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Flyers fall to their former goalie prospect as Panthers get payback

Flyers fall to their former goalie prospect as Panthers get payback originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Coming off the emotional high of beating Boston, the Flyers had a letdown Sunday night with a 4-1 loss to the Panthers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Anthony Stolarz, a 2012 second-round draft pick of the Flyers, was excellent in net for Florida.

"I thought we played really well," head coach John Tortorella said. "Couldn't score. Goalie played really well."

Bobby Brink had the lone goal for the Flyers (36-27-9). Felix Sandstrom struggled in the team's net.

Sam Reinhart scored an empty-netter — his 50th goal of the season — to finish off the Flyers.

Tortorella's club is 2-3-1 in this seven-game gauntlet against contenders. The brutal stretch wraps up Tuesday against the Rangers, who lead the NHL with 47 wins.

The Flyers had a three-game point streak snapped (2-0-1).

The Panthers (46-20-5) were missing two of their better players, Aleksander Barkov (undisclosed) and Aaron Ekblad (lower body), because of injuries.

The Flyers went 2-1-0 in the three-game regular-season series against Florida. The Flyers' wins were 2-1 decisions on the road.

Both teams Sunday were on the second half of a back-to-back set. The Flyers beat the Bruins, 3-2, Saturday afternoon at home, while the Panthers played in New York and lost to the Rangers, 4-3, in a shootout. The game ended at 11:04 p.m. ET. The Flyers were unable to capitalize on what, at least in theory, looked like an advantageous spot.

• Despite the loss, the Flyers still hold a playoff spot with 10 games to go.

They've been in third place of the Metropolitan Division since the end of January. They entered Sunday with an 83.4 percent chance to make the postseason, according to Hockey-Reference.com's probabilities report.

The Capitals are the closest on the Flyers' tail in the division race. Washington is two points back of the Flyers and has played two fewer games. The clubs meet April 16 at the Wells Fargo Center in the regular-season finale for each team.

"You don't have time to breathe right now, the playoff race is so tight," Ryan Poehling said. "We have so many games in such a short amount of days and that's kind of a good thing, too. We're playing well, you just kind of forget about it and move on to the next one."

• Sandstrom, making his third start of the season, converted 11 saves on 14 shots.

After the game, when asked about Sandstrom, Tortorella shrugged and didn't provide an answer. Later, via the team's vice president of hockey communications Joe Siville, Tortorella clarified, saying Sandstrom is "trying his ass off."

Carter Verhaeghe delivered the backbreaking goal when he motored past rookie defenseman Adam Ginning and beat Sandstrom with a clean shot 4:43 minutes into the third period. The 27-year-old backup got a piece of it. The Flyers needed a save there.

"I need to be able to step up and keep us in it," Sandstrom said. "I'm not too happy about today."

Reinhart opened the scoring in the first period with his 49th goal of the season. It was a shot Sandstrom could likely stop.

The Flyers were not good in coverage, either. Florida exited the defensive zone by connecting on a pass that an aggressive Sean Couturier tried to intercept. As a result, the Flyers' three forwards were late to get back.

"It was just one of those days where I'm like, 'Why and how did that happen?'" Sandstrom said. "I've just got to be more detailed and make sure I probably track them better. ... Not fine goals to let in."

Stolarz stopped 32 of the Flyers' 33 shots. He played 19 career games for the Flyers before being traded to the Oilers in 2019.

"Stolie played a good game," Scott Laughton said. "We had a couple on our stick that probably should have went in the net, but they didn't and that's the result."

The Flyers' last-ranked power play went 1 for 5. Brink's goal came with the Flyers' net emptied for the 6-on-4 advantage and made it 3-1.

• The Flyers took costly penalties at the end of the first period when a scrum ensued following the buzzer. Brink and Cam York were hit with roughing infractions, while Matthew Tkachuk was the only Panther penalized.

Florida pounced on the early power play opportunity as Vladimir Tarasenko blasted home a shot only 55 seconds into the middle stanza. The goal cushioned the Panthers' lead to 2-0.

It's definitely surprising when a team comes out on the wrong end of penalties from a scrum unless it's blatantly obvious one side is causing more chaos. Regardless, it was a big swing against the Flyers.

Facing a two-goal deficit, they played with more urgency but had nothing to show for it at second intermission.

"We can build off the whole game," Tortorella said. "We played a good hockey game."

• The Flyers visit the Rangers on Tuesday for their first of two trips to Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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