MONTREAL - Standing in the middle of a lonely locker room in the bowels of the Bell Centre, Mike Richards could do little more than bewilderingly shake his head.
"If I knew what the answer was," Richards said, "I'd fix it."
Last night, for the fifth game in a row, the Flyers were broken again.
Despite holding the Montreal Canadiens to just 13 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for fewest shots allowed on the road, the Flyers lost, 3-1, to drop to .500 (13-13-1) for the first time since Nov. 15, 2008.
"We didn't give them a whole lot," Chris Pronger said. "But we didn't win the game. At the end of the day, it's about winning and losing."
Proving that their flaws run much deeper than the coaching staff, the Flyers have failed to win under new coach Peter Laviolette and have lost eight out of their last nine games.
Last night, goaltending and defense were the issues. The Flyers were held to just one goal on the scoreboard - their third in the last four games - and barely outshot a team that had just one shot in the first 25 minutes, 52 seconds of the game.
Amazingly, the Canadiens managed to play a worse first period than the struggling Flyers. Danny Briere scored a brilliant, top-shelf goal to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead as he was dragged down by Ryan O'Byrne fewer than 8 minutes into the game.
For the Flyers, the first 10 minutes of the second period were some of the best they have strung together since their West Coast road trip almost 3 weeks ago.
And then all hell broke loose.
"I thought for 40 minutes, we played the game pretty hard," Laviolette said. "We made two mistakes in the second period and they ended up in our net."
Andrei Kostitsyn made the Canadiens' third shot of the game count when he deposited a Tomas Plekanec one-timer behind a sprawling Brian Boucher at 6:20 of the second period.
Left out to dry in front of the net by partner Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen couldn't commit to Plekanec behind the net or Kostitsyn in front, and both ended up alone.
That was the first in a series of bad plays by the Coburn and Timonen pairing, mistakes that ultimately led to the Habs grabbing the lead fewer than 8 minutes later.
One shift, with just 5 minutes remaining in the second period, cost the Flyers the game. First, Coburn was stuffed in the neutral zone leading to an odd-man rush, then Timonen was held up at the blue line, abandoning Coburn.
Coburn ended up having to dive at Maxim Lapierre, who toe-dragged and walked around him to feed Mike Cammalleri for the easy goal at 14:04 of the second.
"There were times, in the wrong situation, where we tried to make a play on entry," Laviolette said. "Really, the puck should have been behind [the net] and we should have had that two-man forecheck and gotten up the ice as a unit of five."
Marc-Andre Bergeron scored a power-play goal from the point at 11:05 of the third period to seal the game. The Flyers, halted by the Canadiens' prevent forecheck, were completely lifeless offensively in the final frame.
"A couple of breakdowns there in the second period gave them the lead," Pronger explained. "The way they play defensively with trapping and numbers back, it's difficult to get odd-man rushes.
"They have four and five guys back. It's difficult getting through the neutral zone. You have to pick your way through it. They didn't forecheck very hard and we were able to come up but they have a lot of numbers back."
Still, as Pronger said, good teams find a way to cut their way through the redwoods.
"You have to get pucks in deep," Pronger said. "You have to skate. And you have to get on guys and force turnovers."
Rather than create their own scoring chances, the Flyers did exactly what they've been doing during this streak that has them floundering at the bottom of the Atlantic Division - waiting on the periphery for pucks to come to them.
"I thought the pace fell off in the third," Laviolette confirmed. "We didn't do a good job getting the puck to the net tonight. We can't turn the puck over. We were weakened physically in the third and maybe the mental part went with that as well."
The Flyers managed just two shots on goal in the third period - and one came with 1:16 left, far too little time to mount a two-goal comeback.
"It is frustrating," Richards said. "I think it might have been a little bit of frustration [in the third period] trying to do too much with the puck. We were reluctant to get the puck in deep."
One goal - or one win - wasn't going to right this ship. It's going down quickly.
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards combined to win just 14 of 37 faceoffs. Overall, the Canadiens won 58 percent of the draws . . . Both teams set franchise records for fewest combined shots (28) . . . Riley Cote fought Georges Laraque - maybe the NHL's toughest character - just a few minutes into the game. We scored it a decision for Laraque, although Cote gets points for a takedown.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.