A disheartening six-game road swing took a pin to the Flyers' cushion in the standings.
The trip mercifully came to an end Tuesday night with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
The Flyers (22-15-6) went 1-4-1 and were outscored 28-16 during the stretch away from the Wells Fargo Center, where they have allowed only 37 goals in 19 games (an NHL-low 1.95 per game).
Because of the three-point trip, the Flyers went from third place in the Metropolitan Division at the holiday break to nursing a one-point lead for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.
And nothing gets easier as the Flyers come home. Their next four games are against the Capitals (NHL's best team), Lightning (eight straight wins), Bruins (tied for NHL's second-most points) and Blues (Western Conference's best team).
The Hurricanes (25-16-2) are two points ahead of the Flyers for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.
• The Flyers lost their structure and style over the road trip.
The opposition took it to them more often than not. When head coach Alain Vigneault's system is at its best, his team is forechecking and limiting odd-man rushes the other way.
The Flyers allowed five or more goals in five of the six games on the trip. In their first 37 games prior, the Flyers had allowed five or more goals only five times.
• It's not like the Flyers are in horrible shape. Their effort was much better Tuesday and they have 50 points through 43 games - they're right there in a competitive division.
However, the struggles away from home are concerning.
"We're going on the road for 12 days, we've got six big games," Vigneault said ahead of the trip. "As a team that considers themselves a playoff team, you need to have a good road record."
The Flyers are 9-13-2 with a minus-31 goal differential on the road compared to 13-2-4 with a plus-35 goal differential at home.
• After a torrid stretch of 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 13 games, James van Riemsdyk went scoreless for the trip.
Following his 15-point spurt (seven goals, eight assists) in 17 games, Kevin Hayes had only two points (one goal, one assist) on the trip.
The Flyers need those two to be more consistent. When they are, the Flyers are a completely different team.
• It was a positive sign to see the Flyers jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. They sustained the lead for 14:50 and went into intermission tied at 2-2.
But given the Flyers had held a lead for only one minute, nine seconds on the trip and allowed 13 first-period goals in the five games prior, the opening 20 minutes Tuesday were a welcomed sight.
• Brian Elliott survived an injury scare in opening frame after a stellar split save. The Hurricanes got after him following the Flyers' 2-0 lead and he was forced to make 28 saves on 33 shots.
• Philippe Myers and Travis Sanheim were a combined minus-5, despite Sanheim's game-tying goal in the third period.
Myers had a difficult time in coverage during the first period when the Hurricanes erased the Flyers' 2-0 advantage.
The team is without veteran defenseman Justin Braun (groin) until after the All-Star break, so Myers must answer the bell in full-time duty.
• Jakub Voracek has 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) and a plus-10 mark in the last 21 games.
The 30-year-old winger has been arguably the Flyers' best player since Nov. 23.
Signed, sealed, delivered.
Michael Raffl takes advantage of a Carolina turnover and gets one past Reimer. pic.twitter.com/wPdqk1OqKa
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 8, 2020
Travis Konecny, Michael Raffl, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Sanheim were the team's goal-scorers, while no Flyer had a multi-point game.
• The Flyers play six of their next seven games at the Wells Fargo Center, starting Wednesday night when they host the NHL-leading Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN).
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