When the shortened season started in mid-January, the Philadelphia Flyers were not anticipating talking about being officially eliminated from the playoffs with about two weeks remaining.
The Flyers play their first game since being eliminated Saturday night when they host the New Jersey Devils.
Before the NHL paused its season on March 12, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Flyers (22-21-7, 51 points) were ascending, and when the league returned in July, they took the New York Islanders to seven games before bowing out in the second round. This year, the Flyers got off to a 11-4-3 start but since then they are 11-17-4.
Philadelphia hung on the fringes of the race for a while, but its 6-8-3 skid since March 29 gradually doomed the Flyers. And when Philadelphia took a 5-3 loss in New Jersey on Thursday, its playoff chances officially evaporated.
“Definitely not the way we saw this year going,” Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton said. “Had very high expectations, and it just didn’t happen. I think some nights we worked, and some nights we worked hard and not smart.
“It’s frustrating. Couldn’t get anything going. Seems like we chased the game a lot, we’re down a couple of goals, and it’s a hard league to come back in.”
On Thursday, the Flyers continued to struggle on special teams by allowing two power-play goals in the first period. Philadelphia has allowed a league-worst 41 power-play goals with 24 of them coming since March 1.
Laughton, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny scored for the Flyers, who allowed at least five goals for the second straight game.
While Philadelphia is left picking up the pieces following its elimination, the Devils are trying to produce a strong finish.
New Jersey (16-27-7, 39 points) is seeking its third straight win following a 10-game losing streak (0-9-1). The Devils are on their fifth winning streak of the season and seeking a third straight victory for the first time since Jan. 31 to Feb. 18 when they got off to a 6-3-2 start.
Since its only three-game winning streak of the season, New Jersey is 10-24-5.
After beginning the four-game series with Philadelphia by dropping a 4-3 decision in the shootout Sunday, the Devils followed up a 6-4 win by getting two power-play goals from rookie Yegor Sharangovich in the first period before Jesper Boqvist, Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt also scored.
“We have been feeling great,” Boqvist said. “We had a really good practice yesterday. We’re having a lot of fun and a lot of smiles out there. It was a great win today, too. We feel confident in our game. I feel like we showed it today.”
Sharangovich has been one of the bright spots in a season that has seen the Devils deal veterans Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the New York Islanders at the trade deadline. He has 26 points this season and has 14 (seven goals and seven assists) this month.
The Devils sat defenseman P.K. Subban on Thursday and may do so again. Subban’s absence created an opportunity for Kevin Bahl, who was acquired from Arizona last season for Taylor Hall, and he played about 15 minutes.
New Jersey leads the season series 3-2-1.
–Field Level Media