Nightmare before Christmas Eve — Ersson pulled, Hart exits, Flyers rally but lose


Call it the nightmare before Christmas Eve.

The Flyers will stagger into the holiday break after a wild 6-5 loss Friday night to the Hurricanes at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Despite a valiant third-period comeback attempt, it was a mess of a night for the Flyers considering what transpired in the opening 40 minutes.

Samuel Ersson had an NHL debut he won't forget for all the wrong reasons. Head coach John Tortorella had to pull the 23-year-old goalie not even halfway through his first-ever start. But then Carter Hart, Ersson's relief, was banged up and forced to exit under 10 minutes later.

Ersson, who thought his night was done, jumped back in net to finish the game.

When Hart departed with an upper-body injury, the Flyers (11-17-7) were down 6-2 late in the middle stanza and all but done. But Nick Seeler's even strength goal and back-to-back shorthanded markers from Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny brought the Flyers to life in the third period.

The Flyers were unable to score an equalizer with their net emptied.

Avoiding a complete collapse, the Hurricanes (22-6-6) improved to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games.

The Flyers are 0-1-1 against Carolina this season. They face the Hurricanes two more times, with both matchups in March.

• Hart was injured while the Hurricanes scored their sixth goal and first on the 24-year-old.

With Carolina on a man advantage, Rasmus Ristolainen tried to take Seth Jarvis out of the play near the net. But he checked the Hurricanes' forward into Hart as the netminder slid across his crease, making for a bad collision.

Hart had no chance to stop Jesperi Kotkaniemi's ensuing shot. He stayed down, visibly shaken up, before eventually skating off on his own power with head athletic trainer Tommy Alva by his side.

Hart had just played Thursday night and backup Felix Sandstrom was not on the trip because of an illness, so Ersson started for his NHL debut. It was a tough assignment on the road against the team with the second-best points percentage in the league.

He hung tough when he returned to the net, finishing the night with 25 saves on 30 shots. When he was relieved, he had yielded five goals before the midway point of the second period. The 2018 fifth-round pick received little help from the Flyers.

Ersson was ambushed by Carolina for three goals in the first period. The Flyers had to play a ton of defense and didn't do it well.

They fell behind 2-1 by surrendering a power play goal in which Ersson was screened. Jesper Fast then scored his second tally of the game with under a minute left in the opening stanza. The Flyers had a breakdown in coverage.

In the second period, goals from Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook sent Ersson to the bench.

But not for long.

Veteran Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta stopped 26 of the Flyers' 31 shots.

• Travis Sanheim and Tony DeAngelo also scored goals for the Flyers.

Konecny, Laughton and DeAngelo each had two-point games.

But the crazy rally and any positives were completely marred by the fact that Hart was forced into the game and then had to leave it because of an injury. That could have been avoided.

Hart has been the Flyers' best and most important player. They can't afford to lose him.

• After starting 7-3-2, the Flyers have gone 4-14-5 with a minus-32 goal differential.

• With the NHL-mandated three-day holiday break and a pair of non-game days, the Flyers aren't back in action until Thursday when they visit the Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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