Maybe the Flyers are tired from playing a brutal late-season schedule against top-notch teams.
Maybe they are in a tailspin primarily because they have run into hot goaltenders recently.
Whatever the reason, they need to regain their footing quickly or they could do the unthinkable: slip out of a playoff spot.
They still control their playoff destiny and still are in a favorable position, but their offense has disappeared, and they have lost five of their last six games (1-3-2), including Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to tight-checking Columbus at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Blue Jackets won more puck battles, got outstanding goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky (see story), and moved to within two points of the third-place Flyers in the Metropolitan Division.
The Flyers had 37 shots, but most were from the perimeter. They outplayed Columbus in just one period _ the second _ but couldn’t connect on any of their 17 shots, and they allowed a power-play goal late in the period.
“We just didn’t play sixty minutes,” said captain Claude Giroux, who had his third straight point-less game _ his longest stretch since he was blanked in the season’s first five games. ‘I think the second period we did a lot of good things, we played the way we wanted to, and they got a goal… and we got away from that.”
Ex-Flyer Bobrovsky outplayed his counterpart, former Blue Jacket Steve Mason.
“He challenged the puck a lot,” said Giroux, referring to Bobrovsky. “He comes out of his net and takes the angles off. He’s so quick that it’s tough to beat him.”
“Bob played great all game, but that (second) period was real big,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “I really liked the way we managed and played the third period. It was a lot different third period than the last time we were in this building.”
Earlier this season, the Flyers scored five third-period goals to stun the Jackets, 5-4, at the Wells Fargo Center.
On Thursday, the Flyers were shut out for the second straight game, the first time that has happened since 2009. They figure to spend time at Friday’s practice working on their power play, which was 0 for 4 and is 0 for 11 in their last three games.
“Some games it’s going to go in, some games it won’t,” Giroiux said. “We had our chances. One time Jake (Voracek) had an opportunity, but the stick broke. You’ve got to keep doing the same thing. That’s when we were successful.”
About the only good news for the Flyers Thursday was that the New York Rangers allowed a goal in the final minute of regulation and then lost in a shootout in Colorado, 3-2. The Rangers, second in the Metro, are four points ahead of the Flyers, who have two games in hand.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.