Flyers coach riled by four unanswered goals

DAVID W. UNKLE -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 12:08 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA—It’s official—the wheels have fallen off the bus in Flyerland and head coach John Stevens left little to the imagination following the team’s 5-3 loss to the Eastern-Conference cellar-dwelling, Tampa Bay Lightning.

“What I sense is that we’re just playing the game—we’re not dictating the pace of games,” said Stevens, whose team has lost five straight games and six of their last eight.

“Working is not competing,” explained Stevens. “We can all go work hard, I can go outside and run and ride the bike and I can get a workout in. Working is one thing, competing is a whole other level. Competing is working with a will and determination that you’re not going to be denied.”

“In my opinion we have to show up to play,” added Stevens.

When queried about what needs to be done differently, Stevens asked, “Do what differently? Stop passing the puck to the guy in the other jersey? It’s ridiculous. We have to come out and play with the kind of urgency we finish games with.”

In essence, Stevens feels the boys are coming to the rink and breaking a sweat but doing little more to earn a paycheck and win hockey games. Perhaps the players saw the bottom-feeding Bolts and thought they could look ahead to this weekend’s challenging, home-and-home tilt against the Montreal Canadiens.

Losing Simon Gagne, perhaps for the season doesn’t help. But the most-glaring absence is the injuries to the Flyers’ pair of statuesque defenders, Braydon Coburn (torn gluteus muscle) and Derian Hatcher (knee). As a result, the light has shown brightly on struggling Jim Vandermeer who was on the ice for three of Tampa Bay’s five goals.

Still, things started out well for the Flyers on Thursday night.

Aside from dinging a few posts in the first period, luck was on the Flyers side. A gift goal knotted the score at 1-1 when Joffrey Lupul booted one into the twine from the crease on a feed from Mike Richards. Lupul missed the puck with his stick but clearly used a kicking motion to beat Tampa Bay netminder Johan Holmqvist. Later in the period, Mike Richards found Steve Downie coming out of the penalty box and the rookie winger deposited the puck for a shorthanded goal with 36 seconds remaining in the period.

But Stevens wasn’t happy with the early results.

“If you look at the first period we could’ve blown the game open but we didn’t.”

“I think we did some good things in the first period,” said Flyers’ captain Jason Smith, but “we didn’t execute well in the second period.”

To be exact, the Flyers laid back and allowed four unanswered goals, including three in the second period while taking four penalties (including three in a 2:17 span) that put the game out of reach and ignited Stevens in the process.

“Taking penalties because we were reaching and not working and then we get behind,” Stevens said. “The third period to me is an indication that if we want to get there we can get there. The Flyers fired 10 shots on net and trapped the Lighting in their own end for significant chunks of time while holding Tampa Bay to just four shots.

“There’s a fine line between defending and defending well and having the puck end up in your net,” said Stevens. “Instead of moving of our feet we take penalties. “To me we came into this game whether it was subconsciously or consciously we didn’t respect the game plan.”

With last season’s debacle still fresh on his mind, the coach reminded his players that, “We have an opportunity to play meaningful games in March…but all we’ve done is give ourselves an opportunity right now to compete like everyone else,” Stevens said.

“If we don’t win hockey games, we’re not going anywhere.”

“(Tonight), we came in trying to outscore (Tampa Bay) instead of trying to check (them),” said Stevens. “When you come in with that mindset this is what happens.”

NOTES: The Bolts have killed 24 of 26 (.923%) man-advantage opportunities for the Flyers dating back to last season. They killed 14-of-15 chances in 2006-07 and 10-of-11 this season (including 1-for-1 Thursday night). The Lightning have now won eight consecutive games against the Flyers at the Wachovia Center dating back to January 8, 2003, outscoring the Flyers 33-15 in those games. The Flyers suffered their second regulation loss of the season (in regulation) when leading after the first period dropping their record to 12-2-1. The Calgary Flames remain the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss when leading after the first period. Steve Downie’s marker with 36 seconds remaining in the first period was just the fourth, short-handed goal coughed up by Tampa Bay.


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