Perry Como might have enjoyed being home for the holidays, but the Flyers are finding no joy here as the Christmas season approaches.
They lost their third consecutive game at the Wachovia Center tonight - their fourth straight overall - as the Phoenix Coyotes outhustled them, 3-2.
Peter Mueller broke a 2-2 tie at 6 minutes, 25 seconds of the third period as he tapped in a rebound against goalie Martin Biron. Mueller simply outworked everyone around him for a turnaround shot.
The Coyotes scored a couple of unusual goals in the game, but their work ethic in overcoming an early 2-0 deficit was greater than the Flyers'.
The Flyers have given up seven goals in the final minute of a period this season, not including empty-netters.
Seven in 32 games. The cardinal rule in hockey is, you don't give up a goal in the final minute of a period. Phoenix scored twice in the last 2:53 of the second period to steal the game, including a tying goal with just 22 ticks left.
Late in the third, the Flyers put the heat on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov but could not get the puck past him.
Wayne Gretzky's Coyotes came in with a two-game winning streak and had won three of their last five games.
"At practice today, I told them, 'Don't get caught up in that because it can flip-flop like that,' " Gretzky said. "We had a streak of four wins a few weeks ago and before we knew it, we lost four in a row.
"In this game now, every night is a hard game. There are no easy teams. Teams like Ottawa and Detroit have some pretty good skill levels. Twenty-seven, 28 teams are pretty equal. Every night is a hard game. I know from experience and from having played here, this is a hard building to win in."
Early on, it was all Phoenix as Biron was peppered with nine shots in six minutes. He made several clutch saves in the first period on Martin Hanzal, Fredrik Sjostrom and Nick Boynton along with ex-Flyer Mike York.
Despite being outplayed, the Flyers scored first on just their fourth shot of the game against Bryzgalov. R.J. Umberger skated the puck into the zone up the right side, angled toward the net, and sent a backhand pass for Scott Hartnell in the crease.
Coaches have told Hartnell to get closer to the net and try to deflect pucks, and he's been doing that in recent weeks. Hartnell redirected Umberger's pass for his fifth goal and a 1-0 lead at 12 minutes, 3 seconds. The goal came on a power play.
"It's great to score the first goal, and it's great that we played a good solid 20 minutes," Hartnell said. "It seems like we haven't played a solid 60 minutes for a while. . . . I passed it to Umberger in the neutral zone on the power play. He just used his wheels. He has been playing great the last dozen or so games. He just drove them wide and I had my stick on the ice, and he made a great backhand pass. All I had to do was redirect it into the net."
Danny Briere could have made it 2-0 with a breakaway at 6:27, but he banked the puck off the right post and Bryzgalov's left skate, drawing a whistle for a stoppage.
Mike Richards continued his scoring assault with his 16th goal early in the second period to make it 2-0. He stole the puck off veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski, went right to the net, and backhanded the puck off Bryzgalov's right pad.
During the second period, Comcast SportsNet suffered technical problems, causing its viewers to miss most of the period. Service was restored for the third period.
Here's what the TV viewers missed: Phoenix scored twice in the final three minutes. Keith Yandle's first goal of the season was a gift. The Coyotes' Niko Kapanen forced a turnover in the Flyers' end and fired the puck at Biron's head. He ducked and the puck went over the net, off the back boards and right onto Yandle's stick. He crashed the crease for a lucky open-net goal.
The Coyotes scored again with 22 seconds left in the period. Shane Doan came into the zone shaded by Alexandre Picard. He spun and fired the puck into the slot for Sjostrom, who was wide open to tie the score at 2.
Flyer defenseman Randy Jones was frozen on the play. He appeared to be mesmerized by Doan's pirouette, worthy of a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.