For the second time in their last five games, the Flyers were beaten by a last-place team.

Rookie Brian Elliott made 34 saves as the improved Ottawa Senators jolted the Flyers, 5-2, last night at the sold-out Wachovia Center.

Twelve nights earlier, St. Louis' Chris Mason blanked the Flyers, 4-0. The Blues are last in the Central Division; Ottawa is at the bottom of the Northeast Division.

The Flyers will play another last-place team, the New York Islanders, tomorrow afternoon at the Wachovia Center.

Elliott, 23, was flawless until Darroll Powe scored on a rebound with 12 minutes remaining, cutting Ottawa's lead to 3-1. Mike Richards, returning after a three-game absence because of the flu, also scored for the Flyers, who are 3-4 since the all-star break.

The Flyers, suffering back-to-back losses at home for the first time since Nov. 2 and 8, outshot the Senators, 36-23.

But it didn't matter because goalie Antero Niittymaki, playing for the eighth time in the last nine games (including seven starts), was thoroughly outplayed by Elliott.

"I wasn't sharp tonight, and that's it," Niittymaki said. "You move on."

The Flyers had plenty of scoring chances, but Elliott had all the answers.

"I think we played well," Niittymaki said. "Sometimes you don't play that well and you win. Sometimes you play well and don't win.

"They got a couple of bounces, and I should have stopped a couple of those - and their goalie was really good tonight."

The Senators took control with 13.8 seconds left in the middle period when Nick Foligno scored on a backhander from the right circle, giving them a 3-0 advantage.

"We didn't play poorly," Richards said. "They capitalized on their opportunities and we didn't."

"It was kind of a weird game," said Flyers winger Joffrey Lupul, whose line applied lots of offensive pressure but was a combined minus-10.

"It seemed like we had a lot of chances," especially in the second period, "when we were really close to getting back into the game," he said. "Kind of a bad play by our line at the end of the second was a killer for us."

Foligno took advantage of the defensive lapse.

"One defenseman rimmed it in, and they seemed to beat us to the puck on the far side," Lupul said.

"Someone obviously has to get that guy coming down the middle on a play like that," he said of Foligno.

A bizarre goal gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead with 1:38 left in the opening period.

All-star left winger Dany Heatley took a shot from the left circle that went off the right post before caroming off Scott Hartnell's leg and Niittymaki's skate to put the Senators ahead.

Heatley scored two goals last night.

Ottawa, which won its third straight game for the first time this season, was playing on back-to-back nights but looked fresh until the final period.

The Senators boosted their lead to 2-0 when Jason Spezza took a cross from Brendan Bell and knocked in a power-play goal with 11:20 left in the second period.

"We didn't make the most of our chances, and they were really good in transition," Lupul said. "When we turned over pucks or they blocked shots, it seemed that pucks found their way into our net.

"We're going to have to do a little better job of taking advantage of our chances. We can't get too frustrated; we've got two more games this weekend to rebound. If we win them both, it's still a good little stretch for us."