They played a very strong second period and had nothing to show for it.
So when it came around to the third period, which has been the Flyers' best period all season, everyone expected they would eventually erase a 1-0 deficit against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Instead, the Flyers came out inexplicitly flat against a team they could have pretty much buried in the Metro Division standings.
Even worse, they gave up a quick goal.
Poof! It was 2-0 and game over at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night, as the Blue Jackets are now just two points behind the Flyers in the playoff hunt for third place (see Instant Replay).
“We came out flat, we let them come into our zone too easy and just let move the puck around way too easy,” Scott Hartnell said.
“The first two periods we battled and were strong on pucks, but that third period, I don’t if it was that power-play goal they scored late [in the second], but to come out flat like that wasn’t our MO and it hasn’t been our MO all year.”
The loss allowed Pittsburgh to officially clinch the division title. The Flyers still need six points to earn a playoff spot.
This was Sergei Bobrovsky’s first start against his former teammates in Philadelphia.
“Yeah was special, definitely,” Bobrovsky said. “It was exciting. It was different; it’s tough to explain. I think it was different. It was special.”
As good as the former Vezina winner was in earning his fourth shutout, the Flyers didn’t make it hard enough on Bobrovsky with quality shots.
“Any time you don’t score, you didn’t test him enough,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We certainly didn’t test him enough in the third period.
“We stopped playing our game for a while. They came at us hard and it looked like we got frustrated.”
Ten shots behind 2-0. Yeah, that won’t cut it.
“They had 22 blocked shots, which is too many and we have to do a better job of getting shots through,” Berube said. “Get rebounds. Bobrovsky challenges. You have to find a way to get rebounds and get rebound goals and we didn’t do that.”
They also had no help from their power play (0-4), which is now 0-7 in the past three games while the Flyers have been shut out consecutively now for the first time since the final two games of John Stevens’ tenure in 2009 (Nov. 28 and Dec. 3).
Berube’s bunch hasn’t scored in 130:25 when they got a late goal against Boston on March 30.
They could have had a penalty shot in the second period but it wasn’t called when Sean Couturier was hooked on a breakaway.
Meanwhile, Claude Giroux went pointless for his third straight game, something he has not done since October when he went five straight without a point to start the 2013-14 season.
“Even though we didn’t score, we did a lot of good things,” Giroux said. “Our third period has to be better.”
The power play was pretty much discombobulated. Then again, it’s been on the downside lately, too. A few dirty goals would likely get the confidence back up.
“The power play, some games it is going to go in and some it isn’t,” Giroux said. “We had our chances … You got to keep doing the same thing as when we were successful.”
Things only get harder for the Flyers from here, too. They meet the Bruins on Saturday in Boston to close our their “Deadly Dozen” of games against all playoff contenders.
So far, the Flyers are 6-3-2 with 14 points during this stretch. A few power-play goals and they would have won three in a row instead of losing three straight.
“We haven’t been able to score over the last two games, but we’re playing great defensively,” offered Wayne Simmonds.
“Obviously, our power play has to step it up. Special teams are a key. Our power play hasn’t been the best these last couple games.”
The big positive is the Flyers are playing well defensively. Their shutout string against opponents ended at 136:02 in the second period on James Wisniewski’s power-play goal -- his third shot on goalie Steve Mason in that sequence.
Hartnell said the focus now shifts to Boston and Sunday’s home game here against Buffalo.
“We have to leave these two games behind us and get a few points this weekend,” he said.