Is it time to be worried about the Flyers?

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Is it time to be worried about the Flyers?

Maybe it wasn’t their worst effort of the season. It was their worst loss.

There have been some ugly results for the Flyers this year. They fell to Florida in a shootout at home. They dropped a game early to Tampa on the road. They got upended by Toronto -- twice. All of those were bad. But this? As beatings go, this beat them all.

The Flyers were up three goals. They were at home. They were facing their cross-state rival midway through a truncated season. It was a game the coach and the players all agreed they needed to win.

They didn’t win. Penguins 5, Flyers 4 (see game recap).

So, was it the worst loss of the year?

“Yeah,” Claude Giroux allowed. “I mean, when you’re up 4-1, you have to find a way to close a game up. We know they’re a good team offensively. If we give them power plays, they’re going to put it back in our net and that’s what happened.”

The Flyers needed a win on Thursday. They knew it and you knew it. There is no denying the importance or the leftover disappointment after a game like that. Because they had it. It was there for them. Then they gave it away.

There were five goals in the first period alone. The Flyers scored four of them. Jake Voracek registered two by himself, at least one of which was a gross victimization of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. It was an embarrassing start for Fleury, who looked like he wanted to slink out the side door and bury his head in all the snow that never came this week. In what can only be described as a mercy move by Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, Fleury was yanked to start the second period -- probably so he could lick his wounds and stitch together what was left of his pride.

It was a great first period. But, as Peter Laviolette later lamented, “the second period was, really, the opposite of the first period.”

The Penguins scored. Then they scored again. Then they tied the game. The Flyers looked like someone had come along and sucker punched them in the gut. Except it wasn’t a sucker punch. They saw it coming and they still couldn’t stop it.

“Before you know it, it’s 4-4,” Scott Hartnell said. “We just can’t do that. It’s embarrassing to the fans, it’s embarrassing to one another, and we let two points slip away.”

By the third period, Ilya Bryzgalov was out and Brian Boucher was in. It didn’t matter. Penguins winger Chris Kunitz scored 18 seconds into the final frame and that was that. Another game. Another upside-down result for the flailing Flyers.

Boucher said they took their “foot off the gas just a little bit,” but it was more like they stomped on the brakes while going full speed and then everyone went flying through the windshield. It was a grotesque crash.

“It was a big letdown,” Scott Hartnell said. Then he added, “If we play like that, it will be a long summer.”

Hartnell was hinting at what you already know: The season just began -- and yet it’s almost over. They are running out of time.

The Flyers (11-13-1) only have 23 games remaining. They are currently on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, their smudged noses pressed against the glass looking in at all the other teams ahead of them. Beating Pittsburgh could have acted as a catalyst to propel them through the rest of the year. Instead, you wonder if it will slow their progress.

As only Bryzgalov could put it, over the first half of the season, the Flyers were “not good” (see video). Win one. Lose win. Suffer an injury. Repeat. As treading water goes, the Flyers managed to keep their heads right around surface level despite the skates and pads and heavy expectations weighing them down. They can’t keep that up forever. Either they find a way to buoy themselves or they will be dragged under before long.

That’s where the Flyers are at the moment. Despite the harsh reality, Zac Rinaldo tried to play it cool in the locker room after the game.

“We’re not worried,” Zac Rinaldo insisted.

Then he said it again.

“We’re not worried,” Rinaldo repeated.

Given the circumstances, that is hard to believe. If they aren’t worried, they ought to be.

NHL Notes: Desperate Senators hoping to avoid elimination

NHL Notes: Desperate Senators hoping to avoid elimination

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Guy Boucher has typically kept his team off the ice on off-days during the postseason. Not Monday.

The Ottawa coach opted for a half-hour practice ahead of Game 6 on Tuesday night to help his team "refresh" and "reload" after a 7-0 beating by Pittsburgh, one of the worst losses in team playoff history. Players thought the practice, as well as an encouraging chat beforehand, helped wipe the slate clean as they prepare for an elimination game. The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference final 3-2 and can return to the Stanley Cup Final with a win.

"We can't be sitting in our mud puddle," Boucher told The Canadian Press after practice. "We've got to get up and go."

Reloading against an opponent vying for back-to-back Stanley Cups means reverting back to strengths of the club. In Sunday's blowout loss, Boucher said, he thought his team tried to trade goals with the high-scoring Penguins -- an odd choice for a Senators team that thrives on shutting down opponents.

