Top line struggles as Flyers fall

Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) celebrates his goal with teammates left wing Ondrej Palat (18), of the Czech Republic, and right wing Richard Panik (71), of Slovakia, against the Philadelphia Flyers, including Jakub Voracek (93), of the Czech Republic, during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won the game 4-2. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

TAMPA — Different location. Same formula.

For the second straight road game, the Flyers were listless in the first two periods and it led to another loss.

They dropped a 4-2 decision to depleted Tampa Bay, which was missing five injured regulars, including superstar center Steven Stamkos.

The Lightning also sat Ben Bishop, who has been one of the NHL’s best goalies.

But instead of seizing the opportunity, the Flyers were alarmingly flat. They managed a total of 21 shots, and many of them came in the last two minutes, when they were in a 3-0 hole.

“I didn’t think we competed enough in the battles tonight,” coach Craig Berube said. “…They came hard with pressure and forechecked hard and we didn’t handle it.”

The Flyers took a 6-0-1 run into their two games in Florida this week. They lost a 3-1 decision in Florida on Monday, followed by Wednesday’s just-as-uninspiring loss to the Lightning.

The top line — Claude Giroux centering Jake Voracek and Scott Hartnell — struggled against Tampa, managing a combined total of three shots, one assist and a minus-2 rating.

Berube said the line was “not very good. Like a lot of other guys. Didn’t do a good enough job. They’ve got to lead the way.  Didn’t make enough plays. They ended up frustrated.”

The coach was also critical of Giroux and Voracek failing to backcheck on a two-on-one that produced a shorthanded goal by Ondrej Palat on a rebound. That put the Flyers down, 2-0.

“It takes the wind out, that’s for sure,” Berube said.

In the last two games, the Flyers resembled the offensive-challenged team that got off to a 1-7 start.

They will try to regroup Friday in an 11:30 a.m. home game against Winnipeg.

“I’ve never played that early,” said veteran center Vinny Lecavalier, whose return to Tampa (see story) was ruined by the team’s lackluster effort. “…You’ve got to get the energy right away. We’re not used to playing at that time, but after two losses, we have to start the right way.”

Breakaways. Tampa outshot the Flyers, 35-21. The Flyers had more shots that didn't reach the net (22) than did (21)....Lecavalier was named the game’s No. 2 star…..The Flyers had a power-play goal for the eighth straight game…..Michael Raffl, who replaced the injured Matt Read, had five shots (two on goal)….Hartnell had five hits….After Friday’s game, the Flyers (10-12-2) go on a six-game road trip, so it may be a while before they have a chance to get over .500.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.