The Panthers were their own worst enemy on Tuesday.
Missed assignments and various other defensive gaffes turned into gift-wrapped goals for the Philadelphia Flyers, who sent the NHL’s southern-most team home with their second straight loss, this one being of the 5-1 variety.
A scoreless 1st period and solid opening effort by the Panthers gave way to a four-goal middle frame for the Flyers which Sean Couturier started less than two minutes in.
The Panthers lost the face-off in their own zone and proceeded to leave the 24-year old forward alone at the top of the crease where he had all night to put the puck in behind Roberto Luongo.
It also meant the Panthers allowed the first goal for the fifth straight game to start the season.
Shayne Gostisbehere burned his hometown team with a blazing wrist shot from the slot that found its way past Luongo to make the score 2-0 in favor of the Flyers just over 6 minutes later.
“First goal was a missed assignment on a face-off, second goal was a missed assignment in the neutral zone,” said a visible somber head coach Bob Boughner. “Now you’re down 2-0, now you start coming out of the box and getting out of the team play and team structure.”
Claude Giroux took advantage of a Panthers’ defense that was slow to get back up the ice and put a shot five-hole on a breakaway, extending the Philadelphia lead to 3 and the Panthers’ power play goals allowed streak to a season-long five games.
Three minutes later, a soft clearing attempt by the Flyers in their own zone got past Vincent Trocheck at the point, allowing Travis Konecny to skate in on a breakaway of his own.
His shot was stopped by Luongo, but created a rebound which a speeding Nolan Patrick dropped of for Dale Weise who made no mistake on a virtually empty net.
Both goals came as the Panthers’ defense pinched deep into the offensive zone to create scoring chances which left unprepared forwards covering the point or other defensemen unable to return to their posts in time.
The Panthers’ lone marker came with under 4 minutes remaining in the 3rd period as Jamie McGinn put in a cross-ice feed from Vrbata – which was tipped in the middle of the slot by Nick Bjugstad – past Michal Neuvirth for his first goal with the team.
It was their only goal on six total power play opportunities.
Michal Neuvirth stoned the Panthers on several occasions as part of an impressive 40-save performance.
The Panthers’ night was capped off – fittingly, one might say – with a clean face-off win in the neutral zone that went straight back into their own empty net, giving the Flyers their fifth and final goal.
Luongo, who was vying for his 455th career victory in the NHL for sole possession of fourth all-time, made 34 saves on 38 shots in the loss.
One bright spot for the Panthers, however, was the NHL debut of Owen Tippett.
The 18-year old, drafted 10th-overall in June’s draft by the Panthers, slotted in on the third-line right wing with Jared McCann and Jamie McGinn after sitting out the first four games of the season.
The Panthers’ coaching staff had been wanting to get him into a game but didn’t want to tinker too much with a lineup that was playing well.
A late injury to Colton Sceviour (day-to-day) in Saturday’s loss to the Penguins opened the door for Tippett to finally make his debut.
Despite logging just 11:39 of ice time in the game, 2:02 of which was on the power play, the native of Peterborough, Ontario recorded 7 shots on goal and a whopping 12 attempted shots, leading both teams in both categories.
He made a few really nice plays to weave through Flyers and skate the puck through the neutral zone and even successfully attempted a between-the-legs move to get in behind a Philadelphia defender.
“I thought he was our best player,” said Boughner. “That’s great for him but I think other guys have gotta check themselves in the mirror. If an 18-year old kid playing in his first NHL game is your best player then you’re not gonna have a chance to win many games.”
Late in the game, he was rewarded with several shifts on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
“Obviously not the outcome we wanted but I was excited,” said Tippett, who scored 44 goals in 60 games for the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads last season. “All day you’re itching to get back to the rink and get on the ice finally, so it was a great experience.”
Tippett has the ability to play in nine total games with the Panthers before they must decide whether to send him back to his junior team or keep him up with the big club, in which case they’d burn a year off his entry-level contract.
Based on his performance relative to the rest of the team, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get another crack as soon as Friday when the Panthers’ take on the Penguins in a rematch at the BB&T Center.
- Denis Malgin and Mackenzie Weegar were scratched from the lineup for the fifth consecutive game. Malgin was returned on loan from the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds after suiting up for three games in three days this past weekend.
- Colton Sceviour is day-to-day after taking an elbow from Patric Hornqvist during the 3rd period of Saturday’s game against the Penguins.
- Aleksander Barkov led all forwards and defensemen in the game by logging 25:42 of ice time. He also finished 52% in the face-off circle.