ANAHEIM - Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.
That had to be what the Anaheim Ducks were thinking - just seconds after Ryan Getzlaf nearly picked off a questionable cross-ice power-play pass from Kimmo Timonen for a breakaway in the third period.
When Timonen made another errant pass, Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik made the Flyers pay. And they paid dearly.
Koivu fed Winnik on a two-on-one break to beat Steve Mason for the Flyers' league-worst ninth shorthanded goal against this season. When Winnik's fluttering shot hit off Mason's glove for his first goal since October, it salted away any prayer of a Flyers comeback against the NHL's top team.
"I've made that pass a thousand times," Timonen said. "He made a good read. That's my bad."
A game-changing third period power play was just that - for the wrong team. A night played with such a fierce intensity came down to one risky pass, as Winnik's shorthanded tally dealt the Flyers a 5-3 loss to open up their three-game road trip in California last night.
Winnik said after the game his team knew there might be opportunities to pounce, since the Flyers have such a heavy net focus, with four guys down low on the power play.
"I thought we were just a little slow moving the puck," Scott Hartnell said. "When you do that, good players can read it. It's been way too many shorthanded goals against this year. It's cost us a few games."
Yes, the Flyers have scored 39 power play goals this season - sixth most in the NHL - but they've also given up nine crucial, momentum-swinging goals in the opposite direction. They allowed nine over a full season in 2011-12. The Flyers' franchise record for shorthanded goals allowed in a season is 16, set in the 1990-91 season.
"We need to be more careful," Vinny Lecavalier said. "It's a tight game. We've got a chance to tie it up. We need forwards, in case something happens, that's there as well. That was a big turning point. It could have been a different story after that."
It looked as if it would be a different story when Matt Read made a second Flyers comeback in as many games in Anaheim a distinct possibility. A side-angle Mark Streit shot hit off Read's knee only 6 minutes into the third period to cut the Ducks' lead to 3-2.
In the Flyers' last trip to Anaheim - Dec. 2, 2011 - the Flyers also trailed, 3-1, to start the third period before Claude Giroux won it in overtime.
This time, risky play at the blue line resulted in a disastrous power play.
The 5-3 final score - padded by a Koivu empty-netter and an inconsequential Michael Raffl goal in the last 10 seconds - painted a much more lopsided picture than what played out on the ice. The Flyers controlled play against the NHL's best team, which is now 22-2-2 on home ice this season, for large stretches of the night.
They outshot Anaheim, 30-28, but actually had more shots blocked (21) and miss the net (15) than they registered on Frederik Andersen. The Ducks scored twice in the first period on goals Mason never saw before a breakdown allowed Corey Perry to make it 3-1 heading into the third.
"I think we played pretty hard," Timonen said. "They're a pretty good team - they're at the top for a reason. A few mistakes here and there, we couldn't put the puck in, the game was there. I'm not mad about guy's effort. Guys were playing hard. We've just got to cut down on mistakes and play the same way.
Coach Craig Berube said he felt the Flyers "probably deserved better." Coming off a 6-hour flight and a 3-hour time change on Wednesday, the Flyers put together one of their best skating games in 2014, but left Orange County with little to show for it.
"I'm definitely pleased with the effort," Berube said. "Guys competed hard. It was a hard-fought game. They're a good team over there and we played with them. But it's not good enough. You can say what you want, but it's not good enough. We've got to find ways to win hockey games."
Steve Downie fought Ryan Getzlaf in the second period, his first fight since suffering a concussion against Washington's Aaron Volpatti on Nov. 1. It was also his second fight this season against Getzlaf, who registered a Gordie Howe hat trick (one fight, one goal and one assist) ... Steve Mason (23 saves on 27 shots) has allowed four or more goals in three of his five starts since signing his 3-year contract extension ... Zac Rinaldo knocked Nick Bonino (upper body) out of the game with a vicious but clean hit in the first period ... The loss, coupled with wins from Ottawa and Columbus, pushed the Flyers back out of a playoff spot.