NEWARK, N.J. - The Flyers wrote the obituary on their listless season Thursday night with an embarrassing 6-2 loss to the lowly New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
Oh, the Flyers (né Broad Street Bullies) are still mathematically alive, but for all intents and purposes, they appear to have expired, peacefully, and their 50th-anniversary season will not be remembered fondly.
One night after they defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, the Flyers - who sleepwalked through the first and third periods Thursday - lost to a Devils team that had dropped 10 straight and was playing with several AHL call-ups.
"We didn't skate today, that's my opinion," winger Jake Voracek said. "I don't know if we were tired or something . . . but we were just a little slower than them on every puck."
"They were hungrier from the start tonight," winger Brayden Schenn said.
Goalie Steve Mason did the splits and was injured as he tried unsuccessfully to stop Taylor Hall's lunging, one-handed shot on breakaway with 18 minutes, 27 seconds left, giving New Jersey a 4-2 lead. Mason, now 0-9 in his career against the Devils, was replaced by Michal Neuvirth.
Mason was suffering from cramps and will be reevaluated Friday, general manager Ron Hextall said.
Less than three minutes after Neuvirth entered the game, Flyers-killer Adam Henrique got position on Andrew MacDonald and scored on a rebound to make it 5-2. It was Henrique's second goal of the night and 13th in 24 career games against the Flyers.
With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Flyers did not get a shot in the first 11:49 of the third period.
"The team didn't give up," coach Dave Hakstol insisted. "When we gave up that fourth goal, that's one we can't give up. That put us in a pretty deep hole."
Hall went around Shayne Gostisbehere and went in alone on Mason, giving the Devils a 4-2 lead.
The Flyers, who fell six points out of a playoff spot, were thoroughly outplayed by the Devils in the first 30 minutes. During one stretch that carried into the second period, the Flyers were outshot, 15-1.
The Flyers are 0-3 this season against New Jersey, which took the Eastern Conference's worst record into Thursday and had won just once at home in its last eight games. They have been outscored by the Devils, 14-3.
New Jersey, which took the NHL's second-worst offense into the game, took advantage of Ivan Provorov's turnover to take a 2-1 lead with 14:10 left in the second period.
Provorov (minus-3) gave the puck away to Beau Bennett behind the net, and he sent it Henrique, who knocked in the first of his two goals.
Joseph Blandisi scored on a rebound while the Devils were on a power play, increasing their lead to 3-1 with 10:20 left in the second. It was the eighth power-play goal the Flyers had allowed in opponents' last 19 chances.
At that point, the Flyers were getting outshot, 20-7, by a team that was looking for its first win in nearly a month.
With 8:47 left in the second, Schenn redirected Radko Gudas' pass past goalie Keith Kinkaid to slice New Jersey's lead to 3-2.
The Flyers came to life. They had several quality chances later in the second, but Kinkaid made great stops on point-blank shots by Wayne Simmonds (glove save on rebound) and Schenn while the Flyers were on different power plays.
For a team trying to stay alive in the playoff race, the Flyers lacked energy and were outplayed by the Devils in the opening period, which finished in a 1-1 tie.
"It wasn't a great period by us," defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. "We seemed to come out a little flat. They had a lot of energy and were getting on us on the forecheck. They were kind of shrinking the ice on us and they created a lot of turnovers."
The Devils tied the game at 1-1 as Travis Zajac won a faceoff from Valtteri Filppula and got the puck to Kyle Palmieri, who scored from just outside the right circle, whipping a shot past Mason with 1:59 left in the first.
Just 1:11 earlier, the Flyers had taken a 1-0 lead on Del Zotto's first goal in 26 games. Del Zotto, trailing the play, took a feed from Voracek, who had taken a slick pass from Claude Giroux. It gave Giroux points in six straight games.
It hardly mattered, and the captain and Hakstol had no answers about why the Flyers played such a lifeless game with their playoff hopes on the line.
Do the players wonder about their coach being on the hot seat?
"It's not my job to start worrying about the coaches," Schenn said. "It's on us players to go out and play better."