SAN JOSE - It was the kind of disaster that would normally require a National Transportation Safety Board investigation, not just one mistake but a series of errors and unfortunate happenstance that led to one major on-ice calamity.
The sequence ended with Wayne Simmons smashing his stick over the cross-bar.
It began with Brayden Schenn's turnover in the neutral zone, a missed opportunity to dump the puck in San Jose's end and live for overtime.
The puck squirted free near the red line and both Braydon Coburn and Nick Schultz skated toward it - an awkward situation in the middle of the ice in which neither piloted the play. It bounced off Schultz's stick, over Coburn's outstretched stick, free for Patrick Marleau to skate in on a clean breakaway.
There were 15 seconds left in regulation, a tied 1-1 score.
"I don't know what happened in the middle there," Schultz said. "It happened so fast."
Marleau, the 7th active points leader in the NHL, didn't score on the breakaway. That would have been too predictable. No, the sequence that played out served only to turn the knife in the Flyers a bit more.
"I made a save and went off the my left," Steve Mason explained. "I pushed across and I had contact with two of the guys and that took me out of the play."
San Jose's Tommy Wingels and a chasing Coburn caught Mason's left pad, pulling him from the crease.
"I was chasing down the second guy. I went flying into the boards," Coburn said. "I was just trying to make a desperation play. The puck just kept sticking around in front there."
The puck was served on a platter for trailing Sharks forward Matt Nieto.
His backhand prayer into the open net, avoiding the outstretched stick of a diving Brayden Schenn, handed the Flyers a gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to kick off their three-game swing through California. It was the Murphy's Law kind of goal only a team on a soul-searching 1-8-1 slide in the standings could surrender.
The NHL's worst road team was 11.5 seconds away from securing a much-needed point in the standings.
Instead, the Flyers lost their eighth consecutive road game (0-7-1) for the first time since 1999. They haven't won on the road since Oct. 22 in Pittsburgh, a span of 40 days.
"It's a tough way to lose a game," Schultz said. "We played extremely well. I think it's just something when under a minute to go, you have to be smarter. We have to keep the puck in front of us.
"There's no reason they should've gotten behind us at that time of the game. We're in a spot right now where we've got to build confidence. We had to work on getting a point and building from there."
The result nullified for the Flyers what was perhaps their best game in a month. They scored the game's first goal on the road for the first time all season - which also served as Sean Couturier's first career power play goal and Scott Laughton's first NHL point.
The Flyers were physical. They were hungry. They won face-offs, exited their zone cleanly, limited San Jose's chances. The Sharks were held to just six shots in the first period. Couturier provided the much-needed secondary scoring; Wayne Simmonds was his usual pitbull-like self in front of Antti Niemi.
In short, the Flyers were many things they haven't been over the last 10 games, with regards to attention to detail and compete level. They left the Bay Area with nothing to show for it.
"We played a positive game," Coburn said. "It's better than getting [bleep]-kicked. We've got some things to build on."
The unnerving bounces of the puck and the sour taste of defeat lingered last night long after the fleeting positive feels wore off. The Flyers haven't won in five games (0-4-1), something that hasn't happened in nearly four years.
"I think we're all tired of the moral victories," Mason said. "The team played a good game. But when you don't win, it's not good enough. That's enough of the moral victories. Everybody's frustrated, everybody's ticked off. We've got to go out and start actually winning hockey games."
The Flyers are now 1-6-2 at SAP Center since 2002 … For the first time this season, Jake Voracek did not net a point in a game which the Flyers registered at least one goal … Tye McGinn, who played 36 games for the Flyers over the past two seasons, skated on the top line for the Sharks last night with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Ron Hextall dealt McGinn, 24, to San Jose last summer in exchange for a third round pick … The Flyers traveled to Anaheim for tonight's game against the Ducks, who dispatched