GLENDALE, Ariz. - General manager Ron Hextall issued a stern warning hours before Monday night's clash with the Arizona Coyotes.
The Flyers were finally beginning to work their way back east on this seasonlong, eight-game odyssey that coach Craig Berube said would define his team as playoff worthy or not. They went 3-1 in the first half, easily the toughest part of the trip.
Four games against four bottom-feeding teams with losing records were all that separated the Flyers from a home-heavy January.
"We're a long ways from a great road trip right now," Hextall said. "Yeah, we're 3-1, but we've got a lot of work to do. You can't look at it like teams are non-playoff teams or teams are not good at home, or whatever the case may be.
"If you approach it that way, we'll be 0-4 before we know it. We've got to button down."
The Flyers didn't button down. They laid an egg, to the tune of a 4-2 loss at a howling Gila Riva Arena that wasn't really even that close until the latter half of the third period, when R.J. Umberger scored twice to give the Flyers a prayer.
Antoine Vermette added an empty-netter with 28 seconds to go.
"I don't understand it," Berube said of the Flyers' inconsistencies. "We talk about things we've got to do, how we've got to play. We haven't risen to the occasion."
Somehow, the Flyers weren't prepared for a fight against a young and thin Coyotes roster that set a franchise record last month for consecutive losses (0-6-2) at Gila River Casino.
Somehow, the Flyers were tricked into thinking Arizona - with journeyman Devan Dubnyk in net and general manager Don Maloney admittedly focused more on the future than this season - would not be up to the challenge.
Somehow, the Flyers appeared to get caught looking at the Western Conference standings - even though the Coyotes are now within two points of the Flyers. To go from three wins in four nights in three tough buildings to start the road trip to Monday night's debacle is mind-boggling.
"We need to start getting more points on a more consistent basis," Steve Mason said. "We see what type of team we can be when we're firing on all cylinders consistently. We can't just be doing it for a period here or a period there."
The Flyers got off to promising start. They racked up 14 shots in the first 17 minutes, something that took them nearly two full periods to do on Saturday night in Nashville. Then they fell apart, beginning with Vermette's late first-period redirection.
Back from injury, Mason made his first start since Dec. 18, but he was of little blame. Vermette's first-period goal was a last-second tip, his second-period tally never made it to an already crouched Mason, and Oliver Edman-Larsson's dagger went in off defenseman Braydon Coburn.
The Flyers registered a total of only five shots in the 28-minute span from late in the second period through the opening quarter of the third period. They were completely and utterly flummoxed by Arizona, not even registering a single shot in their first power play in the third period.
Umberger scored twice in the final 7:49 - his first multigoal game with the Flyers since Feb. 10, 2008 - but it was too little, too late. A clearly dejected Claude Giroux, who sat in his stall with his equipment on for significantly longer than usual, said the Flyers played only "30 minutes."
"It's a mystery, how we fell off our game in the second period for so long there and then found it again in the third period," defenseman Mark Streit said. "It's tough to win that way."
Consider it a warning unheeded, with stops remaining in Colorado, Carolina and New Jersey before returning home on Jan. 6, and major consequences looming.
"It's something we've got to look at deep down," Umberger said. "We fought hard to get to .500. The parity in this league is too good. We know it's a lot easier to get points now than in March or April. These points are critical. No matter what, this one hurt."
NHL leading scorer Jake Voracek was held off the score sheet in consecutive games for the first time all season ... The Flyers have not scored a power-play goal in six straight games (0-for-15). They were 0-for-2 against the Coyotes ... Aside from swapping Steve Mason for Ray Emery in net, Craig Berube stuck with the same lineup. Zac Rinaldo, Michael Del Zotto and Carlo Colaiacovo were healthy scratches. It was the 11th time over the last 13 games that Del Zotto sat out healthy ... Philadelphia hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway attended the game with his only son. Barroway is expected to close on a 51 percent majority stake of the Coyotes franchise Wednesday for a reported $152.5 million. Barroway previously attempted to purchase the Devils, Islanders and 76ers.