PHILADELPHIA -- Jeff Carter saw the puck at his feet, so he wielded his stick around and hammered at it.
The Flyers put 43 shots on Atlanta goalie Chris Mason and came up empty every time. If Carter's shot was an inch to the left it would have been No. 44 -- and it would have forced overtime. Instead, Nik Antropov's goal off his left skate midway through the third period stood up for a 1-0 victory Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
"Cartsie hits the post at the end of the game -- maybe some nights it goes in, but this night it just didn't go," Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros said. "I don't think we played bad, it's just we didn't have the luck."
Philadelphia's magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division still dropped to four thanks to Pittsburgh's regulation loss at Tampa Bay, but the momentum the Flyers created in Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Penguins is gone. They'll try to get it back Friday in New Jersey and perhaps inch closer to clinching the division title and the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Thrashers, meanwhile, stayed mathematically alive for a playoff berth with this win and the Rangers' regulation loss to the Islanders. But it would take a miracle for them to get in considering both Buffalo and the Rangers have to lose out.
"We put ourselves in such a terrible position and it's really hard to be in this position when there is virtually no chance," Mason, who recorded his first shutout of the season, told NHL.com. "But the thing is everybody is competitive and they should care about these games regardless because we haven't proved anything as a team.
"If you're not ready to play in Philly, you're going to get your butt kicked."
Antropov got credit for the goal at 10:22 of the third period after a short review.
Evander Kane drove down the left wall and as he was curling around the net he slotted a hard pass back to the low slot. The puck hit Antropov's left skate as he was trying to stop in front of the blue paint, but after a short review it was ruled that he did not use a "distinct kicking motion" to put the puck past Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
"I just drove to the net and fortunately it hit me," said Antropov, who had inside position on Flyers captain Mike Richards in the slot when the puck clicked off his skate. "I was trying to stop so there was no kicking motion, obviously."
"It's tough when you throw everything at the net and they get a lucky bounce and get the goal," Richards said. "We were just trying to get pucks to the net as much as possible, try to create that second and third opportunity. They did a good job of knocking pucks to the corner and clearing them. We just couldn't seem to find one."
The Flyers haven't been able to find much on their home ice in the last 3 1/2 weeks. They are winless in five straight home games since beating Edmonton 4-1 on March 8. Two of those losses have come to the Thrashers, who beat Philadelphia three out of four times this season.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said the lack of success at home is not a major concern.
"It's probably more disappointing and frustrating than concern," Laviolette said. "I thought the chances were more than two to one in our favor (Thursday), we just couldn't score a goal and they got one off a skate and it went in."
But one somewhat fluky goal isn't what did in the Flyers on Thursday.
Despite getting 30 shots on goal over the game's first 50 minutes, the Flyers stifled themselves by going to the penalty box six times. They killed all six, but their offensive rhythm was off.
The Flyers pressed once they were down a goal, but Mason stopped all 13 shots he faced over the final 9:38 and then got lucky when Carter's rebound attempt hit the post with 4.7 seconds left.
"It might have hit my pad on the way up, but it definitely hit the post," Mason said.
The Flyers went 0-for-5 with 10 shots on the power play. Mason credited the penalty-killers in front of him for being "aggressive and not really letting them get set up."
Richards echoed that sentiment.
"It seemed like the puck was bouncing away from us, a little bit out of reach, so we had a lot of regroups," the Flyers' captain said.
Bobrovsky stopped 21 of 22 shots and has given up only five goals on 117 shots in four starts since allowing three on nine shots in 20 minutes against the Washington Capitals last Tuesday. He kept the game scoreless with point-blank blocker saves off one-timers from Dustin Byfuglien in the first period and Bryan Little in the second.
There wasn't much Bobrovsky could have done about Antropov's goal, but it doesn't erase the fact that he's still searching for his first career shutout -- and the Flyers haven't had one all season either.
"I am sure some of the guys wish they had some of those point-blank chances back, but you fire 43 shots on net and you hit some posts, their goalie makes some great saves," defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "You'd like to think what more can I do, but sometimes it's not your night."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl