PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Flyers’ late surge came up short against New Jersey. They can only hope they have the gas needed to go the distance in their sputtering playoff push.
Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Yegor Sharangovich and Travis Zajac scored and the Devils beat Philadelphia 4-3 on Tuesday night.
“It didn’t seem like we had a lot in the tank,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Devils have won four of five games.
“Guys are starting to feel confident with what we are trying to do,” McLeod said. “Everyone seems like they are clicking the last couple of games.”
Not so in Philadelphia.
The top four teams in the East Division make the playoffs and the Flyers entered a pivotal stretch just two points behind Boston for the final spot. Starting with the Devils, the Flyers played five straight games against teams behind them in the standings. Trying to make a push at jumping back into the playoff race, the Flyers pinned yet another loss on shaky defense and goalie Carter Hart.
The Flyers dropped their third straight.
Joel Farabee scored his 14th goal of the season. Sean Couturier added two goals late in the third to make it 4-3. The Flyers pulled Hart in the final minute and made a mad rush a tie game but could not force OT.
“We’ll find a way to get the results we want here,” Couturier said.
McLeod, a fourth-liner, backhanded in his fourth goal of the year for the 1-0 lead. Farabee, one of the lone bright spots in a breakout year for the Flyers, curled a rebound just inside the pipe to make it 1-all.
Then the wheels came off for the Flyers, who heard a chorus of 3,100 boos.
“We’ve had some moments obviously where we haven’t been good,” Vigneault said. “It’s come in bunches in a short amount of time. I really believe this group understands the way it has to play to be successful. It’s not there yet on a consistent basis.”
Mackenzie Blackwood made 30 saves. Ty Smith had two assists.
“When you have a guy back there like Blackie kicking like he was tonight, it gives you confidence to play kind of free and with pace to know that he’ll be there all night,” Smith said.
The Flyers had a lazy possession with the puck and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere failed to clear it out of the zone, allowing Palmieri to pounce with 5.6 seconds left in the period.
Sharangovich scored his seventh goal of the season in the second when Flyers defenseman Phil Myers committed a turnover and the Devils seemed poised to break this one open.
Zajac caught the Flyers D napping again in the final minute and banked in his fourth goal of the season with 23.4 seconds left — yes, two goals to close the first two periods inside 25 seconds left — to seal the win.
The 22-year-old Hart dropped to 8-8-3 this season and has played nothing like the goalie who last season became the second-youngest goaltender in NHL history to record back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs. The Flyers are 4-8-1 in March — and Hart is 2-5.
“I don’t think we’re playing a full 60 right now,” Hart said. “We can’t just show up for the last 10 minutes of the third and expect to win the game.”
Devils D P.K. Subban has three goals and 14 points in 30 games this season, not far off from last season’s pace. But a step slower at 31 years old — and costly at $9 million this season — the Devils needed more and he could be on the trading block with the deadline just weeks away.
Subban may not be the game-changer he was in his prime. But for a team making a push and willing to take on a smaller chunk of the contract, Subban could be worth the risk.
“I think he’s on the rise,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “For me, it’s when P.K is skating, making an effort to get involved in the play up ice. I’ve challenged him to be more involved, to be a fourth guy. Make sure he’s getting his shot through when we get it back to him. There’s been a few games where he’s had good looks and hasn’t gotten it through. He’s got such a great shot that when he does get it through, we’ve seen him beat goaltenders clean from the point without a screen.”
New Jersey heads to Washington for games Thursday and Friday against the Capitals.
The Flyers host the Rangers on Thursday and Friday.
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