You have to wonder if the NHL folks who picked the Flyers to play Boston in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 are shaking their heads and asking themselves:

What were we thinking?

The floundering Flyers lost another goalie last night, and seemed lost to explain why they lost another game.

Florida 4, Flyers 1.

And it wasn't as competitive as the final score looks.

The Flyers, who held a players-only meeting after the game, allowed three power-play goals, looked disorganized when they had an extra attacker, and were thoroughly outplayed at the Wachovia Center, where fans chanted E-A-G-L-E-S when they weren't booing.

That makes 14 losses in the last 17 games for the Legion of Gloom. They are 2-7-1 since Peter Laviolette replaced the fired John Stevens, and they have scored a total of nine goals in their last 10 losses.

"It's got to get better quickly," Laviolette said. "We got down a goal and it went south pretty quick. We stopped making plays. We have to gain our confidence back and play with a purpose. . . .

"We seem timid to make plays."

Timid? The Flyers? At home? What in the name of Dave Schultz is going on here?

Once upon a time, opponents used to fear facing the Flyers in South Philadelphia.

Not anymore. The Flyers are 9-9-2 at home, including four straight losses. Since 1970-71, they have finished with a losing record at home only three times.

To make matters worse last night, goalie Brian Boucher - who has been filling in admirably for the injured Ray Emery - left the game after cutting his right hand while making a diving save early in the second period.

Newcomer Michael Leighton relieved Boucher, who needed stitches in his ring finger. The Flyers said they probably would recall Johan Backlund from the AHL's Phantoms to serve as a backup tomorrow at Tampa Bay.

On the power play, the Flyers were 0 for 7, while the Panthers were 3 for 8.

Florida, taking advantage of penalties against Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, got power-play goals from Nathan Horton (who scored twice) and Stephen Weiss (four assists) to take a 2-0 lead into the final period. They increased it to 4-0 with a pair of goals against Leighton.

"Obviously things are sliding downhill and we just need to stick together in this," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "I look at our team and we're having a hard time scoring right now, and I look at our roster and I wonder why. . . . Even our good players were fighting things tonight. Guys that can make plays and can score goals were throwing the puck away for no reason."

Ian Laperriere, who lost seven teeth and had nearly 100 stitches administered when hit in the mouth with a shot last month, was one of the few Flyers who showed any energy, getting into three fights.

"I don't know," said defenseman Chris Pronger when asked to assess the team's problems. "We're doing a lot of talking. I know personally I need to focus on myself and focus on what I can do better."

Florida blocked 18 shots, including six by Bryan Allen, five by Jordan Leopold, and four by former Flyer Dennis Seidenberg.

"We came in here and I think we righted some wrongs," said Florida coach Peter DeBoer, whose team was playing its first game in the Wachovia Center since Mike Richards gave David Booth a concussion with an open-ice hit on Oct. 24. "We just competed hard tonight for sixty minutes."

"There are a lot of us that aren't having the seasons that we've had last year," said Jeff Carter, who has scored goals in three of his last 19 games. "When that happens that brings the whole team down."