The Flyers took a big step Tuesday night toward playing a meaningless final month of the season.
They dropped a 5-2 decision to the New York Rangers and fell seven points behind the eighth-place Blueshirts in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
Defensemen Kimmo Timonen, winger Jake Voracek, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said the Flyers weren't ready to play, a stunning statement when you consider they could have climbed to within three points of the Rangers with a victory.
"We've got to find a better effort across the board," Timonen said. "It comes down to one-on-one battles. I think it was all Rangers. They were hungrier; they were the better team tonight."
"We weren't ready to play," Voracek said. "We got outraced on the pucks. We got beaten in the battles. It can't happen, you know?"
Timonen, whose turnover contributed to the game's first goal, said it "comes down to individual preparation. A lot of guys blame coaches, but we play the game. We're out there making plays. You're ready to play or you're not. We have to find answers."
They have just 16 games left to do that.
A sellout crowd at the eerily quiet Wells Fargo Center watched the Rangers register their 11th win in their last 12 meetings with the Flyers (13-17-2), who fell four games under .500 for the second time this season. They have lost seven of their last nine games, and could miss the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons.
"One team was ready to play and they want to win the game, and the other team not so much," Bryzgalov said. "It was obvious since the puck was dropped."
The Flyers cut it to 3-2 when Claude Giroux's shot bounced off Voracek's neck and past startled goalie Henrik Lundqvist with 13 minutes, 32 seconds left in the third period.
But the momentum vanished 74 seconds later as Rick Nash beat an unprepared Bryzgalov on a wraparound, increasing the Rangers' lead to 4-2. With 7:47 left, Chris Kreider finished off a well-executed tic-tac-toe passing play to make it 5-2 and send fans heading for the exits.
The ones who stayed started a "Let's Go, La Salle!" chant in the waning minutes.
Coach Peter Laviolette changed three of his lines, but again didn't get the production he was seeking. The Flyers have scored two goals or fewer in 21 of their 32 games, and they have just 14 even-strength goals in their last 13 games.
With a few more losses, general manager Paul Holmgren doesn't figure to be a buyer at next Wednesday's trade deadline.
The Flyers were playing the opener of a five-game homestand that they hoped would catapult them into the playoff picture. Instead, they fell into 14th in the 15-team East.
Timonen said the Flyers need to win all four remaining games on the homestand. Bryzgalov wasn't so sure.
"I don't know what to say. I wish we win one," Bryzgalov said. "Let's start with one and then go farther than one. I don't remember when we win the last time. It was a long time ago."
Derek Stepan had four points and Nash collected his 300th and 301st career goals to spark the Rangers.
Gritty winger Wayne Simmonds, who 14 minutes earlier went to the locker room to have stitches after Luke Schenn's clearing pass struck him above his lip, cut the Flyers' deficit to 3-1 by scoring on a power-play rebound with 2:07 left in the second. It gave the Flyers some life. For a while, anyway.
"We're not going to quit," Giroux said. "You win a couple games in a row, you never know."