PHILADELPHIA — Facing the Flyers in their rink is daunting. Falling behind the Flyers is deadly.
The Winnipeg Jets, like many teams this season, learned that lesson the hard way Saturday in south Philly.
Spotting the host a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes on goals by third-line centre Scott Laughton, Winnipeg lagged behind the rest of the afternoon and, ultimately, dropped a 4-2 decision to the Flyers (35-20-7).
A three-game winning streak by the Jets (32-26-5) ground to a screeching halt in the City of Brotherly Love, their second of four stops on an eastern road trip.
Check out the Flyers’ flashy numbers at Wells Fargo Center this season. Head coach Alain Vigneault’s surging squad is 21-5-4 on home ice and simply refuses to relinquish a lead. Philadelphia, which occupies third place in the Metropolitan Division, is 33-0-3 when tied or leading after 40 minutes.
"I think we had a sleepy start. We knew they come hard right out of the gate, especially here. So, they score two in the beginning. It was kind of a rough start, but after that I think we played better," said winger Patrik Laine. "Especially the second (period), we were kind of in control of the game. In the third, we just had a couple of mistakes. It was a tough loss."
Winnipeg has a chance to rebound this afternoon in a battle with the Sabres in Buffalo. Game time is 2 p.m. CT.
The Jets blasted 15 shots at Philadelphia goalie Carter Hart, including a laser to the top shelf by Josh Morrissey, his fifth goal of the year, with less than two minutes left in the middle frame — but still trailed 3-1.
Laine scored his 26th on the power play at the 3:00 mark of the third, heightening the hope level for the visitors with a blistering one-timer off a pass from blue-liner Neal Pionk.
But Tyler Pitlick rounded out the scoring midway through the period, redirecting a point that bounced off Morrissey and skipped behind goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
Hellebuyck was beaten cleanly on Laughton’s seeing-eye shot below the bar just 2:05 into the game. The Jets’ third line of Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton and Jansen Harkins couldn’t handle the speed of former Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Ivan Provorov and the neglected to pick up Laughton heading to the slot.
"We give up a goal on the first shot, just on a misread off a rush," said head coach Paul Maurice. "I liked our second (period) an awful lot, then we get behind it a little. We had a big, long flurry there and cracked two posts.
"We needed to get the puck to the net a little differently. On some of our best opportunities, we didn’t get to the net. We missed. Other than that, I’m not going to complain about the game."
Winnipeg has now given up the first goal in seven consecutive games.
Despite the defeat, the Jets still enter toay’s action in a Western Conference wild-card spot.
Hellebuyck looked shaky seven minutes later on the third-line centre’s weak shot that skipped off his pad and dribbled past him. But he was challenged to know the whereabouts of the puck on Couturier’s goal after a point shot hit Jakub Voracek in the glove and bounced into traffic.
The Flyers finished with a slight edge in shots on goal, 30-29.
"It would be fun not to be down right away every game. That’s something we definitely need to work on to get the opening goal," said Laine. "But it can’t be just that. We can’t give up if we end up giving up the first goal. We have to battle back and, hopefully, score a couple. Two wasn’t enough this afternoon. Have a new chance (today in Buffalo)."
The winger was highly engaged, firing eight shots at Hart, and led the team with five hits.
Winnipeg’s top line of centre Mark Scheifele and wingers Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers had a forgettable afternoon. The Danish speedster was credited with the lone shot from the trio.
"I think we played a pretty good hockey game. The bounces didn’t go our way. Obviously, they’re a good team in this building. It was tough for us… we weren’t very opportunistic, would be a good way to put it," said Wheeler. "You go down two in this building, it’s tough. We fight back to 3-2 and then a bad bounce on the fourth one."
Winnipeg product Cody Eakin, acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in a trade Friday, will meet the Jets in Buffalo and is expected to play.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff swapped a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2021 for the veteran forward.
Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 42nd goal of the season and the 700th of his NHL career Saturday in a 3-2 defeat the New Jersey Devils, will be feted Tuesday night in Washington with the Jets there as the opposition.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 4:53 PM CST: Updates final
4:59 PM: Updates sidebar
February 23, 2020 at 9:23 AM: Photos added.