If this was meant as a measuring stick for the Flyers, then they’d better get a new stick.

Preferably one where the puck won’t keep bouncing off it into its own net almost like a magnet, which was essentially the story in a sloppy 5-2 loss here Thursday night to the still-unbeaten Washington Capitals in what had been billed as a showdown of two of the game’s elite teams.

Yet while beleaguered goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said there was little he could do about four deflections that turned on the red light, while fellow free agent Tomas Vokoun, who came quite a bit cheaper than Bryzgalov’s nine-year, $51 million price tag, was stoning the Flyers much of the night, Peter Laviolette knows that’s a simplification for what went wrong.

"We had some tough breaks," said Laviolette, after Claude Giroux’s slick first period breakaway goal was canceled out by a pair of breakdowns in the last 1:20 that enabled the Caps to head to the locker room somehow leading 2-1. "When they put in four redirects—three off your stick — it’s tough.

 

"We made a mistake on the turnover [Scott Hartnell giving it away to Mathieu Perreault, whose ensuing shot went off defenseman Braydon Coburn’s stick past Bryzgalov]. Then had a letdown [which Alex Ovechkin converted into the first of his two goals]. So after what was a good period for us, we still ended up down. This was certainly not what we were looking for."

But probably not surprising considering the number of penalties the Flyers have been taking all season. This time it caught up with them, if only because playing shorthanded so much messed up the lines and took too much energy out of them.

"Turnovers and penalties killed us," said captain Chris Pronger. "Until we figure it out we’re gonna have games like this."

Still, after Vokoun kept the Flyers at bay in the second when they had a number of good chances, it remained just a 2-1 game until the Caps erupted for three goals in a 2:25 span early in the third to break it open.

"What can you say?," shrugged Bryzgalov. "It’s 2-1 and you’re right in the game. Then 2-1 becomes 5-1. The difference in the game was those four deflections."

"They’re part of the game," scoffed Pronger when it was suggested the game really was closer than the score indicated, "but all the things we need to do to win hockey games we didn’t do tonight."

Which is why they’ll need a different measuring stick when they host the St. Louis Blues, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday.

The old one clearly is broken.

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