Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said Thursday that the team would need an "epic ending" to make the playoffs. Days later, the Flyers have an even steeper hill to climb.
After dropping their third straight, the Flyers hope to solve their punchless offense and start making a move to get into postseason position Saturday when they visit a Buffalo Sabres team looking to make a playoff push of its own.
Philadelphia (17-20-3) has been outscored 11-3 during its skid after totaling 18 goals during a season-high four-game winning streak. The slide leaves the Flyers with eight games to try to climb back into position for their sixth straight postseason appearance.
They're in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, seven points back of the final postseason berth. Buffalo (16-19-6) is in 11th and six points behind.
Hartnell indicated a sense of urgency when he spoke before Thursday's game against Ottawa, but Philadelphia was outshot 24-14 in the first two periods and needed a strong performance from goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to keep things close before the Senators pulled away in the third and won 3-1.
The Flyers haven't converted any of their 13 power-play opportunities in their last five games.
"To make the playoffs, you've got to win games, and right now we're not winning games," said Claude Giroux, who scored Thursday but has been held to 12 goals in 40 games after scoring 28 in 77 last season. "We've got to find a way to win those games."
Philadelphia's struggles on the ice have impacted the club off it. Bryzgalov has been criticized for shutting his eyes and yawning on the bench during a loss to Winnipeg last weekend. He was later anonymously accused by some teammates of sleeping -- or at least pretending to doze off -- during a team meeting.
Bryzgalov scolded the media for the report and called it "embarrassing."
"That was never happening," he said.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette could be in danger of losing his job three years after leading the team to the Stanley Cup finals.
"We are in the business of winning hockey games," Laviolette said. "Not getting that done is frustrating."
The Sabres can relate, having suffered through similar offensive troubles while losing consecutive games in regulation for the first time since late February. Buffalo is 0 for its last 19 power-play opportunities, including 0 for 2 in a 5-1 loss against Montreal on Thursday.
The Sabres were outshot 42-15 in the rout, leading interim coach Ron Rolston to pull Ryan Miller after facing 32 shots through two periods.
"He played well. There was nothing he could do," Rolston said. "We didn't have enough effort. We didn't have enough going. We had too many passengers."
These teams have split two meetings this season, with the Sabres winning 5-2 at home Jan. 20 behind two goals and three assists from Thomas Vanek. The Flyers had taken at least one point in each of their previous nine trips to Buffalo, going 7-0-2.
Bryzgalov is 5-1-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average in his last six games versus Buffalo, while Miller is 1-2-1 with a 3.52 GAA in his last five appearances – four starts – against Philadelphia.
Vanek has six goals and nine assists in his last 10 against the Flyers but was held without a point in the last meeting, a 3-2 Philadelphia victory March 10.