The sputtering Philadelphia Flyers had their desire questioned by their captain last week, but their response was tepid enough that their coach made similar comments following their most recent defeat.
They’ll try again to end a dismal stretch of play Monday night against the Florida Panthers, who opened their road trip with a loss to another disappointing opponent.
Philadelphia seemed to be in great shape just over a month ago, but the team is 3-12-1 since Nov. 20, getting outscored 53-29 in that stretch as its promising group of young forwards has gone quiet.
Captain Mike Richards(notes), who has been held without a point in eight of his last 11 games after an 80-point season in 2008-09, said his team was “not playing with enough heart right now to win” after a loss to Pittsburgh last week, but things haven’t gotten much better.
The Flyers (15-17-2) lost again to the Penguins in a shootout Thursday, then dropped a 2-1 decision at home to the New York Rangers on Saturday, scoring two or fewer goals for the 11th time in its last 13 games and drawing the ire of their coach.
“I would’ve thought we would’ve ripped the hinges off the gate (Saturday) to get out on the ice,” said coach Peter Laviolette, who replaced John Stevens on Dec. 4. “We were so far from that, in my opinion, to start the game. We got what we deserved.”
Laviolette can only hope his team will build on a strong third period during which it outshot New York 16-5 despite being unable to get the equalizer.
“The way we played in the third, with the desperation, the tenacity on the puck, the grit, working the boards, moving our feet - that has to be 60 minutes,” Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger(notes) said. “When we don’t, (a loss) is going to be the result whether (Rangers goalie Henrik) Lundqvist is in the net or not.”
The Hurricanes are the only team behind Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference, and the Panthers had beaten them 6-3 at home the previous night to extend their winning streak to three. But a late comeback attempt after falling behind 3-0 wasn’t enough for Florida.
“I don’t know if it’s a matter of a bad start or the end of a long schedule we didn’t have good legs (Saturday),” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “It’s been a long two months for us here and we just didn’t have it.”
Florida continued to see a major emergence from center Stephen Weiss(notes), who pulled Florida within one goal midway through the third period with his 17th goal of the season - three shy of his career high.
Weiss has been especially hot in the last five weeks. Since Nov. 14, his 13 goals are tied with Sidney Crosby(notes) and his 26 points are tied with Crosby and Joe Thornton(notes) for most in the league in that stretch.
Weiss had a goal and an assist in Florida’s 4-2 home win over the Flyers on Oct. 16, but the Panthers lost 5-1 at Philadelphia eight days later.