The emotions of Philadelphia Flyers' fans were bittersweet as they watched their team spiral to a disappointing end in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference championship finals yesterday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Hundreds of devoted fans crowded the Wachovia Center to dutifully watch every score that led their team farther away from securing a spot in the Stanley Cup finals.

Spirits were high at the beginning, said bartender Nick Capecci, but by the second period, the excitement slowly seeped out of the room.

Rock music blared from speakers as several flat-screen televisions broadcast the game. Fans decked out in Flyers' gear sat in clusters sipping beer. Some chatted cheerfully, others sat in somber silence as they watched the final moments of the game.

Sitting near the bar, Pat Izzo, 33, of Aston, Delaware County, said he was disappointed, but he wasn't going to complain.

"Pittsburgh is a good team. Getting shut out and losing six-to-nothing hurt, but [the season] is something to be proud of," he said as he showed off a tattoo of the Flyers' emblem on his right leg.

Chuck Sanford, of the Northeast, noted that the Flyers got through a 10-game losing streak, a plethora of injuries and had to work with a handful of new talent, but that's what made the season that much more memorable.

"People wrote the team off since the beginning of the season, but the way they fought back in the playoffs . . . I'm disappointed in the game, but not the season," he said.

Some fans walked out of the pavilion and declined to comment, saying that they were too upset over the loss.

But Izzo refused to let the loss get him down. As a lifelong Flyers' fan, he said he's seen his share of Stanley Cup wins and he's confident that there will be more.

Wearing the number 17, former Flyer Rod Brind'Amour's jersey, he pointed to signatures he got from former Flyers players - including Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and Bernie Parent - over a 16-year period.

The boisterous environment at the beginning of the game quieted down as reality set in and Pittsburgh's score crept higher. The silence was fitting considering the outcome of the game, said Capecci.

Wiping down the bar, he said the game wasn't worth sitting all the way through.

"People weren't buying as much beer towards the end, but why would they? I wouldn't want to be drunk watching that game," he said.

The Pittsburgh Penguins secured a spot in the NHL finals with their 6-0 victory, but Mike Bistline, 29, of Boothwyn, Delaware County, is already setting his eyes, and hopes, on next season, he said.

Sitting beside Izzo, Bistline said that since newly becoming a fan, he's been engulfed in all things Philadelphia Flyers. Now with the season over, he said he has to look elsewhere for entertainment.

"It was a great ride, but I don't know what the hell I'm going to do," he said. *