The Flyers can expect coal in those orange stockings this Christmas, after last night's 6-5 shoot-out loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the Wachovia Center.

The Flyers suffered their sixth loss in succession.

And for the second consecutive night, the Flyers blew a third-period lead.

Even worse, however, is that the Flyers had the lead and a four-minute power play with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in regulation - and did nothing with it.

Granted, a questionable icing call allowed Buffalo's Thomas Vanek to tie the game in the final 7.2 ticks of regulation. Even so, the Flyers had two more power plays in overtime and still couldn't score with the third-best man-advantage unit in the NHL.

Forget about Buffalo's Nathan Paetsch taking the longest route to the puck to get that icing whistle. The Flyers lost because they again failed to deliver a knockout blow.

"Four-on-threes are a funny thing," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "We created some looks at the net. You get three guys in the lane, it's hard to get to the net. . . . But having said that, we did have opportunities to score. We just didn't finish."

Ales Kotalik's shoot-out goal won it, while goalie Ryan Miller stoned the Flyers' three shooters. The Flyers are 0 for 3 this year and 5-15 lifetime in shoot-outs.

"I'll take the blame for it," Danny Briere said. "I've had three chances [this season] and haven't scored. Before I got here, I was about 50 percent on shoot-outs. I know I can do better."

Kimmo Timonen's power play tip-in at 3:51 of the third period broke a 4-4 deadlock. It should have been the game-winner, but the Flyers have forgotten how to close out games the last two months.

"This was a night we needed to get two points and we had the two points," goalie Marty Biron said. "We got the puck down the ice. Was it really icing or not? Who knows? But then we still had 14 seconds in our end to get the two points. Then the overtime.

"It's disappointing to lose that point. That could be important down the road. . . . As you win close games, you get more confident in getting the job done."

Now the problem seems mental. How will the Flyers handle this nightmare before Christmas, knowing they have lost five of six games by a single goal?

"It's a tough one to lose," Derian Hatcher said. "We played a pretty good game. We had it. I'm happy with the effort the team gave. But we have to realize if we play that kind of game every night, we'll win a lot of hockey games. We put a lot into it.

"I think teams do learn how to win, and we're in that stage now. The only way to do it is go out and win it."

Biron had another strong night in goal with 23 saves. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter each scored two goals, so there were positives.

Alas, the officials played a huge role. Referee Eric Furlatt, who has made some debatable calls working Flyers games this season, for the second night in a row made a call as the official farthest from the play, giving the Sabres a power play in the opening 1:37 of play. Furlatt whistled Richards for a dubious roughing of Daniel Paille.

Regardless, the Sabres made good on the call rather quickly as Maxim Afinogenov one-timed the puck from the right circle on a long, crossing pass from Jason Pominville that cleanly beat Biron for a 1-0 lead at 2:18.

For the second game in succession, Riley Cote decked Andrew Peters in an early fight. Cote played just 30 seconds (two shifts) in Friday's 3-2 loss at Buffalo. That fight was followed by another minutes later between Richards and Paetsch.

The Sabres took some liberties Friday and the feeling was the Flyers needed to respond. It took them a while, but they did.

Still, the Sabres were the feistier of the two teams in the first period, jumping on every loose puck and ambushing the Flyers on the boards.

After Carter's tying goal, Kotalik and Pominville made it 3-1 in the second period. Shorthanded goals by Carter and Richards - in a 55-second span - tied it at 3.

"We found a way to get into the hockey game, but ultimately, we have to find ways to seal these off to win," Stevens said. "Get two points and get out of here."

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Contact staff writer Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or tpanaccio@phillynews.com.