A delay tactic was employed by Peter Laviolette in response to the Lightnings' 1-3-1 defensive coverage. Could it have been a case of over-thinking things, and ultimately led to the Flyers undoing?
The way the goal was scored proved rather indicative of how most of the night had gone. On the winning play, defenseman Braydon Coburn, who signed a four-year, $18 million contract extension earlier in the day, allowed Dominic Moore to get around him along the right wing side and drive to the net. Moore was able to flip a backhander on goal, and Bryzgalov turned it aside.
The fatal problem ended up being Connolly, who trailed the play and went to the net looking for a rebound. Defenseman Andrej Meszaros, instead of moving out to take the man, stayed put by his netminder along the goal line and watched as the 19-year-old rookie scored his third goal of the season.
Connolly's goal completed a Lightning comeback after trailing heading into the third period. With Jakub Voracek in the penalty box for a questionable tripping call, Steven Stamkos got the puck back to the point to power play quarterback Marc-Andre Bergeron. The diminutive defenseman possesses a cannon shot and sent an absolute howitzer towards the goal, beating a screened Bryzgalov for his third of the year to tie the game at 7:41.
The tally by Bergeron erased a 1-0 Philadelphia lead, built in the first period on a man advantage of their own. With Pavel Kubina in the box, Scott Hartnell gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead midway through the opening frame. Voracek took a hard, low shot from the point that Hartnell was able to get his stick on and deflect over Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson's shoulder to open the scoring at the 9:34 mark of the first.
Bryzgalov finished with 22 saves on 24 shots on goal, and was excellent throughout the evening.
Testing Roloson just 15 times, it was easily the Flyers lowest shot total of the season. Of the 15 total shots, nine of those were recorded by the line of Hartnell (4), Claude Giroux (3), and Jaromir Jagr (2).
Chris Pronger, who returned to the lineup tonight after a six-game absence due to a serious eye injury, saw a team-high 25:22 of ice time. Pronger's return coincided with Erik Gustafsson's wrist injury that could keep him out of the lineup for some time if he requires surgery.
With how the contest began, it wasn't surprising that there were low shot totals for both sides. As Guy Boucher's squad dropped into their 1-3-1 zone coverage, the Philadelphia defense refused to come out of their own zone without facing any puck pursuit.
Coburn began the trend, standing at the defensive right faceoff dot as the Tampa forwards refused to take the bait and pursue the puck. It was obvious that Peter Laviolette had warned his defensemen not to get caught in the quagmire that is the Lightning neutral zone, where they love to force turnovers and attempt to strike quickly as part of an opportunistic counter-attack.
It was almost surreal, kind of like looking at one of those panoramic photos of the entire ice surface. No one was moving, and after two times where the officials blew the play dead in order to have a faceoff in hopes of making somebody do something, the officials went to the bench to warn Laviolette of their dislike of the tactic.
It eventually had the affect of an old basketball four corners delay strategy.
In the end, it led to less scoring chances for both teams, and some boring stretches for the Tampa Bay fans. The 'chess match' of strategies between the coaches may have led to Laviolette's over-thinking things. With the highest-scoring offense in the entire NHL, the stall tactics may have been counter-productive for the club's psyche.
Instead of attacking the Bolts, the Flyers were lackluster. And it may have culminated with the mindset of the defensive pairing's apathy on Tampa Bay's winning goal.