ALL AROUND the locker room after Monday's practice and on Tuesday after morning skate, the Flyers talked about the importance of Saturday's win.
After a miserable four-game stretch from Buffalo through parts of western Canada, the Flyers escaped with a win in Winnipeg and found a little positive at the end of a sour trip away from Wells Fargo Center, where they returned Tuesday to play five of their next seven at home.
The hope was that the momentum created by a shutout win would carry back home.
"We can take a lot of positives out of it," defenseman Mark Streit said Tuesday morning. "It gives you a lot of confidence."
Apparently all the momentum, the positives and the confidence deplaned somewhere over Lake Superior.
The Flyers welcomed the Western Conference's worst team, according to record, and played much like the worst team the East had to offer, losing, 4-0, to Colorado. After a six-game skid was snapped, the Flyers look poised to start another one. The loss prompted a second team meeting in only 15 games.
"Everybody realized in the room what kind of performance we brought tonight," Streit said afterward. "I think it's unacceptable. Everybody's got to be better and everybody's got to be accountable. It was just a really poor performance on our part."
"I think we should be ready to come back to our building and play a good game," captain Claude Giroux said. "Our goalie played a good game. He gave us a chance to come back, and we didn't respond."
The home crowd, albeit one that lacked size and energy to begin with, was taken out of the game 57 seconds after the puck dropped. A nonchalant attempt toward the net by future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla somehow snuck through Michal Neuvirth and the post. Neuvirth looked behind him in confusion and then surprise when he saw the puck just over the goal line.
"Bad goal, bad angle, got to have those," Neuvirth said. "No excuses. The first goal I gave up was a big factor, and it took the momentum."
Neuvirth was starting in his fourth straight game after a strong showing last week. The Flyers (5-7-3) didn't provide much help in front of him.
The Flyers' most sustained pressure in the offensive zone came late in the second period, but that was well after Colorado had already put two more goals on the board for a 3-0 lead. Plus, Avalanche goalie Reto Berra was up for the challenge.
But even during positive play from the Flyers, there was still moments of sloppiness. Giroux got into a decent shooting area and decided to throw a no-look drop pass to no one in particular at the blue line.
The Avalanche (5-9-1), who outshot the Flyers, 40-25, struck again in the first minute of the second period. Matt Duchene snuck in behind the Flyers' defense and received a pass from Nathan MacKinnon from behind the net to beat Neuvirth in close.
Duchene tallied again, his sixth of the season, three minutes later. A juicy rebound off a Nick Holden shot from the point deflected off Neuvirth's pad and right onto Duchene's stick.
"When a strange goal goes in early in a game, at that point, we've got 59 minutes to go," coach Dave Hakstol said. "That doesn't decide the hockey game. That goal doesn't decide the hockey game."
The two in the second period certainly did.
"Those are tough plays to come back from," Hakstol said.
The embarrassment continued in the third period.
With the Flyers shorthanded after Radko Gudas body-slammed Carl Soderberg to the ice, Ryan White tried to goad Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog into a fight in the corner of the Colorado defensive zone. Landeskog wouldn't bite, and, with the Flyers out of sorts down the other end, Cody McLeod took advantage of a Streit turnover and scored a wraparound goal to put the Avalanche up 4-0 and dash any hopes of a third-period comeback.
"We're frustrated," White said. "We lost, what, seven out of eight. Everyone in here cares. It's just we're not playing well enough. That's the bottom line, and I think, as frustrated as you can get, obviously, we're not happy, but we got to take a look in the mirror and come back out here Thursday and be ready to go."
Hakstol chose to ride the hot goalie Tuesday night. All signs point to Steve Mason returning to the net Thursday against the Capitals. The Flyers' "No. 1," as Hakstol reaffirmed Monday, will see his first action since last Monday in Vancouver. Mason hasn't yet been able to get into a rhythm this season. He's dealt with personal issues and was sick last week.
Perhaps he'll be able to find some confidence and create some positives and momentum of his own. The Flyers could surely use it.