Late in the Flyers' latest struggle, defenseman Sean O'Donnell lost his sight for a split second, the result of his helmet's falling over his eyes as he battled Toronto's Darryl Boyce for the puck behind the net.
The lost sight translated into a loss.
Boyce took the puck away, skated out front, and jammed the puck under goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's pads with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left, lifting surging Toronto to a 3-2 win over the Flyers at the stunned Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
It gave the Flyers consecutive defeats for the first time since late December.
On the game's pivotal play, O'Donnell and Boyce were in a puck battle behind the net.
"And while we were scrumming, it was a weird thing, my helmet got flopped up, and it just took me a second to kind of know what was going on," O'Donnell said. "By the time I corrected it, he was behind me and was going to the net. It didn't look good, and maybe I have to put myself in better position, but I was blind there for two or three seconds, and by the time I realized what was going on, I fixed my helmet, and he was going to the net."
The Maple Leafs, having played a grueling overtime game in a win over Pittsburgh the previous night, should have been the more tired team in the third period.
Should have been.
Instead, Toronto ran its record to 6-0-3 in its last nine games and stayed within four points of a playoff spot.
"We know they're fighting for their lives and are a desperate team," defenseman Chris Pronger said, "and we have to play with that same desperation to counter that."
The Flyers continued to struggle in the third period. They have been outscored, 11-3, in the third period of the last seven games, excluding empty-net scores.
"It's very concerning," said O'Donnell, whose team's first-place conference lead dwindled to three points over charging Boston. "At some point, we have to nip this thing. We played better in stretches, but we had to kill off too many penalties and our power play wasn't as sharp as we'd like."
Toronto was 0 for 7 on the power play, but the penalties kept the Flyers from getting into a flow. The Flyers power play was 0 for 3; they are 1 for 23 with the man advantage in their last seven games.
"We shot ourselves in the foot with the mistakes we made and the penalties we took," Pronger said. "In the first period, they had four [power plays] alone. That kind of gave them some momentum. . . . We can't shoot ourselves in the foot right off the bat with penalties [against] a team that, as you said, had played the night before. It let them off the hook and allowed them to gain some momentum and control some play."
The Flyers, missing three players who had the flu, wasted a two-goal performance by Kris Versteeg - both scores coming on pretty assists from Mike Richards.
Playing their first game since Saturday's listless, 4-1 loss in Ottawa, the Flyers had several good chances to break a 2-2 tie in the third.
On one, defenseman Mike Komisarek broke up Scott Hartnell's pass to Matt Carle as the Flyers had a two-on-one with just under 14 minutes left.
About three minutes later, James van Riemsdyk's shot from above the left circle went off the glove of goalie James Reimer and behind him, trickling inches wide of the right post.
Reimer made a big save on Andrej Meszaros' drive from the high slot with 5:36 left to keep the game tied. Meszaros looked at the rafters in disbelief. The Toronto goalie also made a terrific stop on Danny Briere with 21 seconds to go.
Bobrovsky played well until he allowed Boyce's goal.
The Flyers were about to take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission, but Richards lost a faceoff, and it led to Dion Phaneuf's tying goal, on a rebound, with 10.5 seconds left in the period. The goal followed a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty that left the teams playing four-on-four. Richards said he jumped on the ice and caused the penalty, negating a Flyers power play.