WASHINGTON – Get ready to turn out the lights, the party’s just about over.
After losing to the Capitals on Sunday, the Flyers found themselves still at least seven points out of a playoff spot with only six games to play.
And pending Sunday night’s Montreal at Carolina game, the Flyers could be nine points out, meaning their “tragic’’ number could be down to four.
Mathematically, the Flyers might be out of it as early as Wednesday.
By dropping a 3-1 decision at Capital One Arena, the Flyers were swept by the Capitals for only the second time since Washington began NHL play back in 1974-75. The only other time was in 2006-07, the worst season in Flyers’ history.
Truth be told, the Flyers gave it a game effort against the Caps, putting 36 shots on Brayden Holtby and launching a total of 74 if you count missed and blocked shots.
The Flyers have dropped five of their last seven games after a stretch of 18-4-2 going back to Jan. 12.
Having given so much for two months, it was almost inevitable that the Flyers would run out of gas down the stretch, playing teams like the Capitals and the Islanders three times each.
Jake Voracek said the Flyers didn’t come up big in the big games and ultimately that led to their downfall.
“We had a good push,’’ he acknowledged after the game, “but every time we got close – three points, five points – and played those big teams in front of us (such as Montreal). . .those four-point games, we choked.’’
“We couldn’t find a way to win those big games. That’s why we are where we are right now.’’
Scott Laughton says the Flyers put enough energy into this effort but Holtby and a tight Washington defense did the job. The Caps aren’t defending Stanley Cup champions for nothing.
“We did a lot of good things,’’ Laughton said. “Our defense activated the rush and we got a lot of chances that way, a lot better than in that stretch (2-5) we’ve been going through.
“We were closing on them better (than Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Islanders). We were getting out of our zone quicker than standing there for 30, 40 seconds. You have to take some positives from it but you still lose two in a row over the weekend. . .’’
A power-play goal by Voracek with 2:50 left in the second period pulled the Flyers to within 2-1.
Voracek took advantage of a loose puck in the right circle and rifled a shot past Holtby.
The goal was Voracek’s 20th of the season, giving the Flyers five 20-goal scorers.
Washington jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Dmitrij Jaskin tipped Matt Niskanen’s shot past goaltender Brian Elliott at 3:52.
That made it a quick uphill battle for the Flyers, who are just 15-27-3 when an opponent scores first.
During the middle of the second period, the Flyers dominated play for a good five minutes, with Holtby getting peppered with shots left and right. But when that stretch ended, the Flyers gave up a second goal. This time another Niskanen shot was tipped past Elliott by Travis Boyd at 10:47.
Washington moved to a 3-1 lead at 8:07 of the third period on a Phil Myers bad-luck turnover, leading to a breakaway goal from Jakub Vrana. On the play, it looked like Myers was trying to cover for Robert Hagg, who had pinched in low.
“I tried to keep the puck in there,’’ Myers said. “It (the puck) hopped over my stick.’’
Coach Scott Gordon liked the way his team responded and corrected some things after the difficult loss to the Islanders.
“We were slow (vs. Islanders) closing in the defensive zone,’’ Gordon said. “. . .The opportunities to squash plays before they developed, we didn’t do a very good job of it against the Islanders. That was the difference today.
“The guys played hard to the end. We kept it close, it could have gone the other way.’’
Elliott kept the Flyers in it but had no chance on the Boyd and Vrana goals.
“I thought the guys did a really good job,’’ he said. “Especially coming back from yesterday, bringing the effort that did this afternoon. We generated a lot of chances, just a couple mistakes led to some odd-man rushes. That’s where they got their chances.’’
There was some confusion at the start of the game when the Flyers submitted a lineup card with Phil Varone’s name on it. The only problem was, Justin Bailey was supposed to be on it. It took a few minutes to straighten things out but no penalty was called. . .The Flyers are off from practice Monday. They don’t play again until Wednesday when they host Toronto.