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Lethargic Flyers lose 9th straight

During their dramatic slide, the Flyers had not been able to get in the way of their previous eight opponents before the San Jose Sharks came to the Wachovia Center.

During their dramatic slide, the Flyers had not been able to get in the way of their previous eight opponents before the San Jose Sharks came to the Wachovia Center.

On a night when they were serenaded by boos from their frustrated spectators, the Flyers couldn't get out of their own way.

On a third-period San Jose goal that should have been accompanied by a death knell, Danny Briere tried to elude a harmless-looking centering pass by Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray.

But the puck glanced off Briere's right shoulder and caromed into the net to give the Sharks a two-goal lead that resulted in the Flyers' ninth consecutive defeat, 3-1. It was Murray's first goal of the season.

Until last night, at least coach John Stevens could pin his hopes for a turnaround on emotion and effort. Until last night.

"When the passion and the emotion aren't there, you're not going to win a hockey game," Stevens said. "[When] you lose games in a row, there's no confidence being built. There's no enthusiasm. But you can't walk away from a fight. This is a challenge, and it's up to each guy in the locker room to make a difference. Right now, it seems like we have too many guys waiting for someone else to step up and make a difference."

Outplayed through most of the game, the Flyers got a lift when Mike Knuble finished off a pretty three-on-one with a goal that tied it, 1-1, with 5.8 seconds remaining in the second period.

But after Martin Biron surrendered a soft goal early in the third to Milan Michalek, whose shot trickled through the pads of the Flyers goalie, the Flyers sagged noticeably, as if to suggest: Here we go again.

Michalek got in position to shoot after a deft move practically screwed the new Flyers defenseman, Jaroslav Modry, into the ice.

"Obviously we're not playing with a lot of confidence right now, and it's affecting our work ethic and our execution level," Flyers captain Jason Smith said.

The loss dropped the Flyers into 10th place in the Eastern Conference, which seemed unimaginable two weeks ago, when they were first in the Atlantic Division and zeroing in on conference leader Ottawa. They have been outscored, 31-18, during the losing streak and have not scored more than three goals in the last 13 games.

"There's not much more to say. It's time to make action out of it," Smith said. "You can only talk so much. It's pretty much rock bottom right now. If we don't turn around and win some games, we're not in the playoffs. We'd better turn things around quickly."

The only good news for the Flyers was that nobody got hurt.

Depleted as they are by injuries, it seems the Flyers are feeling the weight of trying to overcome the losses of Simon Gagne, Joffrey Lupul, Steve Downie and Derian Hatcher.

"When people are out of your lineup, it still doesn't explain the lack of emotion," Stevens said.

The Flyers' frustration and lack of focus was evident in some of the penalties they took: Too many men on the ice. Two 10-minute misconducts, one by Scottie Upshall. Unsportsmanlike conduct.

"With all our frustration, we're burning up energy over things we can't control," Stevens said.

The Sharks scored the game's first goal when Jonathan Cheechoo beat Biron from the high slot. Cheechoo met with little resistance from the backpedaling Flyers, and his shot fluttered over Biron's right shoulder.

At the game's outset, Claude Giroux, the 20-year-old forward called up from juniors Tuesday in an emergency move, blunted an early San Jose scoring chance with sheer hustle. On a sliding backcheck, Giroux tied up Joe Pavelski, who was homing in on a rebound.

Under an agreement between the NHL and the Canadian junior leagues, Giroux must return to the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Junior League today.

Notes. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren presented San Jose's Jeremy Roenick with a Tiffany crystal piece before the game in recognition of Roenick's 500th career goal. The 38-year-old Roenick is in his 19th season. He played three seasons with the Flyers, and this was his first visit to the Wachovia Center since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2004. Roenick became the third American-born player to score 500 goals, joining Mike Modano and Joe Mullen, now a Flyers assistant coach. Mike Richards welcomed Roenick by knocking him on his rear end on the first shift. . . . The Flyers' Riley Cote and the Sharks' Jody Shelley used to be teammates with Syracuse in the AHL, but that didn't prevent them from using each other as punching bags during a first-period fight.

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