NEWARK, N.J. — The biggest indictment on the Flyers' embarrassing 4-2 loss in New Jersey Sunday night wasn't that they blew a 2-0 lead, wasn't that they had 15 more giveaways than the Devils, wasn't that they were outscored, 2-0, in even-strength situations.
It was this: the Flyers went 16 minutes, 23 seconds without recording a shot during a span that stretched over the first and second periods.
Go almost 16½ minutes without a sniff of a shot in a regular-season game would be bad enough. But to do it in a virtual must-win playoff game, well, it's simply mind-boggling.
“We're playing soft hockey,” winger Scott Hartnell said. “We're playing almost scared to take a hit or make a play.”
For a team that showed remarkable determination during the regular season and first round of the playoffs, the Flyers' play Sunday was totally out of character.
They showed no heart as they were outshot, 43-22, and continued to be pinned in their own zone.
On a night when Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov badly outplayed the Devils’ Marty Brodeur, the Flyers went down quietly.
They are making the Devils — who barely got past mediocre Florida in Round 1 — look like the 1976 Montreal Canadiens.
And the explanations are sounding hollow.
After the game, after falling behind in the series, three games to one, they talked about being outworked and not showing enough emotion.
Which is what they said after Game 3, then did nothing to change it.
“I don't know if it's panic or too much pressure or what is going on,” center Danny Briere said. “We somehow have to find a way to make better plays, to make crisp passes to get out of our zone. We're making things way too difficult on ourselves.”
“We're getting pushed off pucks way too easy and that leads us to more D-zone time,” Hartnell said. “We've got tired D out there, and that's why (the Devils) are looking like they're dominating us. We're making soft, stupid plays.”
Like his teammates, center Claude Giroux is baffled.
“They’re winning battles and it looks like they want it more than us,” Giroux said. “It's frustrating because the whole season we've been out-working every team and now it's the other way around.”
The Flyers’ shoddy effort made a loser out of Bryzgalov, who played superbly.
“We're letting Bryz play by himself. If it wasn't for him, we would have gotten killed,” Giroux said. “I don't know what to tell you. It's frustrating to see. Including myself, we're not winning battles. We're always playing in our zone. We need to find a way to play better.”
The onus is now on coach Peter Laviolette to find a solution.
Breakaways. Perhaps still bothered by a leg injury, Sean Couturier played just 7:08, and one wonders if Zac Rinaldo will make his series debut Tuesday......Don't be surprised if Andrej Meszaros, who had back surgery on March 21, returns Tuesday and Andreas Lilja is scratched.....The Flyers attempted 33 shots (22 on net), while the Devils had 64 attempts (43 on net).....Only 21 teams in 241 tries have overcome a three-games-to-one deficit and won a series.....Hartnell had six shots, four hits and a goal but was minus-2.....The Flyers won 63 percent of the faceoffs.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.