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Flyers suffer first loss to Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Plane delays caused by weather problems. Practices canceled because of plane delays. Key players getting injured.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Plane delays caused by weather problems. Practices canceled because of plane delays. Key players getting injured.

For the Flyers, the first two legs of their six-city, 12-day trip haven't gone exactly the way coach John Stevens had planned.

Ken Hitchcock's lowly Columbus Blue Jackets outplayed the Flyers in almost every category tonight as they scored a 3-0 win at Nationwide Arena.

Steve Mason, a 20-year-old rookie, made 20 saves and notched his third career shutout as Columbus recorded its first win over the Flyers in eight tries.

With Friday's 5-1 loss in Chicago, the Flyers suffered back-to-back regulation losses for the first time since Nov. 6-8.

In the first two games of the trip, the Flyers' offense has been almost nonexistent. The team had few good scoring chances tonight and suffered its first shutout of the season - and first in 77 games since last year.

"We have to start doing the smart things; the last two games, we haven't been doing them," said winger Arron Asham, whose team was outshot by 38-18 Friday and by 33-20 tonight. "We've got to start playing better defense. We're missing a couple of guys on the back end . . . and we need guys to step up. We've got some good, young guys and we'll work our way out of it."

The Flyers played without arguably their two best defensemen - Kimmo Timonen, who was sorely missed on the power play, and Matt Carle. Both were injured Friday.

Last night, Darroll Powe, Luca Sbisa and Asham left the ice with injuries. Asham (bruised right knee) did not return, but said he should be able to play Tuesday in Vancouver.

"We're in a tough stretch here, and sometimes fatigue sets in and guys get hurt," Stevens said, "but it's all the more reason we have to regroup and play tighter hockey. It seems like we're chasing the game right now, and any time you play catch-up, the game seems a lot tougher than it should be."

Yesterday was the second straight day the Flyers could not have a morning skate because of travel problems.

"We can't make excuses now," Stevens said. "We have to do little things better, and that includes staying out of the penalty box early. Teams get power plays early, and even if they don't score, it taxes us too much."

On Friday, their plane was late arriving to Chicago because of weather-related airport issues. Then their charter flight could not leave because of fog, causing the team to stay overnight and miss today's morning skate.

For the Flyers, no morning skate apparently translates into an awful start.

On Friday, they fell behind Chicago, 2-0, after 2 minutes, 35 seconds. Tonight, they fell into a 2-0 hole and were outshot, 13-5, in the first period.

A bad clearing pass by goalie Antero Niittymaki led to the Blue Jackets' first goal. Jan Hejda scored from the left circle after 3:22.

Andrew Murray made it 2-0 with a power-play goal with 1:52 left in the first period, and Manny Malhotra added a second-period goal.

Columbus entered the night 14th among 15 Western Conference teams. Yet the Jackets are 6-1-1 against Eastern teams.