DETROIT -- At some point in April, when the playoffs start, the Flyers may very well reflect on how they lost top billing in the East on consecutive weekends to start the month of February, and had to settle for the fourth or fifth seed.
After dropping a pair of games to the Devils and Rangers last weekend, the Flyers repeated the dubious trend, dropping another set of back-to-backs with losses to the Rangers on Saturday and now Red Wings on Sunday night.
Eight points down the drain that could have catapulted Peter Laviolettes Flyers to No. 1.
Instead, the Pittsburgh Penguins have tied them with 69 points in the standings after Sundays historic 4-3 loss that slipped the Flyers eight points behind New York.
Its historic because the victory was the Red Wings 20th consecutive at Joe Louis Arena, tying the 1975-76 Flyers for home consecutive wins.
Once again, special teams mattered as the Flyers yielded two power plays goals and scored none. Thats nine power play goals the Flyers have given up in their last six games.
"We played against two good power plays, but we made some mistakes and obviously its costing us," Max Talbot said. "We played against the top team in the East and the top team in the West, and to give up three and two power-play goals, its frustrating because we know the longer the season goes, the more you need to win the special teams.
Laviolette didnt disagree.
Usually, the battle of the specialty teams, on a lot of nights, decides games, he said. Theyre a talented group. We continue to teach here and go over things.
You got a lot of new faces in there against a veteran unit. You gotta continue to teach and show things but there are things we can do better to prevent certain shots from certain areas.
The loss spoiled Flyer rookie Brayden Schenns first two-goal game.
Seems like were right there all the time going into the third period and not finding ways to win, Schenn said.
Third periods have been an issue all month.
The entire game was filled with back-breaking goals. Twice the Flyers led in the second period, couldnt hold the lead, and went into the third period tied 3-3 and on the penalty kill.
Less than a minute after killing a boarding call against Marc-Andre Bourdon, however, Johan Franzen made it 4-3 with his 22nd goal as the Wings dazzled the stunned Flyers PK unit, which was still on the ice with their passing.
The Wings always were a team that passed the puck better than most everyone else in the NHL.
The penalty kill has given up too many goals, Scott Hartnell said. And our power play has gotten any a couple games in a row.
Indeed, the Flyers power play is 0 for 13 over the last four games.
Specialty teams wins and loses hockey games and right now, its losing us games, Hartnell said.
Its not our personnel. You cant give good teams like this with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom with great shots and abilities. Give those guys time and space 5-on-4 its gonna shoot you in the foot.
It seems like Datsyuk can hold onto the puck a minute straight like Jaromir Jagr.
He gets into the corner, he gets his ass out there and no matter how good your stick is, hes got great vision and can find players in the slot. ...they picked us apart a few shifts there. That was the difference.
It didnt take the Wings long to gain an advantage in this one. They scored on their first power play attempt at 7:08 in the first period.
Niklas Kronwalls point drive appeared to change directions on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, but apparently it did not hit either Todd Bertuzzi or Matt Carles stick.
A costly giveaway by Wings goalie Joey MacDonald led to the tying goal at 16:42. MacDonald simply flubbed a handoff to Kronwall behind his own net, dishing to puck to Danny Briere instead.
Schenn was standing in front of an empty net when he got Brieres pass for his first marker of the night.
The goalie went to get it but mishandled it, Schenn said. Danny B was hard on the puck there. It was a pretty easy open net. It's good to get those.
There are swing moments in every game. It happened early in the second period on Sunday when Darren Helm had a wraparound attempt go across the goal line.
A minute later, the Flyers got a rush up ice, and MacDonald cleared a Braydon Coburn rebound right onto Schenns stick in the left circle. Schenn buried it for a 2-1 lead at 5:22.
Alas, the Flyers beleaguered penalty kill units got burned for a second power-play goal from Datsyuk three minutes later to re-tie the game.
While the Flyers got a go-ahead goal from Max Talbot in the periods final four minutes, the Red Wings came back right with a one-timer from Henrik Zetterberg to make it 3-3 heading into the third period.
If we could have gone in with the lead at the second period, I think that would have set the table but again, Laviolette said. Were out there the first shift killing the penalty and right after the penalty ends, were scrambling around there.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org