UNIONDALE, N.Y. - John Stevens says it is not hard to figure out why the Flyers are mired in a four-game losing streak.

They are chasing the game, not leading it, the Flyers coach says. Their starts are poor, and they are turning the puck over too often.

They have put themselves in bad situations, "then play with all kinds of resilience to get back into the hockey game," Stevens said after a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders last night at the Nassau Coliseum.

"You can't fault the effort, but there are mistakes that end up in our net," he said.

Stevens said the Flyers were "way too soft" on a couple of chances around their goal.

A first-period scrum with a bouncing puck left New York's Trent Hunter open, and he took advantage by scoring.

"I'll take responsibility for the first goal-against," center Danny Briere said. "That's my fault. I'm disappointed in myself for that goal. . . . I was in a scrum. I should have done more."

Turnovers hurt the Flyers as well. The score was 1-1 in the second period when Jason Smith coughed up the puck to Jeff Tambellini. He pounced on Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki for his first goal of the season.

"We turned a ton of pucks over, spent way too much time in our own end," Stevens said. "We need to do a better job managing the hockey puck."

And maximizing chances as well. Mike Richards, who seems to get a shorthanded breakaway nightly, had two of them in this game. Because the arena's ice was in bad shape, the puck rolled off his stick on his first chance with the score 1-1 in the second period.

"I got a little ahead of myself," Richards said. "I made a little move. I thought I had him. It's one of those things where you've got to bear down. You've got to expect to score, not hope to score. That could have been the game."

On his second opportunity late in the game, Richards didn't get off a quality shot against goalie Rick DiPietro.

The Flyers' funk is starting to resemble December's slump, in which they lost six games in succession.

"It reminds me a little bit of that drought we had at Christmastime," Briere said. "You are always a bit short. It's frustrating. We're close. We know what is going on. We know what we're doing wrong. You're in that funk. It's got to run its course, almost. Close is not good enough. . . . We talked about it yesterday. We had a long meeting about it."

There was one positive sign for Briere. He finally scored a goal, his first since Jan. 22, snapping an eight-game drought.

"Yes, it is a big relief; I'm not going to lie," he said.  "There always seem to be stretches in the season where things don't seem to go your way.  You question yourself around the net, and this has certainly been one of those cases. It feels good to finally get a bounce going my way."

The bounces did not go right on the Flyers' power play, which usually bails them out. They were 1 for 6 last night.

After ex-Flyer Ruslan Fedotenko had given the Isles a 4-2 lead, Joffrey Lupul's 17th goal, with a minute left, gave the Flyers new life.

The sense of desperation this team displays at the end of games is not there at the beginning.

"Our starts have been bad all year long," winger Scott Hartnell said. "We haven't had those one- or two-goal leads. It's always playing catch-up. We do a good job getting close, but we're not getting wins, getting points. Our urgency level isn't there."

Briere ended his scoring drought at 1:05 of the middle period with his 21st goal, his 10th on the power play. That made it 1-1.

After Tambellini's go-ahead goal, another turnover saw Sean Bergenheim break into the Flyers' zone a stride ahead of Kimmo Timonen. The Isles winger beat Niittymaki with a sliding shot, making it 3-1 at 13:41 of the second period.

"The second period has been our Achilles' heel all year," Stevens said.

With 2:30 left in the period, Hartnell scored his second goal in two games, making it a one-goal affair again.

"Our D-zone play isn't up to par, and we're a defense-first hockey team," Hartnell said. "We have a lot of offense. But if we don't take care of our own end, we're in deep trouble."

Loose pucks. It's hard to say which was worse: the ice outside the arena, which had highways tied up for hours, or the ice at the rink, which was abominable.

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