Will loss haunt Flyers?

  If the Flyers fail to make the playoffs, Thursday's 4-3 loss to Atlanta could come back to haunt them.

  Leading 3-1, the Flyers allowed three unanswered goals in the third period and dropped an important game at the Wachovia Center.

   "Our desperation level needs to be high for 60 minutes," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It was sporadic tonight."

   Which is puzzling, because the Flyers knew they needed a victory to start building some separation from teams battling for playoff spots.

   Instead, the Flyers slipped from sixth to seventh in the East, while Atlanta climbed from 11th to sixth.

   This loss looked like one of those early-season defeats under John Stevens, back when the Flyers would take a period off. They had been playing much more consistently lately under Laviolette, but they allowed Atlanta back in the game by surrendering two goals in the first 4:26 of the final period.

    The Flyers had been 20-0-2 when taking a lead into the third period.

   They had coughed up a 2-0 third-period lead in a 3-2 shootout lost to visiting Anaheim on Oct. 9, and they had lost a 1-0 third-period lead and dropped a 2-1 overtime decision at Boston in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.to No. 7.

   The Flyers outhit the Thrashers, 28-15, and outshot them, 37-28. They received a brilliant performance from Claude Giroux (highlight-film goal, gorgeous assist) and also got goals from Arron Asham and Dan Carcillo.

   But their first two lines came up empty on 22 shots.

   The Flyers are 3-2 on their season-high six-game homestand that ends Saturday afternoon against the Islanders.

   They need a win to take some momentum into a three-game trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Minnesota.

   Notes. Oskars Bartulis, Giroux, Asham and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen were the only Flyers who were "plus" on the night. Each was plus-1.....Scott Hartnell, who was stopped on a breakaway, has two goals in his last 25 games.....Blair Betts won 69 percent of his faceoffs, while Jeff Carter won just 36 percent.....The Flyers were 0 for 3 on the power play and are 1 for 12 in that department in the last two games _ both losses.