DENVER - On a night when an injury-ravaged Flyers roster seemed to do almost everything right, the only thing that wasn't was the final score.
Not even a last-gasp goal from Wayne Simmonds with 18.1 seconds left in regulation could deliver the Flyers two points.
Thanks to a puck that caromed off forward Tom Sestito and then Matt Carle before bouncing behind Ilya Bryzgalov in the second period, the Flyers fell to the struggling Avalanche, 3-2, last night after a wild, wild West-style shootout in front of a sparse crowd at the Pepsi Center.
The Flyers are 0-2 in the shootout this season.
For the Flyers, it didn't matter that they outshot the Avalanche by a total of 33-27. Or that their penalty kill - without leading killers Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux - managed to remain perfect against the third-ranked power play in the NHL.
"The point is good," coach Peter Laviolette said. "But I don't know. I have a hard time saying that I'm happy about a loss. I was really disappointed with the second period. We were too casual, out-chanced too badly. We just gave up too many chances and didn't generate enough."
The Avalanche dealt the Flyers their first road loss since Nov. 26 at the New York Rangers, a gap in time not long ago, but a span of six road games. It was the Flyers' first blemish this season (13-0-1) when skating to the locker room with any lead after the first 20 minutes. And with the Bruins' win in Montreal last night, today marks the first time since Dec. 9 that the Flyers awake not atop the Eastern Conference standings.
In the first period, Scott Hartnell continued his hot streak by netting his 15th point over the last 15 games with a power-play goal. Hartnell one-timed the puck behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere off a slick, cross-slot pass from Jakub Voracek.
Colorado never took the game over completely, but got even when Gabriel Landeskog froze Bryzgalov with a shifty, forehand-to-backhand move only feet away from the crease. It was Landeskog's sixth goal of the season, as the No. 2 overall pick in last June's draft, and just his first on home ice.
Simmonds, who was officially credited with the goal despite a late whack by Danny Briere, at least managed to send the Flyers off to Dallas for tomorrow's game with one point in their pocket.
"I don't think we worked hard enough," Jaromir Jagr said. "When you don't have the puck on your stick offensively, you're just wasting your time. We played better in the third, but they should have been our two points."
Claude Giroux skated for more than 90 minutes in the "Mile High" altitude in Denver. It was his second day in a row on the ice after suffering a concussion on Dec. 10. And that might not be the best indicator that Giroux will be back sooner rather than later.
That's because the Flyers loaned defenseman Kevin Marshall back to Adirondack yesterday after practice, only a few hours before the NHL holiday roster freeze went into effect at midnight. Had the Flyers hung on to Marshall, they would not have had the roster space and flexibility to add Giroux back to the active roster until the freeze expires on Dec. 27.
Officially, Giroux' "indefinite" status has not changed. But based on his increased on-ice productivity, Giroux - who is still tied for the NHL points lead - appears to be tracking for a return this week.
"I just want to test myself and see where I'm at," said Giroux, who was hurt when he was accidentally kneed in the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds in a game against Tampa Bay. "If there's no symptoms, I don't see why I shouldn't push myself to see where I'm at. I'm still going day-by-day. I have 2 more days before [Dallas tomorrow]. If I'm ready to go then, I'm ready to go. If not, then the Rangers [on Friday] is good. And if not, then after Christmas."
Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, two other players out with head injuries, remained in Philadelphia. Couturier was re-examined by doctors, and the team has not referred to his injury yet as a "concussion."
As a result of Marshall's demotion, defenseman Matt Walker was inserted into the lineup for the first time since being called up on Dec. 3. Up front, Jody Shelley was scratched for the 14th time this season, paving the way for Sestito to become the 14th player to make his Flyers debut this season.
To look at Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek's jersey numbers with the Flyers would be to know the two are intensely proud natives of what is now the Czech Republic.
Jagr's No. 68, his only number worn since 1990, is a tip of the cap to the year 1968, a fierce period of liberalization in his homeland - known as the "Prague Spring" - when citizens gained important rights of media, speech and travel from the crippling communist reign.
Voracek's No. 93, his number since 2008, pays homage to the year 1993, when Czechoslovakia peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Last night in Denver, both Voracek and Jagr wore a special sticker on their helmet - the initials "VH" - to mourn the death of former Czech president and intellectual Vaclav Havel. Havel, who died Sunday, was the last president of the united Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. Havel was put into office by the nonviolent Velvet Revolution in 1989 that broke down the barbed wire between Czechoslovakia, West Germany and Austria. Yesterday, President Obama paid tribute to Havel, a former U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.
Defenseman Erik Gustafsson joined the Flyers in Denver yesterday for practice for the first time since undergoing wrist surgery on Nov. 10. Gustafsson said he will likely not be able to return to the lineup until after Christmas.
Gustafsson, 23, just had his cast removed last Monday. He has missed the last 18 games - and valuable opportunity and minutes that would have come along with the absences of Chris Pronger and Andreas Lilja.
"It's still a little sore," Gustafsson said. "I still don't have a full range of motion. That's the thing we're working on. As soon as I have good motion and strength, the pain will go away and I'll be 100 percent."
The Flyers are 2-9-0 when trailing after two periods this season . . . Harry Zolnierczyk, limping after the game, said his scary second-period spill into the boards probably "looked worse than it felt." Zolnierczyk said it awkwardly crunched up his entire body, including his back, but he did play the entire third period . . . James van Riemsdyk converted on his first career shootout attempt . . . Danny Briere's successful shootout attempt was his 12th with the Flyers, passing Mike Richards for most in franchise history.