NEW YORK — Flyers players lifted their massive equipment bags onto carts outside the visiting locker room of Madison Square Garden.
There wasn't much energy or zealousness to such a mundane task.
Shortly before doing so, the Flyers made skating in the world's most famous arena seem just as mundane, allowing the New York Rangers to turn Broadway into breakaway on Tuesday night to the tune of a 5-1 loss (see observations).
"We just made too many mistakes that cost us," Jakub Voracek said. "Four goals out of five came off our mistakes, so it's tough."
The Rangers, not once, but twice during the first period, bolted behind the Flyers' slow-reacting coverage for nothing but open ice and Brian Elliott to beat. On both occasions, New York scored easily and took control of the evening.
It was a full exploitation of a Flyers team that had won four straight but wasn't "engaged in this game enough," as head coach Dave Hakstol put it.
With the Flyers holding a 1-0 lead just over six minutes into the contest, Pavel Buchnevich fed a stretch pass to Rick Nash streaking up the middle of the ice, leaving defensemen Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning in the dust. Both the delivery from Buchnevich and the speed of Nash appeared to catch Gudas and Manning by surprise.
"The first one, probably a better read by me and Gudy," Manning said. "We talked before the game, we knew that's what they were going to do, they were going to try and stretch us out. That one we can probably eliminate."
The second was deflating in every way imaginable. As the Flyers sputtered through their first man advantage, a pass behind Jordan Weal bounced off the side boards and right to Peter Holland. With most of the Flyers' second power-play unit pinching on the attack, New York rushed up ice and beat Manning in retreat as Holland hit Paul Carey for a shorthanded marker.
Whatever life the Flyers still had, it was sucked out of them.
At the time, before it unfolded, they seemed to be in OK position. The Flyers were down, 2-1, but vying for an equalizer by turning to their power play, which had been 7 for 14 over the four-game winning streak. However, what transpired was New York taking a surprising 3-1 lead with 10 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
"Those are ones we can prevent," Hakstol said. "They're a good transition team, so when you give them opportunities, whether it's a turnover out of their defensive zone or a turnover entering the zone, they're a good transition team. But our awareness on those plays was not what it needs to be.
"I just thought in the first half of the game, in all the areas of the game that mattered, they were the quicker and hungrier team."
The Rangers showed it some more when they went on another semi-breakaway, this time midway through the second period for a 4-1 edge. Michael Grabner came swooping in to pick Voracek's pocket before quickly flicking a shot past Elliott, who watched another blue jersey barrel down untouched toward his crease.
"We put him in pretty tough spots tonight with the opportunities that we gave up in the first 30 minutes of the game," Hakstol said.
The goalie making his 18th start in the last 19 games still took blame.
"It's not the easiest way, but that's my job," Elliott, who was yanked ahead of the third period, said. "I didn't have them tonight. Go back to work and try to feel good about my game. That's not where I wanted to be tonight. I didn't really give ourselves a chance to win and I've got to own a lot of that."
Tuesday marked the Flyers' first outing against the Rangers this season.
Were they surprised by the opposition's transition game?
"No," Hakstol said.
Manning sounded like he will be far more ready when the Flyers come back to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 18 for the second of four meetings.
"I don't know if surprising is the right word, they have some guys who can skate and I think we were expecting that," Manning said. "We haven't played them this year, it's the first time. When you see it for the first time, it's something a little different."
The Flyers on Thursday night will see the Maple Leafs for the third time. The previous two matchups were won by the Flyers. Interestingly enough, Manning had his best game of the season with a goal, an assist and three hits in the October victory, while rookie blueliner Travis Sanheim played in the December win.
Hakstol will have to decide between the two for Thursday.
One will be an extra, the other will want to make sure breakaways are at a minimum.