Ducks rookie center Leo Carlsson celebrates as he skates past teammates on the bench after scoring a goal during the second period of their game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night at Honda Center. Carlsson had his first career hat trick in the Ducks’ 6-3 loss. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
ANAHEIM — Rookie Leo Carlsson scored his first career hat trick and the Ducks won the territorial, faceoff and special teams battles but not the game in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night at Honda Center.
Carlsson, the second overall pick in June’s NHL draft, scored all of his team’s goals in his first career multi-goal outing, the league-leading fourth hat trick by a Duck this season. Carlsson’s first two scores were orchestrated by veteran free agent signing Alex Killorn. Lukáš Dostál stopped 30 of 35 shots on a night when turnovers left him under duress frequently. The Ducks scored two power-play goals and gave up none, while also edging the Flyers on draws and in most possession metrics.
Owen Tippett scored Philadelphia’s final two goals, including an empty-netter. Travis Sanheim continued his breakout campaign, contributing a goal and two assists. Joel Farabee dished out two assists. Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson, and Louie Belpedio each scored a goal with Atkinson adding an assist. Samuel Ersson had 35 saves in his second win of the season, earning him first-star honors.
The Ducks have now lost two in a row in regulation after winning six consecutive games, although Carlsson sent the crowd home with plenty to discuss in the car.
“He’s a player, he’s going to be a star in this league. He could have had five goals, really, he missed a couple, but he’s a star player,” Coach Greg Cronin said.
“He’s got a pace to his game for a big guy that you don’t see a lot in this league and he’s got terrific hands and he’s confident,” Cronin continued. “It was nice to see that. He deserves it and he’s just going to keep getting better.”
Carlsson sent the fitted caps, snapbacks and cabbie hats alike hurling to the ice when he scored his second power-play goal of the night off a cross-crease pass by Troy Terry, leaving 88 seconds to close a two-goal gap. The joy proved fleeting when Tippett found the empty net with just over a minute remaining.
“It’s cool, I don’t think it has sunk in yet, but tomorrow I’ll probably watch some highlight videos, for sure,” Carlsson said.
Philadelphia had already effectively condemned the Ducks to defeat with a pair of flashy goals off drives to the net in the third period. First, it was Sanheim surveying a defense that puzzlingly had four players defending the middle of the ice in a single-file line, so he dipped down the left-wing wall to cut through a Tippett screen, beat a Dostál poke check and sweep the puck in off his backhand. After Morgan Frost poked the puck loose in the neutral zone, Tippett sped away, undressed Frank Vatrano with a deke and slid the puck past Dostal on the far side. The goals occurred at 7:39 and 13:07 respectively, with the second coming directly off a turnover.
“Those two goals were really, they were kind of like, obviously, momentum-breakers,” Cronin said.
In between the Flyers’ goals, Carlsson scored his second when he and Killorn executed a brilliant give-and-go play off an odd-man rush that left Carlsson all alone in front for a goal with 9:26 to play. Carlsson would become the third youngest player in Ducks history to record a hat trick after Sam Steel and Bobby Ryan. With Trevor Zegras a day-of-game scratch because of a lower-body injury, Killorn and Carlsson clicked at the right moment.
“‘Z’ wasn’t playing tonight, so we thought it would be good to get a veteran with Leo and I think they had really good chemistry,” Cronin said.
During their second power play of the night, Carlsson played a two-man game with Killorn, roving about the faceoff circle until he found a shooting angle from which he launched a wrist shot far side that visibly frustrated Ersson after it whizzed past him. Carlsson nearly came up with yet another power-play goal with 16:46 left in the game, when the play broke down and he perked up, zigzagging his way to the net only to be foiled by a toe save.
The Ducks had emphasized a stronger start and potentially playing from ahead after a winning streak dominated by third-period rallies came to a close Tuesday. Instead, they found themselves trailing 2-0 at the first intermission and 3-0 soon after.
“We turned pucks over, it’s like, ‘oh, my God,’ four of the five they had were goals three or four seconds after they were on our sticks. You can’t win hockey games turning pucks over,” Cronin said.
Just 2:33 into the second period, the Ducks fell behind by three goals on a slow-moving transition play. Belpedio started it with a routine knockdown of a cleared puck in the neutral zone and finished it after Adam Henrique lost him amid Philadelphia’s moderately paced onslaught.
At the 12:31 mark of the first period, the Flyers had extended their advantage when Sanheim’s shot from above the circle was tipped home by Atkinson despite being leaned on by Henrique.
Philadelphia opened the scoring a hair before the five-minute mark. Mason McTavish’s pass up the wall went straight to Flyers defenseman Egor Zamula, whose slap shot was blocked by Ilya Lyubushkin. But Lyubushkin could only look on as Couturier collected the puck at the side of the net and calmly pushed it past a prone Dostál.
It was the first goal off a turnover for the visitors – the Ducks were officially saddled with a dozen giveaways to the Flyers’ seven – but it wouldn’t be the last. Even when Philadelphia had a fourth goal disallowed on review and the Ducks muscled their way back into the match behind some teamwide vigor and Carlsson’s scoring touch, carelessness doomed the hosts anew.
“When fate was giving us the game back, we just kept turning it over,” Cronin said.