They’ve shown they can skate with the Eastern Conference’s best during that stretch.
That said, the way the Flyers lost Saturday is fuel for the skeptics. The Flyers had the fish on the line, asking to be reel back in and they let it go.
When you take a step back, there remains a lot to like. But the Flyers faced a big test on Saturday night and failed it in the worst way possible.
Now the question is, can they get off the mat?
We’ll see on Tuesday night in Florida.