From more than 1,000 miles away, somewhere in South Florida, last night's matchup with the Panthers screamed the classic trap game. The Flyers just didn't get the memo.
Just 12 days prior, the Flyers dispatched the toothless Panthers with a 5-0 blowout at the Wells Fargo Center. And they were coming off life-sapping, back-to-back games last weekend against Pittsburgh and Boston with the top spot in the Eastern Conference up for grabs.
For the third game in a row, the Flyers trailed their opponent by a 2-0 score. But last night, there was no miraculous comeback to be had. And with nine games left on the schedule, few losses will hurt more than the 2-1 downer against the Panthers.
"Sometimes, when you play and you come out of a stretch where you play New Jersey, Boston and Pittsburgh, this game gets lost a little bit," Danny Briere said. "I think maybe we came into the game a little bit too flat in that emotion. It's tough to reproduce the same emotion after riding so high.
"I think it was a little tough to find it at times, especially early in the game, and by the time we got that back, it was 2-0, them."
In a stakes race for an enviable post position in the Stanley Cup playoffs - to avoid an all-Atlantic Division steel cage death match between the No. 4 and 5 seeds in the first round - a win against the Panthers was a necessity and not just a nice accolade.
Instead, the fifth-place Flyers failed to advance in the standings and saw Pittsburgh crawl within one point of the idle Rangers. And New Jersey is now just three points back of the Flyers.
"This was a huge game for us," Pavel Kubina said. "Games like that are going to happen, but unfortunately, it's not a good timing for us."
The loss prevented the Flyers from earning what would have been their second season-series sweep over Florida in franchise history. And now, the Panthers have done something the Flyers have not yet: beat every team in the East at least once. Florida is 5-0-1 since that 5-0 loss to the Flyers on March 8, allowing just eight goals during that span.
Florida scored twice on its first eight shots. They kept the Flyers out on four power-play opportunities, none bigger than a 5-on-3 advantage for 42 seconds toward the end of the first period. The Flyers didn't even register a shot.
"Certainly, the 5-on-3 wasn't real crisp," Laviolette conceded. "I do think that the power plays and the opportunities that we had were missed opportunities to jump into the game, to get on the board and get a lead."
The final score nullified the fact that the Flyers allowed just 13 total shots on goal, the fewest they have allowed not just this season but overall since Dec. 7, 2009 in Montreal. It was actually the fewest shots allowed in a home game since Nov. 22, 2003.
There are only so many magical comebacks a team has up its sleeve in 1 week.
"That's how we wanted to play," Jagr said. "We know how we can play. The result just wasn't there. I don't think we played a bad game, we just lost the game.''
"Maybe we spent too much emotions the last couple games," Ilya Bryzgalov said. "That's it."
All 18 Flyers skaters had at least one attempted shot on net . . . The Flyers' 62 percent on faceoffs made it their most successful night of the season . . . Max Talbot returned to the lineup after missing Sunday's win over Pittsburgh with an "upper-body" injury. Talbot left Jody Shelley as a healthy scratch . . . With Pavel Kubina and Andreas Lilja back from injuries, the Flyers loaned rookies Erik Gustafsson and Brandon Manning back to AHL Adirondack . . . Though it looked like the streak was in jeopardy, the Flyers' announced attendance was 19,568, their 71st consecutive sellout.
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