PITTSBURGH - For the fading Flyers, it was "Groundhog Night" against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at frigid Heinz Field: another relatively strong effort, another unwanted result.
As in many of their games during the last few months, coach Dave Hakstol juggled his lines, the Flyers fell behind early, then recovered and outshot their opponent while having a territorial advantage.
In a loss.
This time, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Penguins before a sellout crowd of 67,318.
The Flyers outshot the Penguins in the Stadium Series matchup, 38-29, and won 59 percent of the faceoffs, but they managed just two goals against a Pittsburgh defense that was missing three injured starters, including Kris Letang.
Pittsburgh's Matt Murray (36 saves) badly outplayed his goalie counterpart, Michal Neuvirth, as the Flyers' skid continued.
"We played a great game, but, unfortunately, it didn't go our way," said right winger Wayne Simmonds, whose team will host lowly Colorado on Tuesday. "It wasn't good enough. I don't know what to say, guys. We have 21 games left and a never-say-die attitude. We're going to keep pushing, no matter what."
It was the seventh defeat in the last nine games for the Flyers, who have lost all three of their outdoor games (0-2-1) in franchise history.
The Flyers have a total of eight goals in their last seven losses.
"The bottom line: If we want to get into the playoffs, we have to score goals," said Jake Voracek, who got the Flyers to within 2-1 by scoring his 16th goal midway through the second period. "We're not scoring. . . . It's hard to win when you only score two goals.
"It's getting old."
The Flyers have scored just 24 goals (excluding an empty-netter) in their last 16 games.
"Same old story," said captain Claude Giroux, who contributed an assist but had no shots. "It wouldn't go in."
"We play hard, we battle, we create,'' said veteran Mark Streit, the subject of trade rumors. "We have to find a way to more score goals. Shoot even more. . . . It's difficult now, but we have to stay positive.''
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere scored his first goal in 34 games, a power-play blast from the point to get the Flyers within 3-2 with 13 minutes, 12 seconds to go.
But Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel secured the win by whipping a long shot past a shaky Neuvirth with 5 minutes, 34 seconds remaining. At that point, Pittsburgh had four goals on 26 shots.
The Flyers killed their comeback hopes by committing two penalties in the final 4:19.
There were intermittent snow flurries during the game, and the temperature was 36 degrees when the contest started. The cold conditions didn't bother the Flyers in the first period.
Murray did, stopping all 16 shots he faced in the first. The Flyers played a solid opening period, but left the ice facing a deficit. Again.
They have been outscored, 52-31, in the first period this season.
After Sidney Crosby's first-period goal, the Flyers chased the game the rest of the night. Pittsburgh never trailed.
The Flyers entered Sunday five points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot with 21 games left. Voracek figures the Flyers need to win 15 or 16 of them to sneak into the playoffs.
"We're capable of doing that," he said.
The Flyers, their 10-game winning streak a distant memory, have just nine victories in their last 29 games, going 9-16-4 in that span.
"I believe we're a playoff team, we've shown that many times,'' Streit said. "But with the stretch we're on right now, it's going to be difficult. We have to win games."
Time is not their ally.