They did the things they always do this time of year, in these situations, facing these odds. The Flyers have certain traditions and tropes that over the years have become rites of spring, and down two games to the Capitals, they dug deep into the Postseason Pump You Up Playbook on Monday night.
There was Lauren Hart's paranormal duet with Kate Smith on "God Bless America." There were the bright orange T-shirts and glow-in-the-dark wristbands that they handed out to all the fans who entered the Wells Fargo Center; among those wearing the shirts, you felt like a gnat that had landed on Donald Trump's scalp. And in a sign of just how grave and desperate matters became, there was the obligatory inspirational clip from Rocky II on the arena videoboard and the obligatory blasting of the film's theme music before the third period even began.
All of this, of course, took place before the obligatory Flyers-instigated brawl with less than eight minutes left in the Capitals' 6-1 victory in Game 3, which led to the obligatory throwing of debris and wristbands onto the ice, which led to the obligatory admonishment by public-address announcer Lou Nolan to the crowd: "This is Philly. Act with class." The wristbands rained down again minutes later, earning the Flyers a minor penalty for delay of the game and inspiring Nolan to scold the fans as if he were a frustrated parent: "Way to go."
In their first home game after the death of Ed Snider - their founder, owner, and chairman - the Flyers and their followers put on a display that manifested the worst instincts within themselves and validated the worst stereotypes about them. They embarrassed themselves, all of them, in every possible way. When spectators scream during a pregame moment of silence for a team's patriarch - as several Flyers fans did Monday - and it's not the most graceless, dishonorable episode of the night, that's telling. The Flyers ignited a melee with 7 minutes, 43 seconds left in regulation, and from that point until the final buzzer, they took 39 minutes in penalties. The Capitals took none, and they scored two power-play goals, and they could chuckle and gloat as the maintenance crews swept up the wristbands in front of their bench.
"They weren't interested in playing anymore," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of the Flyers. "So we were on the power play for the last seven or eight minutes. I just thought it wasn't very good for our game. It's that simple. We were on national television. It didn't display our game very well."
If there's anything positive for the Flyers to extract from what happened Monday night, it should be the reaffirmation of general manager Ron Hextall's small-step-by-small-step plan to transform the team, to improve it by holding on to young talent and allowing that talent to blossom over years, to build it into something better than what it is now, what it has been. Game 3 was nothing but a myth that the Flyers have been peddling for years: that no matter how great the gap in talent between themselves and their opponent, no matter how long a shot they are, they can overcome anything merely by working harder, by playing tougher, by mucking and grinding and checking and punching and playing Flyers hockey.
That narrative has long been nothing more than malarkey, and the opening minutes Monday night proved as much. Once the Center reached a fever pitch after Michael Raffl scored 57 seconds into the game, the Flyers had nothing left. Nothing. They were at the Capitals' mercy.
"It was crazy," Raffl said. "It was so much fun and emotional the first 10 minutes. People were going wild. It was absolutely amazing."
It also didn't last. It couldn't. The Flyers' early push was the product of emotion and adrenaline. It was a sugar rush, and it was bound to fade, and it did. The Capitals tied the game less than four minutes later, when Marcus Johansson tipped in a point shot by John Carlson, and they controlled matters thereafter.
"They're a good team," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "There's a reason why they dominated all year."
Yes, given the makeups of these two teams, given that the Capitals led the NHL with 120 points and the Flyers needed an all-out surge over the season's closing weeks just to quality for the playoffs, the arc of Game 3 shouldn't have been surprising to anyone. The Capitals are bigger, faster, deeper, more skilled, and - in Braden Holtby - have the better goaltender. Other than that, the Flyers have all the advantages, and with no outlet for their frustration, with no hope either in Game 3 or in this series, they resorted to the boorish behavior that always thrills the most sycophantic faction of their fan base and always leaves anyone who appreciates decent hockey rolling his or her eyes.
There were still a few of them left as the clock melted down on a bad, ugly night for this franchise. Those who had remained booed, and another wristband or two fluttered down from the upper levels as the Flyers filed off the ice. Way to go, everyone. Way to go.