Flyers top Thrashers after third-period burst

Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky makes save as Thrashers' Niclas Bergfors looks for rebound.
Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky makes save as Thrashers' Niclas Bergfors looks for rebound.
Posted: January 15, 2011

ATLANTA - Claude Giroux and the Flyers collectively exhaled.

Their ugly streaks are finally over.

Giroux, who broke a season-high 10-game goal-scoring drought with an insurance tally in the waning minutes, helped the Flyers snap a four-game losing streak against the once-lowly Atlanta Thrashers by virtue of a gutty, 5-2 road win at Philips Arena last night.

"Anytime you're not contributing to the team, you have some pressure to help the team win," Giroux said. "When you're not doing that, you get frustrated. It was a big relief to get that goal."

Danny Briere made his teammates quickly forget their third-period hiccup from the night before - five goals by Boston - when he tapped in a Ville Leino deflection that landed right on his stick with 7:12 to play in the third period to break a 2-2 tie. It was the first of three Flyers goals in the period.

"We wanted to stop the bleeding right away," Briere said. "We needed to forget about [Thursday] night and all the bad breaks and get back to skating and creating chances, which we did in the third."

Briere now has goals in five consecutive games, which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the Flyers' longest goal-scoring streak since Geoff Sanderson scored in five straight games in November 2006.

His game-winner, his 11th point in the last six games, also helped the Flyers regain a three-point edge in the Eastern Conference over idle Pittsburgh. Last night was the Flyers' fifth win in six games since the calendar turned to 2011 and their 15th road win, tied for best in the NHL.

"I don't have much to complain about," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I liked our game from start to finish."

Playing against an Atlanta team that has spent almost all of its 11-year franchise history in obscurity, the Flyers knew better than to expect the traditional bottom-feeder-quality hockey from the Thrashers.

It was the Thrashers, after all, who nearly cost the Flyers a run at the Stanley Cup last season when they swept all four games of the season series - on the heels of a Flyers 14-game winning streak against Atlanta that spanned parts of four seasons.

With that bitter taste still in their mouths - particularly from back-to-back losses last March - the Flyers brought their defensive lunch pail to Atlanta, which entered the night with a three-point lead in holding the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

"We knew what we were coming into," Jody Shelley said. "They're a team that's been hot. I think we were lucky that we got them in the second half of the year, because they really got their stuff together and got going, and we were able to meet them here and have a lot of respect for them."

The teams were locked in a defensive battle, with Sergei Bobrovsky and Ondrej Pavelec pitching shutouts for the first 37 minutes. That changed in a hurry.

After Andrew Ladd beat Bobrovsky with 2:23 to go in the second period, the teams traded three more goals in that period alone, starting when Shelley blocked a Dustin Byfuglien slap shot and surprised Pavelec by blasting a fast-rising slap shot over his left shoulder 36 seconds later.

"It felt great," Shelley said of his second goal of the season. "You want to contribute any way you can. When you can score as a fourth line, it feels great to get on the board."

The Flyers got on the board again when Giroux found Kimmo Timonen with a no-look backhand pass to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead only 21 seconds later, the Flyers' fastest pair of goals this season. But Rich Peverley tapped in a power-play goal for Atlanta with 3 seconds left in the period to send it into the third tied.

That's when Briere took over, Giroux gave the Flyers a cushion and the team exhaled with Jeff Carter's empty-net goal at 19:20.

"It was a boring road game, one of those games where the goalies were standing on their heads, and we were waiting for chances," Shelley said. "The right guys got going and there were a lot of smiles at the end."

Pronger returns

Defenseman Chris Pronger returned to practice with the Flyers in Atlanta for the first time since fracturing a weight-bearing bone in his right foot on Dec. 15.

"It's nice to finally get out there and do some drills to get your feet underneath you," he said. "There's gym shape and then there's hockey shape. You can do all you want on the [stationary] bike and working out, but there's nothing like just skating."

Slap shots

The Flyers wrap up their long swing of nine out of 10 games away from the Wells Fargo Center tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers . . . The Flyers' lineup remained the same last night as Thursday's loss in Boston, with Nik Zherdev and Matt Walker in the lineup for healthy scratches Dan Carcillo and Oskars Bartulis . . . Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots for his second straight win . . . Five players were a plus-3 for the Flyers . . . Fifteen of the Flyers' 18 skaters were credited with at least one hit. *

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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