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January 05, 2017

With loss to Rangers, Flyers continue to slide

Flyers NHL

After Wednesday night’s 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, Dave Hakstol was asked how the odd-man rushes continued to pile up against his defense.

“Well I don’t evaluate how their team played, but I know when you give up six or seven 2-on-1s, we’ll take the responsibility on that,” Hakstol said.

As he always seems to be against the Flyers, Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant in stopping 30 of 32 shots that came his way. And three weeks after the Flyers won their 10th consecutive game in Colorado, the Orange and Black have now followed it up with a 1-5-2 spell. Just like that, all of the good work has been undone.

Against New York, Steve Mason wasn’t able to equal his opposite number with 27 saves on 31 shots. The Flyers defense put him in some tough situations with bad offensive zone pinches (looking at you, Brandon Manning), but Mason wasn’t able to bail them out as much as one might hope.

Perhaps Mason, making his 22nd start in 24 games, is a bit fatigued. Forced to shoulder a major load over the past few months, the 28-year-old has played well after a poor start to the season.

“It’s not a fun time right now,” Mason said. “We have to find way to come out on top and just push through here without getting too discouraged.”

The Flyers looked lifeless for a good bit of the night but were still within striking distance entering the third period, trailing 1-0. They would surrender four goals in the final 20 minutes, and their coach was at least a tad more critical than usual.

“We had twenty-some minutes to keep digging in and grinding, playing the right way to tie the game up,” Hakstol said. “We didn’t do that tonight. We gave up the three easy goals in my opinion in the third period.”

According to Hockey Reference, the Flyers’ playoff odds are now down to 34.4 percent. Their schedule is catching up to them a bit in January, as seven of the remaining 11 games this month are on the road.

The good news is that the Flyers will also get a couple of nice breaks (one five-day respite, another four days) this month. Perhaps Hakstol can use the time to make some lineup moves — Breaking up the Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald pairing seems obvious from here — and the team can get back on track.

“I don’t think anyone in the locker room could care about that ten-game winning streak,” Jake Voracek said after scoring two goals. “We are on a spiral right now. We know that we have to find a way to win some games here because we don’t want to chase.”

That’s the problem, though: Because of their poor play over the past few weeks, the Flyers are back to chasing.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann