Lowly Senators push Flyers out of top spot in East

The Flyers' Ben Holmstrom fights Ottawa's Chris Neil during first period in loss to Senators.
The Flyers' Ben Holmstrom fights Ottawa's Chris Neil during first period in loss to Senators.
Posted: April 06, 2011

OTTAWA - The statistics can be spun and spun, viewed from a micro-level - as in last night's loss in Ottawa - to a macro-level, as in the last quarter of the regular season.

You could say that the Flyers' power play was 2-for-6 last night against Ottawa, just their second multigoal game with the man advantage since Feb. 10. You would not be wrong. But you also could say the Flyers' power play is just 4-for-35 over the last 12 games.

You could say that the Flyers' penalty kill has been chugging along at a 31-for-36 pace over the previous 11 contests, good for a better-than-season-average 86 percent efficiency. You would not be wrong. But you also could say the Senators scored three power-play goals last night.

You could say that the Flyers have lost five times in overtime or a shootout in the last 13 games. You would not be wrong.

But you also could say that the Flyers have lost 13 times in their last 19 games. That is no small streak or trend. That is more than 23 percent of an NHL season.

Micro or macro. It depends on the perspective. Neither one is good. And that's why there is a four-alarm fire for Philadelphia's hockey team, especially after last night's 5-2 drubbing to an Ottawa Senators team that is a well-pampered version of the AHL's Binghamton Senators.

"That's why it's frustrating, a lot of those guys are in the AHL and they outworked us and embarrassed us," defenseman Andrej Meszaros said. "It doesn't matter who we play against. It just can't happen. We play a pretty good game [Sunday] against the Rangers and we just didn't show up at all."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had little to say or offer after last night's debacle against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, a team that appears to be trying to win the pingpong-ball lottery in June. The Flyers have now lost seven in a row in Ottawa's ScotiaBank Place.

This stretch of 19 games is beyond the point of frustration for a coach, even one playing without Chris Pronger, Danny Briere and Blair Betts.

"No jump," Laviolette said. "It's extremely alarming. It's not good enough. At all. By any stretch."

Somehow, the Flyers had "no jump," even after getting a goal from Mike Richards just 3:40 into the contest. One more, even before the end of the first period, likely would have put the Senators to bed for the night. Instead, it was the Flyers who went to sleep.

"We had a 1-0 lead, took a 2-1 lead, and then we were just flat," defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "We just didn't do the little things, Ottawa did. I don't have an answer. We took some penalties. I can't explain it. It's very alarming.

"Pittsburgh's right there. We're right there with Washington. And then to come up with an effort like that . . . it's just inexcusable. This was just unacceptable."

Washington is no longer "right there." The Capitals, with a shootout win in Toronto, are now two points ahead of the Flyers for first place in the East. A week ago, the Flyers' magic number to win the East was just seven points. Now, it's the Capitals who need just three points - either won by themselves or lost by the Flyers - over the final 5 days of the regular season to close out the position the Flyers clung to from Jan. 4 until last Saturday.

Also, the Flyers had a chance to clinch their first Atlantic Division title since 2004. Instead, Pittsburgh took two points from the Devils to claw within one point of the Flyers again.

Two months ago, it seemed like the Flyers had a date with destiny in the Stanley Cup finals. Now, it seems like the Flyers seem destined for a date with Tampa Bay as the No. 4 seed on April 14 - and a long summer ahead.

There have been funerals that were happier than the Flyers' locker room last night. O'Donnell said the Flyers were "100 percent" outworked by the Senators, who have little to play for other than jobs for next season.

"I don't think we won many battles," right wing Claude Giroux concurred. "I don't even think many of us threw a hit, except for our new player [rookie Ben Holmstrom]. I think we need to change our mind-set. We didn't help our goalie. I think you've got to find a way to get those two points."

Looking at the remaining three games on the Flyers' docket before last night, they knew they needed a total of four points against Ottawa and the Islanders, who are in 14th and 15th place in the East. Anything against seventh-place Buffalo on Friday would have been a bonus.

They swung and missed last night.

"It's tough to come into a building where you desperately need the points and just not play well," Richards said. "There's really nothing else you can say. We just didn't play well. It's a lack of intensity and a lack of focus for these games."

Richards accepted responsibility for the loss, saying it's "led by me," even though he was the Flyers' only scorer last night. That's micro. This fire, unfortunately, is much bigger than that.

"To come out and lay an egg," O'Donnell said, "we all need to look in the mirror."

Slap shots

The Flyers' last win in Ottawa was Nov. 24, 2007 . . . Mike Richards posted his fourth two-goal game of the season, and three of those have been against Ottawa. Richards closed out the season series with nine points in four meetings.

For more news and analysis, read

Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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