"If we stay away from our strengths there's no chance," Boucher said on Monday. "We're aware of that. We got slapped -- hard enough. The reality sets back in" (see full story).

NHL: Former All-Star Bill White dies at 77
CHICAGO -- Bill White, a former Chicago Blackhawks all-star defenseman and a member of Canada's 1972 Summit Series team, has died. He was 77.

The Blackhawks announced White's death Monday.

White, a Toronto native, started his career with the Los Angeles Kings in 1967 before being traded to Chicago during the 1969-70 season. He formed an imposing tandem on the Blackhawks' blue line with Pat Stapleton and helped the team reach the playoffs in all seven of his seasons in Chicago.

He appeared in six consecutive All-Star games between 1969 and 1974 and briefly served as head coach of the Blackhawks for the final 46 games of the 1976-77 season.

White finished his career with 50 goals, 215 assists and 495 penalty minutes in 604 NHL games with Los Angeles and Chicago, adding seven goals and 32 assists in 91 playoff appearances.

"The Chicago Blackhawks organization extends its thoughts and heartfelt condolences to Bill White's family as we mourn his loss," the team said. "He will be remembered as a leader, generous teammate and tough player to play against. His energetic style helped the Blackhawks see great success during his tenure with the team."

He joined Canada's squad for the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union after Game 1, finishing with a series-best plus-7 defensive rating while acting as a key part of Canada's penalty-killing unit.

Sweden beats Canada to win 2017 IIHF World Championships

Sweden beats Canada to win 2017 IIHF World Championships

COLOGNE, Germany -- Sweden won the ice hockey world championship with a 2-1 victory on penalties over two-time defending champion Canada on Sunday.

Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped three penalties and Ryan O'Reilly hit the post for Canada, as Nicklas Backstrom and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored shootout goals for the Swedes to win their first title since 2013.

The game ended 1-1 after overtime when both sides came close to ending the contest with a "sudden death" goal only to be denied by outstanding goalkeeping.

Lundqvist and Canada counterpart Calvin Pickard, who saved William Nylander's first penalty for Sweden, were named best players by their respective teams after a game in which the Canadians narrowly outshot their opponents 43-42.

"This is how close it should be when you get to the final game," Sweden head coach Rikard Gronborg said. "It's a huge win for Swedish hockey."

Lundqvist's twin brother Joel, who captained Sweden, claimed his third worlds gold, one of only two Swedes ever to do so after Sven Tumba in 1953, 1957 and 1962.

"They're both really good guys," Swedish forward Joakim Nordstrom said of the Lundqvist brothers. "On the ice, they really bring a lot to our team but off it too, their presence in the locker room, it's been huge for our team. Joel is a terrific captain."

Sweden claimed its first win over Canada in the final after defeats in 1997, 2003, and 2004.

"It feels like the curse is broken," said Marcus Kruger, who had lost worlds and Olympic finals with Sweden before.

The respect between the sides was evident from the off as defenses held firm in the opening two periods.

The breakthrough came against the odds, with Backstrom penalized for slashing, when Victor Hedman scored short-handed with 20.8 seconds left in the second period.

It was a strange goal from distance as the defenseman just lifted the puck and it somehow bounced in through Pickard's legs. Joel Lundqvist's presence may have distracted the Canadian goaltender.

"It was a fluke goal," Kruger said.

Canada had twice as many shots in the second period.

O'Reilly equalized when he scrambled the puck in off a rebound from Mitch Marner.

It was tense, and fans were left gasping as the action swung from end to end.

Nate MacKinnon missed a good chance to clinch the win for Canada on a power play before overtime when both goaltenders maintained their exceptional form.

Henrik Lundqvist, who was a late addition to Gronborg's roster after the New York Rangers' elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, ultimately proved the hero.

"He's been great since he came in here. We know what his track record is like. He's a winner and he really showed that today, overall in the game and especially in the shootout, too," Kruger said.

MacKinnon, Brayden Point, O'Reilly and Mitch Marner all missed their shots.

Canada coach Jon Cooper, who said he was immensely proud of his team's effort, was gracious in defeat.

"I want to congratulate Sweden. They were an exceptional team, it was a lot of fun to play them," Cooper said.

"If we were going to lose to somebody, I'm glad those guys won."

Earlier, Nikita Kucherov sealed a 5-3 win for Russia in the bronze medal match against Finland.

"It's not the medal we wanted," Russia head coach Oleg Znarok said.