This column has been corrected from an earlier version.
HAVING ALREADY typed the line, "This was the Flyers' worst game of the playoffs," it was just as quickly erased. After all, thinking about it, they had lost a game in the first round to the Pittsburgh Penguins by the fabulous score of 10-3. But then, thinking about it some more, it was time to type the sentence again.
This really was the Flyers' worst game of the playoffs. In this case, 4-1 really was worse than 10-3.
Wow, were the Flyers bad on Tuesday night.
A team built on emotion showed little.
A group schooled in aggression rolled over.
A Flyers team that is better than the New Jersey Devils, and that got a long stretch of great goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov besides, nonetheless finds itself hip-deep now in a playoff series in which it has surrendered the home-ice advantage. Such are the consequences of a 4-1 loss at home that was truly shocking for the Flyers - not necessarily for the result, but for their complete absence of a pulse for most of the evening.
After it was over, a clearly stunned Danny Briere harkened back to that 10-3 debacle against the Penguins in his search for hope.
"Yeah, there have been stretches [this bad]," he said. "Look at the last round against Pittsburgh. We lost by a big, lopsided score, and it was kind of the same thing. We lost our competitiveness. It's just a matter of getting it back."
Standing there, Briere searched for answers and kept coming back to the notion of "desperation." He spat out the negatives: "outskated . . . outbattled . . . they just wanted it more than us."
Still, the Flyers were in the game for a long time because of Bryzgalov. At the end of the second period, as the Flyers left the ice to a low rumble of boos from the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, the Devils had to have been wondering exactly what it was going to take. Playing without injured star Ilya Kovalchuk, they had just dominated the Flyers for about the first 19 minutes of the period and were still trailing by 1-0.
The turnaround in the game had been stunning. The Flyers came out trailing sparks. Rookie Matt Read scored only 2 minutews, 53 seconds into the game, and the Flyers' pressure remained relentless for several minutes after that. But a couple of penalties stopped their momentum, and they could not get it back. It is hard to understand how it could happen - dominating one minute, paralyzed the next - but there it was.
"We had a good start," Jaromir Jagr said. " . . . It felt like we had good jump in the first 10 minutes. But 10 minutes is not enough."
For the record, Jagr appeared as stunned as Briere did. No one saw this coming after the way the Flyers skated in Game 1. "Tonight, it looked like they had the legs and we didn't," Jagr said, quietly. He really was baffled.
The second period was as one-sided as most college football games in September. The only reason the Flyers survived was Bryzgalov, our current favorite child of scorn. Whatever your opinion, you have to acknowledge this much: When the Flyers have needed him the most - as things began to crumble against Pittsbrugh; in the first period of Game 1, when the Flyers were shaking off a week's worth of rust; in the second period Tuesday night - the guy has been very good.
And, yes, your ears did not deceive you. The chant from the crowd was "Bryz . . . Bryz . . . Bryz . . . " And, yes, it sounds as rhythmic as it reads, which is not at all.
The Flyers did not get a shot in the second period until 1:27 remained - when they had six men on the ice during a delayed penalty call. They finished the period with two shots. And the question in everyone's head for the next 17 minutes, as they cleaned the ice, was about what kind of carryover there might be in the third period.
Would the Flyers snap out of it?
Quick answer: no.
And now the series heads to Newark on Thursday with the Devils suddenly rejuvenated. They might not be as good as the Flyers, but they are proud and they have a goaltender who has seen everything there is to see about five times. In case nobody noticed, this just got a lot harder.
The final word goes to Matt Read, who said, "We didn't give them the respect they deserve."
They have 2 days to find it.
Read his blog, The Idle Rich, at www.philly.com/TheIdleRich.
For recent columns go to www.philly.com/RichHofmann.