The Flyers blew it big time against the Atlanta Thrashers Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center. As the Flyers were looking to build off two solid finishes to their previous two games, the team unraveled in the 3rd period yet again, blowing a 3-0 lead and losing 5-4 in overtime. It was an all around team loss, with blame to go round. With the news before the game that Chris Pronger would miss another game with his hand injury, Nick Boynton once again got the call to be in the Flyers lineup. Ville Leino led the way with his first career hat trick. For a while it looked like Bob might get the team’s first (dare I say it?) shutout, but that was squashed when Atlanta scored early in the 3rd period.
The Flyers were outplayed pretty much throughout the entire game tonight and I shared the opinion of Atlanta’s Evander Kane after the game when he implied that they knew eventually this play would catch up to the Flyers. The Flyers did have some bright spots throughout the game including Ville Leino’s hat trick (two goals coming on the power play). Leino came to play tonight and post-game he attributed that to his hip feeling a lot better lately. “It was sore for awhile but it’s back to being good now,” Leino said. However, Leino’s magic couldn’t deliver the victory. Leino also didn’t want to talk about the hat trick, calling the loss “embarrassing.”The Flyers had a disgusting effort in the 3rd period when they allowed the Thrashers to come back from 3-0 and 4-2 leads to tie the game with less than a minute in regulation. The Flyers still might have won had Kris Versteeg not made an awful play with the puck in front of the net just before the tying goal. He was trying to make a backhand pass behind the net to Matt Carle and he ended up passing the puck right into the crease where the Thrashers were set up for the tying goal.
One player who was visibly upset with the blown game was Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen. “We can’t keep making the same mistakes game after game,” Timonen said. “When it’s 3-0 or 4-0 we think the game’s over. It’s not over. And that’s one of those things we have to change. Now.” As long as I’ve been doing Flyers coverage I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed Timonen this mad. Timonen, a guy who generally doesn’t speak to the press that often and is usually the last guy out to talk to press if he’s scheduled to after a game, wanted to make sure he went first tonight. He spoke to the press for about a minute, but it was a good minute, and there was a solid message sent. One thing that has always been said about Kimmo is that he says things when they need to be said. Mike Richards told us this in the beginning of the year and we saw it tonight. “We can’t keep [making] the same mistakes over and over again,” Timonen said. “They’re individual mental mistakes and it seems like we’re not focused on 60 minutes. This team (Atlanta) is fighting for their lives and their playoff hopes are on the line so they’re going to work hard 60 minutes. So that was the case today. We gave up five goals in the third period. How do you expect to win games if you give up five goals? That’s something we have to learn and it has to happen now.”
To correct Timonen, the team gave up 4 goals in regulation and one in overtime but we get his point. Timonen said what needed to be said tonight, and pretty much did Richards job for him as Mike gave a couple short answers and ended the interview after about 45 seconds. Danny Briere was extremely upset after this loss, calling it “scary” that this could happen with 14 games left in the regular season. Danny Briere joined fellow teammates Kimmo Timonen, Ville Leino and Mike Richards by not really talking about any positives in tonight’s game. They were all upset and negative about the loss, and that is completely understandable. That’s why I’m extremely puzzled as to why head coach Peter Laviolette seemed OK with the loss.
When Peter Laviolette spoke to the media after the game he attributed this loss to some “bad breaks,” and said that he felt the focus was there tonight for the team. “I don’t get the sense that we didn’t work in the third period, I think we did. I think we competed,” Laviolette said. “This is not in the same chain that the last few have been.” The opinion of the Flyers players could not have been further from the coach’s on this game, and that’s very odd. Usually Laviolette is the guy who is striving for perfection. To make matters worse, Laviolette gave the team off tomorrow. Bit of a whacky decision by Laviolette maybe? But who knows what he is thinking and saying behind closed doors.
This is the kind of loss that festers, and a day off tomorrow might not be a great move. However, the Flyers now must prepare for a road trip which starts in Florida on Tuesday and they must take care of business against another below .500 team. Teams are right on the Flyers tail (Washington, Pittsburgh Boston), and if they don’t wake up soon, the expectations for this team are going to continue to sink, or worse, they could be caught. Guys like Kimmo Timonen hope the rest of the team understands that.
Other Team Notes/Observations:
* Flyers GM Paul Holmgren spoke to the media after the first period and said that Chris Pronger is wearing a removable cast on his injured hand, however he is still day-to-day and will make the road trip with the team. “When he’s ready to play, he’ll play,” Holmgren said.
* The Pittsburgh Penguins lost their earlier game against Montreal 3-0 today, so the Flyer overtime loss increased the division lead to 5 points with a game in hand.
* This was Ville Leino’s first career hat trick and second three point game of the season. Ville Leino’s last two-goal game was February 3rd vs. Nashville.
* The 18 shots allowed in the third period is the second highest total allowed for the Flyers this season. (First: 19 against FLA on 2/16)
* This is the second time the Flyers have allowed more than 4 goals in a third period. They allowed 5 vs. Boston on January 13th.
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