NEWARK, N.J. - Finally, the season is dead.

The certificate will record the time of death as 7:38 p.m., March 8, 2015. Cause: hangover.

The Flyers had chased the final playoff spot for months. They were dispirited after a collapse the day before in Boston.

They were trailing by two goals in the third period. Then they turned the puck over at the Devils' blue line and surrendered a two-on-none rush.

Steve Mason, as usual, had no chance. The goal gave the Devils a 4-1 lead with just under 15 minutes to play.

That made any chance of a comeback beyond remote. The Flyers lost, 5-2.

They began the weekend four points out of the last playoff spot. They now stand seven points behind the Bruins with 15 games to play.

The players said that they needed better effort all around.

The coach, however, disagreed. He actually appreciated the effort, in general, but somehow he was even less kind.

"Our top players, mentally, weren't there," Craig Berube said.

Coincidentally, the next question concerned top defenseman Mark Streit, who was a minus-4 and had his fingerprints on the first goal of the game . . . and little else that was good, Berube agreed.

"Mark - he's played real good hockey for us this year," Berube said. "Again, the defeat in Boston had a lot to do with that."

Top player Wayne Simmonds, usually a tireless competitor, said, "Today was awful. It's our compete level. We don't come to play every night."

Top player Claude Giroux, the captain, said, "We don't compete the right way."

Simmonds handicapped the rest of the season:

"We'll probably have to run the table. Win every game. And get some help."

Those things will not happen.

It was a perfect ending to an imperfect season, a microcosm of a mess.

They gave the puck away; they failed to clear; they allowed a shorthanded goal.

And, God bless them, after all of that, they insisted that they should be better than their record.

This was Game No. 67.

They are their record.

They are 28-26-13; 24th in the league on the road. They are unable to limit mistakes; unable to finish games; unable to play with discipline and energy for more than 40 minutes a night. And their latest chance to salvage something from the bizarreness of 2014-15 breathed its final breath at the Prudential Center last night.

With the score tied early in the second period, they not only failed to score on overlapping power plays, which gave them a brief, two-man advantage, they also surrendered a shorthanded goal.

A lot of time remained, but it's arguable that their season died right there.

It's place of death was fitting. So much Flyers hope has died at the hands of the Devils.

Since 1995, the Devils defeated them three times in the playoffs, once coming from a 3-1 series deficit in 2000 that spelled the beginning of the end for franchise center Eric Lindros. Yesterday, the Devils honored that 1995 team that bounced the Flyers: so, yes, Claude Lemieux and Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens got to watch another Philadelphia failure.

As much as anything, this was euthanasia, a merciful end to the latest mirage of credibility.

The Flyers teased their fans with a pre-Christmas surge, but that only set up a New Year's dive back to mediocrity against the league's dregs. They beat the Penguins in late January and sprinted forward again, but crashed to earth with losses to a pair of bottom-feeders in mid-February. Heady wins over Washington and Nashville preceded deflating losses to Toronto and Carolina to end February.

All of which set up this weekend.

They beat the Blues and visited the underachieving Bruins on Saturday, riding high and hopeful.

They led that game, 2-1. And then a bad, late penalty allowed the tying goal with 15 seconds left, and a turnover allowed the winner in overtime.

It was right there . . . and then, it wasn't.

So much rode on what happened in the Prudential Center.

Could they pull it out again?

Really, a win yesterday, just 28 hours after the bubble burst in Boston, might have been too much to ask from a team lacking its hottest defenseman, Michael Del Zotto, who was hurt the day before. That is way too much to ask from a team that has earned just 25 points on the road. Way too much to ask from a talented bunch that lacks chemistry. Too much, especially against the bedeviling Devils, whose frustrating system now has them 9-4 in their last 13 games against the Flyers.

Way too much to ask from a goalie who lost his buddy and coach, Jeff Reese, last week; Reese left the team reportedly over a dispute about how Mason's injuries have been handled.

A playoff spot was simply way, way too much to ask, considering their poor allotment of resources.

Vinny Lecavalier, who leads the Flyers with 383 career goals and 874 points, was a healthy scratch for the 14th time this season and seven of the last nine games. Down-the-stretch, earn-your- $6 million games. R.J. Umberger, at $4.5 million, is on his way to the least productive of his 10 NHL seasons.

That's more than $10 million spent on 16 goals and 32 points.

There might be 15 games left, but finally the plug has been pulled.

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

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