NEWARK, N.J. -- They talked a good game. The Flyers almost always do.
Unfortunately for them, more often than not this season, they haven’t backed up the talk.
In what players said were two critical home-and-home games they absolutely had to win this week, the Flyers failed miserably again on Wednesday night with an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the Devils at Prudential Center.
“It was a must-win,” team captain Claude Giroux said. “We have to find a way to win these games on the road.
“We haven’t been very good this year. They’re a good team and we made a lot of mistakes out there. We need to be on the same page.”
Not even line changes by coach Peter Laviolette could produce even-strength offense in this one, as the Flyers lost for the fourth time in five games, further heightening fears of a major trade or coaching change as a playoff berth continues to slip farther away.
Unless the compete level raises significantly and mistakes are lowered accordingly, the playoffs are gone.
“On the nights we lose, they certainly stand out,” Laviolette said of mistakes. “There's things that happen that don't go your way, and it's not one identifiable thing.
“Shorthanded goal, a turnover, missed coverage. There's different things that go on that are leading to opportunities against them.”
One positive. The Flyers ended their even-strength goal drought at 10 periods when Scott Hartnell scored late in the third period.
“This one hurts,” Hartnell said. “It stings. You can use every adjective you want, but tomorrow is a new day.
“It seems like the Devils have just stymied us the last couple years, and it's frustrating we can't figure it out.”
Laviolette said Tuesday there would be “no excuses” for his club not to reach down deep and come out with everything it had this week.
If this is the best the Flyers have, then it’s apparent their tanks are empty.
“It was a little dead inside the room here, but we're all professionals,” Hartnell said of the mood between periods. “We did skate. ... It just seemed like there were some mental breakdowns.”
Bad things continue to happen to them in this arena.
In the first game of the season here, David Clarkson had a decisive goal off Ruslan Fedotenko at the end of the first period that broke them.
In this, the Flyers’ third visit, Matt Read had one puck go off him into the net, and another skip past him for a late, shorthanded breakaway goal -- both in the first period.
The game began and ended that opening period.
“I don't know what it is,” Hartnell said. “It sure is frustrating. ... It's not fun hockey. We gotta get our swagger back. We gotta get our mojo back somehow.”
The Flyers, who seemed subdued at the morning skate, were mugged at the start, as the Devils were all over pucks, winning battles and skating hard to protect their seventh seed in the East.
The Flyers remain 11th.
Before the first period ended, both Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique had a goal and an assist, while the Flyers had four giveaways.
Elias scored on the Devils’ third shot of the game just 2:02 in off Henrique’s assist to make it 1-0. Andrej Meszaros, still struggling off an injury, muffed a clearing attempt.
Though Jakub Voracek got the Flyers even at 9:48 with a power-play goal -- his 13th marker -- the period belonged to the Devils.
Henrique put a shot on net from above the right circle and the puck hit Read, going past Ilya Bryzgalov at 10:21.
Then came the back-breaker in the final 2:42 of the stanza with the Flyers on the power play. Stephen Gionta got a puck along the left boards and chipped it back to the point. Read tried to contain and it skipped past him to Ilya Kovalchuk.
He blew up the boards and ripped a shot in and out of the net so fast, you almost missed it. A killer of a goal, making it 3-1 going into intermission.
“It seems like a lot of times we have control of the puck and whether it be their forecheck, they come with two guys, lot of pressure, take away the walls, we’re not utilizing our game plan and doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
It only got uglier in the second period.
Devils center Andrei Loktionov put a hell of a toe-drag move on Braydon Coburn, making the ever-struggling (this year, anyway) defenseman go down, then ripped a shot stick side for a 4-1 rout.
Henrique added another goal on a backhander during a Devils' power play to start the final period.
Rock bottom for this team?
“We need to dig ourselves out of there,” Giroux said. “I am confident we can get out. We need to dig ourselves out of this hole. We have a lot of guys on this team who are good players.
“We’re a good team. We’re a team that should make the playoffs and we’re going to battle to the end of the season to make it. These kind of games tonight, we have to find a way to win it.”
He was pleading his case. Whether his team buys in is another thing entirely.