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February 09, 2016

Ducks 4, Flyers 1: Playoff chances starting to slip as Flyers come out flat

Flyers NHL

Tired after a couple of close, emotional losses over the weekend? Unfamiliar with a physical Western Conference opponent? Badly missing their second-line center? Whatever the reason(s), the Philadelphia Flyers came out flat on Tuesday. As multiple players said after the game, they just didn’t have it coming out of the blocks.

They trailed 12-1 in the shot department at one point in the first period, and after a couple of Rickard Rakell goals in the opening 20 minutes, the Orange and Black were booed off the ice. The Anaheim Ducks completed the season sweep by cruising to a 4-1 victory over the Flyers in South Philly.

“We lost the game in the first period,” Claude Giroux said. “Obviously we battled back and tried to catch up but when you play catch-up hockey like that, it’s hard.”

Making matters worse, the Ducks were the ones who had reason to be tired. After flying across the country, Anaheim was embarrassed in Pittsburgh just last night. And yet it was the Flyers who took six hooking penalties, one of which led to Chris Stewart’s penalty shot that took advantage of a five-hole from Steve Mason you could drive a truck through:

“It’s just us not moving our feet,” Wayne Simmonds said. “I don’t think they’re a much better skating team than we are. We’re a pretty good skating team when we decide that we want to skate.”

In the second period, the Flyers definitely decided they wanted to get physical. This tactic awoke what had been a lethargic crowd to at least some degree, but the Flyers didn’t score any goals because of it. A killer Jake Voracek roughing penalty took away half of what was a four-minute double minor.

Fight of the night honors went to Brandon Manning and Patrick Maroon:

If anything, the physical play proved detrimental. Dave Hakstol certainly thought his team let their emotions get the best of them.

“Tonight, we did,” Hakstol said. “Yeah, honest answer, we did. Nothing is going to come easy at this time of year. Teams are competing hard for every single point and if you’re a little off like we were tonight, it’s going to cost you.”

Simmonds scored on the power play (against the best penalty kill in the NHL at 89.1%) in the third period, because that’s what Simmonds tends to do. Still, it was too little, too late for a Flyers team that was playing from behind all night long.

Mason, who is battling an injury, stopped 22 of 25 Anaheim shots that went his direction. When asked questions about his health, the netminder wasn’t making any excuses.

“I feel fine,” Mason said. “At this point of the season you have to grind through some things. I’m no different. We have to find ways to win hockey games right now.”

After stumbling during the early part of the season, the Ducks looked every bit like the team that many pegged as Cup contenders before the season. The Flyers, well, they resembled the team that almost everyone felt wouldn’t make the playoffs.

Proving the preseason prognosticators wrong is starting to look like a much more difficult task for the Orange and Black. After the Flyers only have one point to show from their last three games, they currently sit six points behind Pittsburgh for the final wild-card spot. There are four teams between the Keystone State rivals in the standings, all of which the Flyers have games in hand on.

After close, competitive losses to New York and Washington, this is the game that Hakstol will focus on heading into Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.

“Today’s game is the one we have to focus on turning around so I’m not making it any bigger than that,” he said.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann