The Flyers have been Team Resilient this season.
They overcame a 10-game winless streak and the loss of their top two goalies to injuries.
Now they have to overcome a March skid that has knocked them out of first place and made fans uneasy about whether they will even make the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The misery continued Thursday night at the Wells Cargo Center.
Columbus 5, Flyers 3.
The Flyers lost for the seventh time in eight March games, and they fell into a tie for third place with Columbus in the Metro.
Cam Atkinson scored a hat trick, including an empty-net goal, to spark Columbus to its sixth consecutive win, and former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky made several acrobatic saves and lifted his career record to 10-3-1 against his former team.
New Jersey is just one point behind the Flyers and has a game in hand.
Florida, which is trying to sneak into the final wild-card spot, moved to within four points of the Flyers. The streaking Panthers, who have three games in hand on Philadelphia, were 16 points behind the Flyers on Feb. 26.
“Obviously, a sense of urgency now has to be amped up,” said Andrew MacDonald, who, along with fellow defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, was among the Flyers’ scorers.
“We’re still sitting pretty,” said Gostisbehere, resident optimist, after the Flyers held a team meeting following the loss. “We just need to keep pushing.”
The Blue Jackets built a 3-1 first-period lead and the Flyers chased the game.
“We were pretty loose in our coverage,” MacDonald said.”Maybe our level of intensity and attention to detail wasn’t where it needed to be, especially starting the game.”
Coach Dave Hakstol took the blame for the slow start, saying Columbus was “a little more ready to play. That squarely comes to me … and that can’t happen at this time of the year.”
Fourteen seconds into the second period, Gostisbehere snapped a 19-game goal drought by scoring a power-play tally from the right circle to get the Flyers within 3-2.
The Flyers swarmed Bobrovsky over the next few shifts, but Atkinson made it 4-2 by beating Petr Mrazek with a right-circle blast with 16 minutes, 37 seconds left in the second.
Goodbye, Mrazek, who allowed four goals on 10 shots and continued to come up small. Since winning his first three games with the Flyers, Mrazek has just one victory in his last seven starts.
Mrazek was replaced by rookie Alex Lyon, who received a standing ovation late in the period when he made six saves during an abbreviated Columbus power play. Lyon stopped all 18 shots he faced and may have earned a start Saturday in Carolina.
About three minutes after the goalie change, captain Claude Giroux left the game with about 14:30 left in the second when he was hit in the face with a shot. Giroux went to the locker room and had several stitches administered above his lip and didn’t return until 1:07 remained in the second.
With 7:37 left in the second, the Flyers got to within 4-3 on a point drive by MacDonald, who was aided by Michael Raffl’s screen.
Columbus, taking advantage of poor defensive play, scored almost as many goals in Thursday’s first period (three) and it did in the previous three games (four) against the Flyers.
A weak clearing attempt by rookie Travis Sanheim led to Columbus’ first goal, a left-circle drive by a falling-down Oliver Bjorkstrand with 10:19 left in the opening period.
Just 11 seconds later, Boone Jenner got position on defenseman Brandon Manning and redirected Jack Johnson’s pass past Mrazek, giving the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead.
Giroux, who has been virtually a one-man offensive show over the last two weeks, cut the deficit to 2-1 with 8:26 to go in the first, scoring his 26th goal of the season and his 11th in the last 18 games.
After hitting the right post on a breakaway, Giroux took a pass from Travis Konency and whipped a left-circle one-timer into the net and pumped his fist wildly. The Flyers regained the momentum for a few shifts, but Columbus took it away late in the period.
With 1:52 to go in the session, Atkinson tipped Zach Werenski’s point drive past Mrazek to give Columbus a 3-1 lead.
It seemed fitting that the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” blared through the speakers at the first intermission because the Flyers were headed to their seventh loss in eight games since they climbed into first place in the division.
Now, with 11 games left in their topsy-turvy season, their sights aren’t on a Metro title.
They’re on securing a playoff spot.
“When we get that one win, we’ll get our confidence back,” Giroux said in a church-quiet locker room.