By Mary Cunningham
Last night was a classic example of why Flyers fans have their hair on fire about this team.
They were at home against the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets, a team they had beaten two night before on the road.
The Boston Bruins, who hold the last playoff spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference and are six points ahead of the Flyers, are unraveling.
Of course, the Blue Jackets beat the Flyers at the Wells 5-2, sending the faithful into the cold night air in despair.
It took Matt Calvert‘s tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to seal the Blue Jackets’ 5-2 over the Flyers.
Calvert scored two goals, and Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets (25-28-3). Ryan Johansenhad a goal and an assist, James Wisniewski also scored and Curtis McElhinney tied a career-high with 42 saves.
Michael Del Zotto had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (24-23-10), and Wayne Simmonds also scored for Philly, which had a season-high 44 shots on goal. Ray Emery finished with 24 saves.
The loss was the Flyers’ first in regulation since Jan. 19. They had picked up points their previous nine games (6-0-3).
The Blue Jackets led 2-0 after one period, but the Flyers dominated the second period and scored twice to tie the game.
“We were a little [angry] with how we played in the second,” Dubinsky said. “This is a tough team and they’ll make you play if you hold back. We wanted to go out [in the third] and be physical and get on the forecheck and I thought we did that. First period they were turning some pucks over and for some reason we got away from it in the second. We knew that if we pressured them and forechecked hard they would turn some over and sure enough they turned one over for the third goal.”
A turnover is exactly what led to Calvert’s game-winning goal.
Seconds after he was robbed by Emery right in front, the Flyers tried to break out of their zone. But Vincent Lecavalier’s pass was far behind teammate Chris VandeVelde and right on the stick of Dubinsky. He found Cam Atkinson for a 2-on-0 down low, and Atkinson threaded a pass through the slot to Calvert, who scored his eighth of the season at 9:54.
“We had a 4-on-2 originally and we had two or three great chances to score the go-ahead goal,” Calvert said. “Then [Dubinsky] made a great play to Cam, he put it backdoor to me, and it was easy one to put in the back of the net.”
Lecavalier took responsibility for the gaffe.
“I thought they were going 2-on-1,” he said. “I didn’t see that guy, obviously, that picked up the puck. Ray made a big save right before that, but obviously I’d like to get that back. … Definitely I think it’s easy to say now, I just threw it off the wall. Yeah, tough one, definitely.”
Flyers coach Craig Berube called the turnover inexcusable.
“Ray makes a spectacular save then we turn the puck over,” he said. “Inexcusable turnover and it’s in our net. … We talked about keeping the puck out of the middle of the ice against this team and it cost us.”
Dubinsky added an insurance goal at 13:28 when he pounced on the rebound of a low shot by Scott Hartnell to score his sixth of the season. It was his third straight game with a goal, tying the longest streak of his career.
Though the deciding goal came in the third period, Berube felt the Flyers lost the game in the first, when they trailed 2-0 on goals 1:48 apart by Wisniewski, on a power play, and Johansen, at even strength.
“Start of the game has an effect on the outcome,” Berube said. “Lost the game in first period.”
The Flyers carried play in the second, tying a season-high with 20 shots and scoring two goals in the final 2:35. Simmonds tipped a Del Zotto shot between McElhinney’s pads at 17:25, and then Del Zotto stepped into a loose puck off the rebound of an Umberger shot with 51.5 seconds remaining to make it 2-2.
But all the momentum, as well as a chance to move within four points of the Boston Bruins for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, disappeared in the third period.
“I thought we played better than them,” Simmonds said. “The first period they got us. Besides that I thought we were all over them. … Obviously it [stinks]. I thought we played a great third too. Sometimes you make a couple of mistakes early in the game and it comes back to bite you in the butt, and that’s what happened.”