EDMONTON, Alberta - Just when it seemed the Flyers' season couldn't possibly get any worse . . .
They blew a two-goal lead and lost to one of the NHL's bottom-feeders, Edmonton, Saturday night at Rexall Place.
Ryan-Nugent Hopkins knocked in a juicy rebound allowed by backup goalie Ray Emery - the emergency starter because Steve Mason was ill - with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left in overtime, giving the Oilers a 5-4 victory.
If the NHL had a mercy rule, surely the Flyers would be declared losers and the rest of their season canceled.
It has been a miserable stretch for a team that will miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Consider:
The Flyers have dropped their last nine games (0-6-3) to teams that were not in a playoff spot when they met. That skid knocked the Flyers out of playoff contention, put coach Craig Berube's job on life support, and caused the last eight games to be meaningless.
They have lost nine straight on the road for the second time this season. You have to go back to 1991-92 for a longer road losing streak (10 games).
Saturday's defeat ended a 0-2-2 road trip in which they were outscored by 15-7, including a shootout goal.
Since losing a lead in the waning seconds and suffering a crushing 3-2 overtime decision in Boston on March 7, the Flyers have won one of their last eight games (1-4-3). If they had beaten the Bruins in regulation, they would have been two points out of a playoff spot. Now they are 10 points behind.
Stop the season, the Flyers want to get off.
"Frustrating and disappointing," captain Claude Giroux, who scored two first-period goals Saturday, said of the road trip.
In their latest loss, Mason was the scheduled starter, but he said he felt ill during warm-ups and he pulled himself out of the lineup.
In the previous game, coach Craig Berube, oddly, pulled Mason late in the second period after he allowed a screened goal and the Flyers fell behind Calgary, 2-0.
The Flyers have eight games left (six home, two away), starting with Wednesday's emotional return of defenseman Kimmo Timonen and the Chicago Blackhawks at the Wells Fargo Center. Timonen, the five-time Barry Ashbee Award winner as the Flyers' top defenseman, was dealt to Chicago last month for a second-round draft pick in June, along with a conditional pick next year that could be as a high as a second-rounder.
"We have to pick it up," Emery said after being pressed into service without much notice - curiously, he said he was never notified that Mason was feeling ill earlier in the day - and allowing four goals on Edmonton's first 12 shots. "We have pride as a group, and even though the playoffs probably aren't in the picture, we want to finish strong."
"Guys are playing for jobs next year," said forward Brayden Schenn, who had his parents, sisters and grandparents at Saturday's game, "and motivation shouldn't be an issue at all."
Of interest in the last eight games: Jake Voracek trying to become the first Flyer ever to win the NHL scoring title, and where the Flyers finish in the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes. They have the eighth spot in the draft, which would give them a 6 percent chance of winning the lottery and selecting McDavid, who is viewed as the next Sidney Crosby.
As for Voracek, he had three assists Saturday to boost his point total to 73, one behind the league-leading Crosby.