PHILADELPHIA — Brady Tkachuk scored twice in the third period and Matt Duchene scored the eventual winner with 2:59 left, lifting the Ottawa Senators to a 4-3 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday night in the Flyers’ first game since they fired general manager Ron Hextall.
The Flyers showed why Hextall is out of work and coach Dave Hakstol could be the next to go. They coughed up a 3-1 lead in the third over the final 6 1/2 minutes and have lost six of seven.
Tkachuk made it 3-2 late in the third and he tied it on a tip-in with 6:31 remaining. The Flyers turned it over in their end and Duchene batted the puck past Anthony Stolarz into the net for a 4-3 lead.
Jake Voracek, Radko Gudas and Travis Konecny scored for the Flyers in front of scores of empty seats inside a home arena once among the most imposing in the NHL. Flyers fans have turned away in droves and tickets were selling on the secondary market for $6 in the mezzanine level, a minor-league price for a franchise that traditionally averaged 19,000 fans a game.
The fans might not be back for the next home game.
Hakstol might not be behind the bench, either.
Hakstol knows he’s in a precarious position with Hextall, who hired the coach with no NHL experience out of North Dakota in 2015, gone. Flyers President Paul Holmgren said the next general manager would decide Hakstol’s fate.
“Given the scenario we are in, that’s a pretty reasonable process,” Hakstol said before the game. “Whoever that is, he will come in and evaluate me as head coach and whether or not he likes what he sees and I’m the right guy to work with him.”
Hakstol, in his fourth season, has led the Flyers to pair of playoff berths and his job appeared to be in jeopardy after the Flyers lost 6-0 to Toronto on Saturday. Instead, it was Hextall who was fired with the Flyers (11-11-2) mired in mediocrity and fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But it was more than the sagging record that sent Hextall packing; Holmgren said the former GM was “unyielding” in his philosophical approach of building the Flyers into winners through the draft and a lone-wolf style of management. Hextall had tuned out input from other decision makers in the organization and had yet to make a big splash with the type of trade that could transform the Flyers into instant contenders.
Holmgren said the Flyers would like to hire a new GM within weeks.
The Flyers have lost disposable income dollars to the 76ers, and a quick peek out the glass windows installed at the Wells Fargo Center as part of a $250-million renovation shows a Super Bowl champions banner on the Eagles’ stadium.
The Flyers have created little buzz outside of their new googly-eyed mascot Gritty.
Yes, Gritty, the late-night punchline and fan favourite was about the biggest addition made on Hextall’s watch.
“God bless him, he stuck with his plan,” Holmgren said.
And it cost him his job.
Konecny scored his seventh goal of the season just 4:23 in the game for the usually slow-starting Flyers.
“I think the main thing for us is getting in the offensive zone and even if it’s not your ‘A’ game, as long as we’re cycling the puck and doing the right things down low then we are going to get opportunities,” Konecny said.
Thomas Chabot beat Stolarz in the first to even the score 1-all. Stolarz was the whopping fifth goalie to start a game for the Flyers this season.
Voracek scored his sixth goal of the season in the second period and Gudas followed with his first for a 3-1 lead to cushion the lead.
Much like Hextall during his tenure, it wasn’t enough.
NOTES: The Senators snapped a three-game losing streak. … Ottawa completed its third set of back-to-back games and dropped to 1-1-1 in the second game.
Senators: Host the Rangers on Thursday.
Flyers: At Pittsburgh on Saturday.
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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press