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NHL Stadium Series

Flyers at 'critical point' of season

After loss to Penguins, know time is running out to make playoff push

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- It didn't take long after the final horn sounded on the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Saturday for the Philadelphia Flyers to turn the page.

With 21 games left and time running out for them to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, forward is the only way they can afford to move.

The Flyers lost 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field and remained five points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"How do you rebound?" forward Jakub Voracek said. "You have to, no choice. We're not out, four or five points to get to the playoffs. We have to start winning. We have to get a four-, five-game winning streak going. Hopefully then it'll turn around."

The Flyers hope that starts against the Colorado Avalanche at home on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-PH, NHL.TV).

Video: PHI@PIT: Neuvirth flashes the leather on Cole

It would help if they could rediscover their offense. The Flyers outshot their opponent for the eighth straight game (38-29 this time) but they're 2-6-0 in that span. They are 3-7-1 since the All-Star break, having scored two goals or fewer in eight of those 11 games.

Voracek scored at 11:14 of the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1, but the Flyers couldn't build on it. They got within 3-2 on defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere's goal at 6:48 of the third, but again failed to gain any sustained momentum. Then, after Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel scored at 14:06 of the third, the Flyers had one shot on goal in the final 5:54 of the period.

"We brought it back," forward Wayne Simmonds said. "We just had to get the tying goal and it just slipped away."

Some of the Flyers' best offensive players have been their quietest. Voracek's goal was his second in 12 games. Gostisbehere's goal was his first in 34 games dating to Nov. 25 and fifth of the season; he had 17 last season. Center Claude Giroux had an assist on Gostisbehere's goal but missed the net on his only shot; he has three goals in his past 31 games, and one goal and two assists in his past 12. Center Sean Couturier has one goal in 17 games. Forward Matt Read has three goals in 42 games after scoring five in his first five. Defenseman Mark Streit has five points, all assists, in his past 19 games.

"We know we're a great team," Gostisbehere said. "We know we have some great offensive power here. But it's just sticking with it right now. We can complain, jump ship and change things up, but we're just sticking with it, getting through the tough times."

Also hanging over the Flyers is the NHL Trade Deadline on March 1 at 3 p.m. ET. General manager Ron Hextall said Friday that the results Saturday could dictate his approach to the deadline. The Flyers have eight players who will be unrestricted free agents July 1, among them Streit and goaltenders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth.

Video: PHI@PIT: Gostisbehere rips one-timer for PPG

"We like our group," Simmonds said. "We're a tight bunch in here. Ideally we'd like to keep it together. But that's not my job. My job is to go out and play."

They'll need to do better than they have since the All-Star break. Coach Dave Hakstol said he liked the way the Flyers played Saturday, repeating something he's said often the past few games, but the results haven't been there.

"We've gone through a tough stretch here and through that stretch we've played for the vast majority some pretty good hockey," he said. "We've got to stick with it. We've got to make sure that we stay completely together as we have and we have to keep pushing the envelope. Next opportunity is the most important one. We realize the critical point of our year that we're at."

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