Late in the third period here Wednesday night, Mathieu Perreault tried to dangle his way through the neutral zone despite the nearby presence of three bright orange jerseys. Flyers grinder Harry Zolnierczyk lowered his shoulder into Perreault, who had his head down focused on his stick-work, and sent the forward flying.

While other members of the Washington Capitals immediately confronted Philadelphia players about the hit, Coach Adam Oates absolved the opponent of any wrongdoing. It was simply the type of misguided play that the first-year bench boss saw far too much of in a listless outing by the Capitals, who fell, 4-1, in Philadelphia.

“I don’t think it was dirty at all. I think it’s a product of our whole game, quite honestly,” Oates said. “Thirty seconds left, the game is over and Matty thought he could stick-handle through the team. It’s not what we do — all of us tonight, you know, guys are sitting there waiting for you, and you get hit.”

From the outset, Washington was a step behind the Flyers. Whether beaten to loose pucks or chasing their opponents, they struggled even to find the oomph required to clear the puck out of the defensive zone consistently.

The Capitals looked every bit the part of an exhausted team playing the second of back-to-back nights, allowing two goals in the first 4 minutes 4 seconds and having little response to that sudden deficit. Starting goaltender Braden Holtby was chased from the net in the second period after allowing four goals on 18 shots. It was exactly the type of flat outing that Washington (7-11-1) can’t afford if it is to maintain hope of moving up from the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

“We didn’t play good at all. Just got outworked. It definitely seemed like we played the night before, mentally and physically just weren’t going,” said defenseman Karl Alzner, who was on the ice for three of the Flyers’ goals. “It looked like at least mentally, in my opinion, we weren’t executing on the plays that we have been in the past few games and that wasn’t a good effort by us.”