TAMPA, Fla. - With 18 games remaining in the lockout-shortened season, the Flyers are in Operation Playoff Push.
Unfortunately for them, so was their opponent Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
And the rookie-laden Lightning pushed back harder, outlasting the Flyers, 4-2, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Teddy Purcell tipped in Keith Aulie's shot over Ilya Bryzgalov's shoulder with 10 minutes, 35 seconds left for the decisive goal.
Steven Stamkos added his 200th career goal in his 354th game - scoring on an empty net - to ice the win.
"We gave it all tonight. It's not going our way," Bryzgalov said. "It's sad. What else can you do?"
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette demoted Scott Hartnell from the first to the fourth line after he was given a roughing penalty early in the second period. Zac Rinaldo took Hartnell's spot on the top line, alongside Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. Hartnell went back to the first unit with about eight minutes remaining.
It was the Flyers' fifth loss in their last seven games - not the way they wanted to go into an extended break. They don't play again until Sunday in Pittsburgh.
With the season winding down, "every game is going to be huge," Voracek said before the opening face-off. ". . . We have to make sure we sneak into the playoffs, because we're going to do some damage."
While the Flyers were on a power play, Voracek fired a shot off the left post with 1.4 seconds left in the opening period. That enabled the Lightning to take a 2-1 lead into the locker room at the first intermission.
"I thought we played good, but the bounces just didn't go our way," Rinaldo said.
Tampa Bay, which was just 6-14-1 in its previous 21 games, took advantage of some defensive gaffes to build its lead.
About 61/2 minutes into the game, Ondrej Palat got behind defenseman Bruno Gervais and converted a pass from Dana Tyrell to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
About nine minutes later, Max Talbot tied it, using a toe drag to get past Martin St. Louis and scoring on a clever backhander out front.
For the Flyers, it was just their third even-strength goal in the last 15 periods.
Talbot went on his dash down the ice after taking a pass from Andrej Meszaros at the Flyers' end.
"As soon as I came out of the zone, I identified Marty St. Louis was playing as a defenseman," said Talbot, who was the Flyers' best player on Monday. "Anytime you've got a forward going backward, you might want to try a little extra move, which I did and was able to put it five-hole."
The Lightning took a 2-1 lead as Tom Pyatt redirected Tyler Johnson's feed past Bryzgalov with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left in the opening period. Johnson got around defenseman Luke Schenn before making the pass.
Tampa was 11-1 when leading after one period, while the Flyers were 0-10 when trailing after the first 20 minutes.
Giroux tied it with 4:39 left in the second. He initially turned the puck over, then stole it and scored from the high slot, knotting the score at 2.
The Flyers fell into 12th place in the Eastern Conference; they are five points behind eighth-place Winnipeg.
And time is running out.
Scott Hartnell talks about his temporary demotion. philly.com/broadstreetbull