WASHINGTON - After most crippling losses, any chatter from an NHL locker room about a strong game is usually more hyperbole than anything else.
But Claude Giroux was not lying when he said he thought the Flyers were playing one of their best games of the year yesterday afternoon against the Capitals. If regulation lasted 50 minutes instead of 60, it would have been right up there.
"I'm not too sure what happened after their second goal," Giroux said. "We were holding our sticks a little too tight. When you do that against a team like that, they're going to make you pay."
Giroux's line paid dearly. Their breakout game was little more than a footnote after the Flyers' epic meltdown, which ended in a shootout loss. It was the Flyers' first loss this season (6-0-1) when Giroux scores a goal.
Michael Raffl, Giroux and Jake Voracek combined for a total of six points. Raffl posted his first career three-point game with three assists. He now has seven points in his last six games.
"It's never easy to lose, especially when you're leading 4-1 in the last  minutes or whatever," Raffl said. "I don't think we played really bad at the end, it's just the right bounces for them at the end."
Craig Berube said he was pleased with the effort of his new top line, a sight that still takes a little getting used to without Scott Hartnell. Berube used the identical lineup that produced a win over Montreal - and nearly a victory yesterday.
"That line was good again," Berube said. "They got a couple goals. They worked hard, they forechecked hard. They did a good job."
Until the collapse, it was a positive afternoon overall for the Flyers' offense. Sean Couturier added his sixth goal of the season to complement a strong defensive effort and he now has as many goals (6) as last year's leading goal-scorer, Voracek.
"I think the chemistry is good," Giroux said. "I think the four lines are still getting built, but we've got a lot of work to do."
Even though he will be sidelined for the next 2 weeks or more, Vinny Lecavalier skated on his own yesterday at the team's practice facility in Voorhees. Lecavalier, 33, suffered a nondisplaced fracture in his lower back on Nov. 30 in Nashville. He could return sometime around Dec. 30 in Vancouver on the early end of his injury timeframe.
The Flyers are 2-6-2 without Lecavalier this season. He's also missed time with a lower-body injury and a facial injury.
"Until the spasm goes away completely, he's kind of limited in what he can do," general manager Paul Holmgren told reporters. "His spasms have been smaller."
The push has come from Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, but Holmgren wouldn't be against the NHL abolishing the shootout skills competition.
It just doesn't seem like a fair way to decide a game like yesterday afternoon's at Verizon Center. Just don't tell the Capitals. The Flyers are 1-3 on shootouts this season; the Capitals have gone to the shootout a whopping 11 times in 33 games and have won eight of them.
Holland proposed the idea of adding a second overtime period with three-on-three play to try and produce a winner before finally determining the game via breakaways. Holmgren said the topic will come up again at the GM meetings in March before deciding to send it to the Board of Governors next summer.
"It's too bad," Holmgren said. "We've just got to lick our wounds now and get ready for the next game."
"We sat back. You just have to play. It doesn't matter if it's 4-1, you can't take things for granted, even if it's 6-1. We didn't play the game hard for 60 minutes."