NEW YORK - Sean Couturier skated toward the net on a mission. With the puck already inside - a helpless and deflated Ray Emery sprawled out to his right - Couturier shattered his stick over the cross bar in frustration.
Gone was the Flyers' streak of 26 consecutive cleanly killed penalties.
Long gone was the Flyers' entire weekend by that point - the Rangers' power-play goal that made it 4-0 was simply salt rubbed in a wound that was 10 goals deep in just 88 minutes and 45 seconds of action.
The roar of 18,006 inside the Garden drowned out the Flyers rocketing back to Earth. Their 10-2-1 run over the last 30 days ended with a loud thud, as they lost games on consecutive days for the first time since October.
On this night, perhaps their worst defeat since their 7-0 drubbing by the Capitals way back on Nov. 1 that helped turn around the season, the Flyers simply couldn't catch their streaking division rivals. The Rangers utilized their speed to draw six penalties and create umpteen scoring chances to hand the Flyers a 4-1 defeat on Broadway.
It was the Flyers' seventh consecutive loss at Madison Square Garden.
"We lost that game in the first period, to be honest," Kimmo Timonen said, speaking of the first time the Flyers allowed three goals in the first period this season. "They outworked us in the first period, simple as that. If you don't work and play smart hockey against good teams like that, they are going to bury you.
"For some reason, we weren't ready. For some reason, we didn't have any energy that they had. They came out hard and we didn't."
A quick glance at the shot totals - Flyers 38, Rangers 35 - would paint an inaccurate picture of how the game played out. Yes, the Rangers finished with 35 shots on goal, but they fired an impressive 69, including 18 attempts that were blocked and another 16 that missed the net.
There was little Ray Emery could do. Rangers players were so open for two separate, point-blank chances with an empty net in the second period that Emery didn't even bother to react until after they blasted wide.
"We had a hard time getting out of the zone," Mark Streit said. "Defensively, the last two games, we didn't play good enough. You've got to work really hard in this league without the puck, especially in this building. We didn't do that."
In fact, Emery kept the Flyers in the game until that dagger in the second period when their penalty-killing streak ended and put the game out of reach. Up until that point, Streit said the Flyers had been thinking of another comeback - like any one of the six that they had strung together in third periods over the last month.
Last night was a subtle reminder that the Flyers can't always get away with sloppy defensive hockey to rely on their offense. After all, it had been 1,121 days since Dec. 18, 2010, the last time the Flyers had scored four or more on Henrik Lundqvist.
Really, though, it was bound to catch up with the Flyers at some point. For 2 weeks, Craig Berube had been warning that the NHL's standings are too tight to allow for days off - let alone weekends off.
No matter how strong the Flyers played for the last month, they have never been in any sort of position to take a weekend off. Their ugly start to the season will never afford that luxury.
Suddenly, the loose and confident Flyers' locker room is realizing that. Or, at least they will when they glance at the standings today. In one weekend, the Flyers fell from second place in the Metropolitan division to clinging to the second and final wild-card playoff spot by a single point.
"The division is so tight, you lose one or two, you're in fourth now," Berube said. "You've got to win your games."
More and more, it is apparent the Flyers have trouble with faster, better-skating teams. It was obvious on Saturday in a 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay and painfully present in New York last night. Teams like the Rangers are using their speed to skate past them in the standings.
"We have got to be quick," Berube said. "I don't know if we weren't ready, we just didn't play fast in the first period. We were slow on everything. They had the puck, we didn't get it back."
The stretch on the road has been brutal. Last night was their 20th road-contest out of their last 31 games. There is still more work to be done before the Flyers can return home.
"It feels like 8 weeks we've been on the road," Timonen said. "I'm not finding any excuses, but it's been a tough 8 weeks. We have a day off [today] and we need to recharge our batteries because this game is all about skating and energy.
Vinny Lecavalier picked up his 500th career assist on Mark Streit's third-period goal, good for 17th among active NHL players . . . Luke Schenn registered a second-period fight in his 400th career game, just about the only fight the Flyers showed at the Garden . . . The Rangers' power-play goal was the first the Flyers had allowed since Dec. 28 in Edmonton. Their streak of 26 consecutive kills was their best in three seasons.