PHILADELPHIA – Barry Melrose returned to coaching after a 13-year break because he missed the passion of the game.
When he didn’t see any on the ice in the first period, Melrose had no problem blasting his Tampa Bay Lightning players.
They responded by finishing off the Flyers.
Vaclav Prospal and Jussi Jokinen scored second-period goals to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
“I went in and called them every name under the sun,” Melrose said. “I challenged their manhood. And if I have to do that after every first period, I will. When we play hard, we’re an excellent team.”
Mike Smith made 34 saves for the Lightning, who ended a two-game losing streak. They played the third game of a five-game road trip, with games ahead at Washington and Florida.
“We responded and I’m happy with the way the guys responded,” Smith said. “You could tell in the first period, we were lackadaisical with the puck. We weren’t hitting, we were losing puck battles, and it showed all over the ice.”
Danny Briere’s goal in his first game back since abdominal surgery couldn’t spark the Flyers. Philadelphia lost its third straight and has scored only goal in each of the last two games.
The Flyers played one of their most energetic and effective first periods of the season, only to fizzle in the next two. Briere scored in the first during a two-man advantage, but the Flyers wasted another short one in the third. That sent the Lightning on the way to their 14th win against Philadelphia in 17 games.
In an odd twist, defenceman Matt Carle played for the Flyers and Steve Eminger was in the lineup for Tampa Bay a day after they were traded for each other. The teams also exchanged draft picks, and the Lightning acquired forward Steve Downie. Downie was assigned to the AHL.
Eminger left Philadelphia with a new team and another win on his former home ice.
Former Flyers forward Mark Recchi fed Jokinen, who snapped the puck past Martin Biron to make it 1-1 early into the second.
Prospal, who finished last season with the Flyers and helped them reach the Eastern Conference finals, took advantage of a 3-on-1 rush during Philadelphia’s line change and scored the go-ahead goal.
Biron had 20 saves.
“It’s odd when we’re scoring goals in bunches and couldn’t keep them out of our net, now we are keeping them out of our net and we are not scoring,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “It has to start from not giving up as much at our net. That is where this thing is going to turn around. I think we did that tonight and that is a step in the right direction.”
The Flyers, though, didn’t help Biron by flopping on the power play.
The Flyers went 1-for-5 with an advantage – they missed on their final four chances – a miserable number against a Tampa Bay defence that entered with the second worst road penalty kill in the NHL (8-for-25).
“We made two stupid mistakes and that was the only thing we gave them all night,” Briere said.
Briere wasted little time making an impact only two weeks after he had surgery to fix a torn abdominal muscle. Originally expected to miss three to four weeks, Briere was back on the ice and centred the first line with Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne. He said he felt fine after the game.
Adam Hall was whistled for interference, and defenceman Marek Malik also was penalized, giving the Flyers the 5-on-3 edge. Mike Richards’ shot from the top of the right circle bounced off Smith to Knuble, who made a quick cross-ice pass to Briere for his fourth goal and a 1-0 lead.
The Flyers recorded 18 shots in the first period before their offence fell flat. They had only five in the second and just one through the first 10 minutes of the third. Philadelphia put pressure on Smith in the closing minutes of the final period, but the goalie held up strong in his fourth straight start.
Melrose hopes Tampa Bay got the message about playing hard for all 60 minutes.
“I have no problem doing it,” he said. “I’m hoping that they get to the point where they don’t want to hear me do it. That’s the ideal thing.”
Notes: RW Martin St. Louis played in his 552nd career game with Tampa Bay, tying him with Brad Richards for second on the franchise list. … The Flyers are 2-4-1 at home. … The Flyers entered with the third best power play in the NHL. … Tampa Bay’s Chris Gratton and Philadelphia’s Josh Gratton are cousins.