Flyers win, hold off the Panthers

Danny Briere ends suspense with empty-net goal.
Danny Briere ends suspense with empty-net goal.
Posted: February 17, 2011

SUNRISE, Fla. - It ended with the puck hitting the twine in a defenseless goal at the Florida Panthers' end, with a collective exhale in the BankAtlantic Center that was filled mostly with sun-drenched Flyers fans.

But if you rewind the tape from the Flyers' 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers last night - in the 18 minutes or so before Danny Briere's game-icing empty-netter - it paints an entirely different picture than the score a period earlier, 3-0, might have indicated.

The evidence will show the Flyers' one glaring weakness as a team.

"I think if you can say one thing about our team, it's that when we get two- and three-goal leads, we seem to get away from what got us there," defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "Winning in this league is hard. It's something that - on one hand, is good because we get those leads - but putting teams away and developing a comfort with that lead, we're not there yet.

"We probably got fortunate."

Fortunate, with dangerous scorer David Booth unknowingly standing all alone next to Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in the waning seconds, is probably an understatement.

Save a disallowed Panthers goal late in the second period, it might not have ended with the Flyers' first win in Sunrise since Dec. 30, 2007. Despite a puck disappearing into white space behind sprawling Flyers winger Andreas Nodl, the NHL's war room in Toronto had no video evidence to declare it a goal for Florida - even though it clearly looked to be in the net.

"That would have made it 3-1," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Ultimately, that might have made a difference."

Suddenly, not long after Rostislav Olesz busted Bobrovsky's shutout just 1:40 into the third period, there was no longer any happy-go-lucky chatter of a Flyers jinx that preserves them as the only team in the NHL without a shutout this season. It was about survival.

"They got that goal early in the third and they really generated some life from it," Laviolette said. "We were on our heels. 'Bob' played big in the third."

Laviolette chalked it up to the fact that his team played the night before, across the state in Tampa Bay, and picked up an emotion-sapping win against the Lightning. The Flyers are now 8-2-2 in the second of back-to-back games this season.

But that didn't seem to stop the Flyers from putting on a clinic in the first 20 minutes, outshooting Florida, 18-5, and outscoring them, 2-0. It was after the initial frame that the Flyers fell apart.

Mike Richards (nine games) and Nodl (18 games) each shattered goalless streaks in a span of 65 seconds in the game's first 10 minutes to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. And James van Riemsdyk scored his second goal in as many games in the second period.

"I thought we started the game well," Laviolette said. "The second period was give-and-take either way, and then they got that goal early in the third. It wasn't a very good third period for us.

"With a two-goal lead and a three-goal lead, the game's not really in jeopardy. We need to be better than that."

Richards called the third period "lax" and "maybe a little bit lazy," but was more concerned with the fact that the Flyers avenged a 5-0 trouncing by the Panthers back on Dec. 20 and grabbed the two points.

With the win, the Flyers increased their lead on the Eastern Conference to a season-high seven points, as they remain on pace to post 116 points in the regular season - two points shy of the franchise record.

Along the way, Nodl was able to pick up his first goal since Dec. 31 and the Flyers improved to 14-0-0 when Richards scores a goal this season.

"No pressure," Richards said. "It felt good. But as long as the team's having success, it's all about that. I think as long as you're doing something to contribute to the team on any given night, whether it's a hit or a faceoff or a blocked shot, it's something that you want to do."

"It's been a while," Nodl said. "I've been waiting. I've had a lot of chances, but it was good to finally get one."

While everyone in the Flyers' locker room was pleased with the final result, they weren't exactly thrilled with the process. The saying is that the first step to recovery - in Big Leads Anonymous - is admitting there is a problem. And the Flyers did that.

"It was not the way we wanted to end the game," Briere said. "We've had a lot of big leads this year. Most of them, we've been able to carry on and keep going. Sometimes it's going to happen. We survived. And at the end of the day, that's what matters most."

Slap shots

Even with Ville Leino scratched because of a lower-body injury, Nik Zherdev remained a healthy scratch and Jody Shelley was reinserted into the lineup. The Flyers are actively seeking to move Zherdev, but have not found an interested party despite his 15 goals this season . . . It was the 1,700th win in Flyers history . . . The Flyers have allowed a power-play goal in consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 13-14.

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

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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