The Flyers, shorthanded because of injuries and illness, collapsed at the finish line tonight.

They blew a late one-goal lead and dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the New Jersey Devils at the Wachovia Center.

Patrik Elias scored two goals - the game-tying one with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in regulation, and the winner with 2:14 remaining in overtime - to enable the Devils to drive up the Jersey Turnpike with two stolen points.

"It's really frustrating; we're wondering how we lost that game and how we let it slip away," said left winger Scott Hartnell, who played a strong game for the Flyers. "It kind of puts a sour taste in our mouth and probably the fans, too, especially when it's against the Devils. We just have to be little bit sharper at the end of the game."

A giveaway by goalie Marty Biron led to the tying goal, while a turnover by defenseman Andrew Alberts paved the way for Elias' winner which he scored on a backhander from in close.

"That last play was just a blatant turnover, but I don't see anything wrong with the effort," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "With a lead like that, we should put it away."

For the second straight game, the Flyers lost the services of one of their marquee players.

This time, it was Simon Gagne who left the game early. Gagne, who missed most of last season with a concussion, was removed from the game in the second period for what he called flu-related dehydration.

The Flyers said the ailment was not concussion-related.

Gagne, who began the night tied for fourth in the NHL with 31 points, said he plans to play tomorrow in Carolina. Standout defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who opened the scoring with a power-play goal, missed the last few minutes tonight with a bruised shoulder but said he also expects to play tomorrow.

Flyers defenseman Matt Carle sat out with a back injury.

On Tuesday, Flyers center Danny Briere reinjured his groin; he will miss at least four weeks.

Scottie Upshall scored a power-play goal on a deflection off Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador with 4:28 left in regulation to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.

But with 1:30 remaining in regulation - just after New Jersey had killed a penalty - Biron made two mistakes that allowed the Devils to tie the score.

First, instead of leaving the puck for incoming defenseman Braydon Coburn, Biron tried to clear it and turned it over in the corner to Brian Gionta, who had just left the penalty box.

Gionta fed Elias, who beat Biron with a shot from just inside the blue line; the puck went through the goalie's legs.

There apparently was a communication breakdown between Biron and his defensemen just before the game-tying goal.

"The puck went the length of the ice and it should have been a routine play," Stevens said. "We work on that every day. There's not a day where we don't work on exchanges. That should be as automatic as reaching for the brake when you see a red light."

Asked if he would have left the puck for Coburn if he had to do it again, Biron said, "I see Gionta come out of the penalty box, so my first thought was that he was going to be first on the puck. So I have to try to make a play. Maybe I should have shot it a little harder. . . . You can't be afraid to go out and make the simple plays . . . and give your defensemen some help. I know I've made some bad reads, and tonight was maybe one of them, but we just have to keep going the same way and it's going to be more beneficial in the long run."