Flyers deal Red Wings damaging loss in playoff race

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Philadelphia — The chase for the playoffs is on but the Red Wings are crawling backwards.

To start what could be a season-defining, four-game trip Tuesday, the Red Wings produced a dud for most of the night, losing 4-3 in Philadelphia.

The Red Wings cut the deficit to one-goal on three occasions but never could tie the score and earn a point in the standings.

Tomas Tatar cut the Flyers lead to 4-3 with his 19th goal at 16 minutes, 14 seconds of the third period, putting back a rebound of Pavel Datsyuk’s shot.

BOX SCORE: Flyers 4, Red Wings 3

But the Red Wings couldn’t get the tying goal, a late Gustav Nyquist slashing penalty with 56 seconds remaining snuffing any hope of forcing overtime.

“Once we got scored on we got on our heels too easy,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We didn’t show the resilience needed once you get scored on. We have to make sure to quell the momentum.

“After we get scored on, we have to be way better than that.”

The tone for much of this game was set in the opening 20 minutes. The Flyers outshot the Red Wings 23-3 in the first period, as dominant and lopsided a period a team has played against the Red Wings in quite a long time.

It was also the fifth consecutive game the Red Wings didn't score in the first period, putting them in yet another hole to climb out of.

But Blashill and several players felt the first five minutes were acceptable — it was after the Flyers got on the scoreboard that Philadelphia took over the game.

“The first five minutes, it wasn’t that bad,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “But then when they scored their first goal, we got on our heels and they really took it over.

“We got ourselves into the game and we were playing pretty good except for some mental lapses (after the first period).”

Andreas Athanasiou and Datsyuk had the other Red Wings goals, while Petr Mrazek stopped 42 shots — the Flyers outshot the Red Wings 46-37 — as the Red Wings lost their second consecutive game and saw the Flyers move to within one point (79-78) of them in the race for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

But the Flyers have played two fewer games, and the way these teams looked most of Tuesday, the Red Wings have their work cut out for them.

“We had a chance (to move further ahead) and didn’t take it,” Zetterberg said. “We just have to move on.”

One bright spot for the Red Wings: Anthony Mantha made his NHL debut and didn’t look out of place on a line with Datsyuk.

Mantha had one good scoring chance on a partial breakaway and rang a shot off the post, just wide of goalie Steve Mason.

Mantha also provided a big (6-foot-5), strong net-front presence on the power play and wasn’t bashful about shooting the puck with four shots.

“Amazing for sure, unfortunately we lost,” Mantha said of his first NHL game. “But the experience is there and I hope we can get (it) back in Columbus.

“I had a few opportunities and few battles down low in the first period. I was just trying to keep it simple and trying to find my legs. As the game went along, it got better and better.”

Said Blashill: “Mantha played real well, he showed real well. If he wins stick battles like this on a regular basis in the NHL, he’s going to be a good player for a long time."

But, overall, this wasn’t good enough from the Red Wings, especially from a defensive standpoint.

Michael Raffl had two Flyers goal, Wayne Simmonds had a goal, and Shayne Gostisbehere had the other, and three of them could be credited to sloppy defensive coverage.

“As a defense, our defensive corps is way better than that,” Blashill said. “We have six real good defensemen and they can play better than that on Thursday (in Columbus).”

Anthony Mantha’s debut

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Plus/minus: Even

Time on ice: 14:45

Shots: 4

Hits: 1

Penalty minutes: 0.