Esche digs hole with a soft goal

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:14 PM ET


 A soft, early goal put the home team in a hole and the Philadelphia Flyers went on to lose a game they were expected to win.

 Sound familiar?

 It happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday and it happened to the Flyers last night at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

 On this occasion, Tampa's Cory Stillman came down the right side and took a pass that was onside by a hair. Stillman let go a routine 50-footer and it sailed over Robert Esche's glove and into the net.

 Esche's teammates tried to put a brave face on it, pointing out that there were still 47 minutes to play. But Esche, to his credit, shouldered the blame.

 "It was just a bad goal by me," Esche said.

 "It was something we're not happy with, but I thought I did a good job of battling back and trying to stay in it as long as I could.

 "When you give up a goal like that early in the game, it kind of takes the wind out of everybody's sails."

 Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock professed not to be worried.

 "It's new ground for him," he said. "He's a really competitive guy. I'm sure he's like the rest of us. He's disappointed.

 "But this is a new challenge in his competitive life and I think, knowing his character and knowing the way that he competes, he'll step up and play very, very well."

 Esche insisted that the bad game was already behind him and that he would give it no further thought.

 "I don't think it's a matter of shaking it off," he said. "I have been preparing for this all season long. I feel that mentally and physically, I'm as strong as I've ever been. I still have a lot of confidence. I still feel 110% physically and that's the way I'm looking at the next game."

 But having said all that, Esche had to make one more concession.

 "It was an awful loss," he said.


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