Philadelphia, PA (AP) - It was a perfect opportunity for the Flyers to get 2012 off to a terrific start. But, after shining in the spotlight of the Winter Classic, Philly failed its next two tests with a miserable thud. The Flyers offense disappeared for a second straight time at home, this time losing to Ottawa 2-1.
And the offensive woes grew even more when Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk went down with an injury in the first period of Saturday night's contest. JVR was rushing towards the middle of the slot in Ottawa's defensive zone when Jason Spezza took him out. Van Riemsdyk landed hard on his right hand.
"It's one of those things that just happens," said a frustrated van Riemsdyk with a big bag of ice wrapped around his hand at his locker. "I don't think it was a dirty hit. The guy got me good. Unfortunately, it's part of the game. It's just upsetting that I won't be able to help the team out the next couple of weeks."
Flyers fans booed Spezza every time he touched the puck for the rest of the game. JVR has been leading the way offensively for the Flyers. His 16 goals is tops on a team that's near the bottom of the league averaging under 2.5 scores a game. Team officials expect he'll be out anywhere between two to three weeks with the banged up hand.
As for the game, it was full of frustrations in the offensive zone for Philadelphia. The Flyers sent nearly 40 shots at Senators goalie Craig Anderson. But, time and time again, he turned those scoring chances away.
Anderson was a rock in net all night long for Ottawa. Here, he makes one of his 38 stops on the night.
"We ran into a goalie that happened to play out of mind," said Philadelphia forward Scott Hartnell. "It's annoying as all heck, we came close a number of times. We just couldn't finish. Credit him (Anderson) for that, but the bottom line is that when we get good attempts in front of the net, we've got to bang them home."
It took a while for either team to really start generating those chances in the first period, as both sides spent the first 10 minutes of the game feeling each other out. Philadelphia's best chances came on the power play with a little more than 7 minutes left in the period.
Maxime Talbot rocketed a one-timer from the slot that was denied by Anderson. Claude Giroux had two great scoring opportunities in front of the net. The second one was blocked by defenseman Chris Phillips, who was covering the left side of the net when Anderson couldn't quite get over in time. Chris Pronger couldn't stuff home the rebound, keeping the game scoreless at the time.
Ottawa was able to get on the board first with three minutes left. It started innocently enough with Senators centerman Peter Regin taking the puck into the neutral zone and hitting Marek Svatos on the right side. He carried the puck across the blue line, stopped just outside the circle, then blasted a slap shot over Philadelphia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's right shoulder that just barely snuck under the cross bar.
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Carle was able to tie the game up early in the second period with his 11th goal of the season.
"That's a play we'd really like to have back," admitted Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. "We didn't check their guy and gave him far too much room to wind up and shoot. You give a guy that much space, he's bound to blow one by you, and that's what he did."
Matthew Carle was able to get the Orange and Black on the board with the equalizer early in the second period, and that did seem to spark the offense a bit. Philadelphia was able to get a number of decent scoring opportunities, but again, Anderson continued to turn them away.
As much as the offense has struggled, the Flyers defense has been a bright spot this week. Philly had given up just two goals in the two contests prior to the game against the Senators. Philadelphia did a much better job cleaning up rebounds given up by Bobrovsky, limiting Ottawa's chances in the second and third period.
But, the Senators did break through one more time. Just 19 seconds into the third period, Daniel Alfredsson got the puck deep into the slot and was able to bury it past Bobrovsky for the 2-1 lead. The Flyers put on a flurry of shots, particularly in the first half of the period, outshooting Ottawa 13-3. But, Philadelphia never lit the lamp the rest of the way, suffering its second straight defeat.
NHL Standings - Updated: Jan 7, 2012
EAST PLAYOFF RACE
Toronto Maple Leafs
The win was the Senators' seventh victory in ten games. Their 7-1-2 stretch has helped put them in a tie with the Flyers for third place in the Eastern Conference. While Carolina appears to be storming away from the pack, the next five teams are separated by just six points.
"There's still a lot of hockey left to play," said Laviolette. "But, if we're not careful, we could slip pretty far in the standings pretty quick. We can't afford a lengthy losing streak."
Things don't get any easier for the Flyers. They play again tomorrow night against the same team, the Senators. But this time, they'll be on the road in Ottawa. That's just the first in a four game stretch away from the Wells Fargo Center over the next week. All four teams are well above the .500 mark.
"It'll be a challenge, no doubt," admitted captain Chris Pronger. "But, we're certainly up for it. We're getting a good idea of who we are, and what we need to do to get better for the playoffs."
OTTAWA SENATORS at PHILADELPHIA FLYERS - Jan 7, 2011
Craig Anderson, OTT 37 Saves, .974 SV%
Sergei Bobrovsky, PHI 27 Saves, .931 SV%
Daniel Alfredsson, OTT GW Goal, 4 SOG, +1
Shots on Goal
Power Plays Converted
Time on Attack
17:01 M. Svatos (19), (P. Regin, E. Karlsson)
2:13 M. Carle (11), (K. Timonen)
0:19 D. Alfredsson (10), (S. Gonchar, M. Michalek)
Goaltender Interference (Minor) [12:03] Z. Konopka