Somehow, someway, the NHL managed to end up with a compelling Easter Sunday matinee involving the moribund Flyers.

It just has little to do with the Flyers - and everything to do with the free-falling Penguins.

With a win on Sunday, the Flyers could extend Pittsburgh's improbable downward spiral, possibly helping to knock the Penguins out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the time all is said and done at the end of the week.

On March 13, the Penguins held a commanding 14-point lead over Florida for a playoff berth.

Yesterday, they arrived in Philadelphia smelling themselves.

In a little more than three weeks, the Penguins (3-7-1) have stumbled to a tie with Boston atop the wild card standings. They hold a scant, three-point cushion over Ottawa with four games to play.

Saturday was an utter disaster. The Penguins dropped a 5-3 decision in Columbus after blowing a two-goal lead. Compounding matters, the Senators and Islanders both drew two points closer, with the Capitals also gaining a point.

"If we keep playing like this, we won't make the playoffs," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury told reporters on Saturday. "We just won't."

Oh, yeah, and the Flyers are up today. Pittsburgh hasn't beaten the Flyers since Oct. 7, 2013, a span of eight games (0-5-2).

That the Flyers would love to be the death knell in Pittsburgh's unthinkable and borderline historic collapse goes without saying. To add to the drama, Pittsburgh only has enough salary cap space to dress either Evgeni Malkin or five defensemen.

Kris Letang (concussion) and Christian Ehrhoff (upper-body) are out indefinitely. Malkin has sat out the last two games, including the Flyers' 4-1 thumping in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. It appears Malkin will play against the Flyers, but the Flyers conversely did a pretty good job wearing down Pittsburgh's suddenly weary blue line.

If the Flyers do somehow manage to play spoiler, look out.

That's because the Penguins' next game is in Ottawa on Tuesday night, against the very team chasing them in the standings. The Senators face the lottery-focused Maple Leafs today.

Back-to-back losses to the Flyers and Senators could well have Pittsburgh on the outside looking in at the playoffs, just like their sad cross-Keystone rivals.

On Twitter: @frank_seravalli