KANATA, Ontario - Daniel Briere was walking the bowels of the Ottawa Senators' home arena minutes before 3 p.m. yesterday when he was shown the front cover of the Ottawa Sun. He smiled his still-scuffed face at the picture of him engaging in fisticuffs with Senators forward Kyle Turris and the bold headline: "Round 2."
One day earlier, Briere scored a hat trick - including a game-winner with 6 seconds remaining in overtime - and started a fight in the Flyers' 3-2, come-from-behind, win over the Senators. Both teams then boarded planes to Ottawa for the second end of an intense home-and-home - and quickly picked up where they left off, with a fight breaking out 16 seconds into the game.
By the time the final horn sounded, the Senators claimed revenge for what occurred a day earlier. They left their dressing room after the second intermission with a two-goal deficit and finished the game with a two-goal victory. The Senators' 6-4 win became an unsightly blemish for the Flyers, who are one of the NHL's best road teams and were left piecing together a forgettable third period - just as they were 1 week ago in the Winter Classic loss to the Rangers.
"That's totally unacceptable," Briere said. "It's three of the last four games that we've blown two-goal leads. That's a tough one. Especially after the game we played, coming back and winning in overtime. You're on the road, winning by two, you can't do what we did today."
The decisive goal came with 71 seconds remaining. The game had been tied for more than 12 minutes when Filip Kuba took a pass near the blue line and unleashed a slap shot that eluded Ilya Bryzgalov. The sold-out crowd erupted, and the Flyers - seconds away from gaining at least one point to cut into the Rangers' four-point lead in the Atlantic Division - were left with nothing to show for their four-goal effort. Nick Foligno added an empty-net goal with 45 seconds left.
"It was deflected," Bryzgalov said of the game-winner, when asked if he was screened. If that was the case, it would have been the second goal of the period that went off one of his teammates because the Senators' third goal actually deflected off Matt Carle.
The goal that seemed to swing the game's momentum was Erik Karlsson's tying goal in the third period. The promising Swedish defenseman stole the puck from Jaromir Jagr - a difficult player to take the puck from throughout his storied career - and started a three-on-one break. Instead of passing to a teammate, Karlsson snapped the shot. Bryzgalov said he tried to be patient and the puck found the little space between "the pants and pads." It was a difficult situation for the goalie, who had little defensive help despite the tight margin late in the game.
"I don't really know what happened there," Jagr said. "I was surprised it was a three-on-one. That's why I was surprised. We had a lead."
The Flyers are left trying to figure out the problems of the putrid third period when the first two frames seemed to put them in the position of securing a three-game winning streak.
They scored three consecutive goals to build the lead and Bryzgalov appeared strong in net in his third straight start.
And it was not the front-line players who were scoring for the Flyers, but instead some of the lesser-knowns, Sean Couturier, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Andrej Meszaros and Matt Read netted goals. The team did not appear fatigued - "We were doing most of the things right," Read said - but simply suffered from the same mistakes that hurt them on Saturday. Read's goal was his 13th and tied him for tops among NHL rookies.
Multiple Flyers spoke about turnovers, which is what they said also hurt them on Saturday. Coach Peter Laviolette was particularly frustrated by the repeated mistakes; two of the four goals in the third period came off Flyers turnovers.
"I think our team needed to play a better game, a smarter game against a team that forces a lot of turnovers," Laviolette said. "Our team needs to make better decisions."
The Flyers boarded a flight after the game for Raleigh, N.C., where they play tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes. That will be the second of a four-game road trip and the fourth in 6 days. With minutes on the ice and miles in the air accumulating, fatigue could set in as the road trip progresses.
At 14-6-2, the Flyers have been stout on the road all season, although yesterday's loss was a clear setback. Because a day after setting a clear tone in the win over the Senators, "Round 2" went in Ottawa's favor and left the Flyers with a discomforting reality.
"I just felt like we were too soft," Briere said. "I hate saying that, and it usually doesn't happen with the Flyers."