Talk about torture.
The meltdown spoiled Ville Leino's first career hat trick.
"A good night turned into an embarrassment at the end," said Leino, who, bothered by a nagging hip injury, had scored just once in his previous 14 games.
It was the first time the Flyers lost when one of their players scored a hat trick since Dec. 15, 2007, when Joffrey Lupul had three goals in a 6-5 loss to Carolina.
"I don't really have an answer for it," center Danny Briere said. "It's scary . . . the way we blew a 3-0 lead and even a 4-2 lead. We knew they were going to come out and fight for everything they have because this is basically their season. And we have to see them twice again."
"It seems we can't lock up games. . . . This is something we have to fix before the playoffs come because we all understand that the games in the playoffs are all closely played."
Leading by 3-0 heading into the third period, the Flyers suffered another collapse. They have been outscored, 20-4, in the third period of their last 12 games, excluding empty-net goals.
The Flyers were outshot, 41-24, - by 20-12 after the second period.
"You can't sit on it," said defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who had a shorthanded goal and an assist. "They're individual, mental errors. It's 60 minutes, and it seems like we're not focused on 60 minutes. You get up 3-0 and you think the game is over, but it's not over. These teams are fighting for their lives and have their playoff hopes on the line, and that was the case tonight."
"How do you expect to win games when you give up five goals?"
Atlanta, which is within striking range of a playoff spot despite having just three regulation wins in its last 34 games, got to within 4-3 with a power-play goal with 2:59 left while Kris Versteeg was in the penalty box.
Versteeg's turnover contributed to the tying goal, scored by Andrew Ladd with 45 seconds remaining and Atlanta's goalie pulled for an extra attacker.
"Maybe we were sitting back a little bit [late in the game]," said captain Mike Richards, who had three assists but was minus-2. "If you don't do enough, it's going to bite you in the butt. We have to be a team that's confident in closing out close games."
Taking a pass from Timonen, Leino completed the hat trick by rifling a shot from above the right circle past relief goalie Chris Mason, putting the Flyers ahead, 4-2, with 6:28 left.
Leino's goal briefly slowed the momentum Atlanta had gained when Zach Bogosian's point drive went under Sergei Bobrovsky's stick-side arm to get within 3-2 with 7:45 left.
After Leino's goal, Atlanta narrowed the gap to 4-3 on Tobias Enstrom's goal.
Earlier, the Flyers seemed in control as second-period goals by Timonen and Leino made it 3-0 entering the third period.
Richards deftly set up Timonen's shorthanded goal, a tap into a yawning net.
"It's all about reading the play," Timonen said. "That goal was probably the easiest goal I've ever scored."
With 5:38 left in the second, Leino scored on a rebound as he fell to the ice, giving the Flyers the three-goal lead.
The Thrashers, who outshot the Flyers by a 21-12 margin in the first 40 minutes, changed goalies at the start of the third, trying to reverse their luck.
Bobrovsky was flawless in the first two periods, but his shutout was snapped when Evander Kane scored an unassisted goal 1:09 into the final period.
It was the start of a disaster.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.