There isn't much danger of the Philadelphia Flyers looking ahead to their date with Boston in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day. Right now, every game is an important one as they try to climb back into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Jeff Carter scored late in the second period and Michael Leighton made 28 saves to win his third straight start as the Flyers edged the New York Islanders 2-1 at the Nassau Coliseum on Sunday.
The three-game winning streak got the Flyers (18-18-2) back to .500 with a game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday before Friday's outdoor game with the Bruins at Fenway Park.
"Confidence is a key factor," said forward Danny Briere, who scored in the first period to open the scoring. "You're not as bad as you think when you can't find the goals to win and you're not as good as you think when you get on a winning streak. You've got to find that even keel, and it's a tough thing to do.
"We have to realize there is still lots of work to be done."
It would probably help matters if the Flyers could face the Islanders more than just the six times divisional opponents play each season. They've now won 13 straight against New York, the longest active streak in the League. Islanders coach Scott Gordon is 0-7-2 against the Flyers in his career.
Carter converted off a 2-on-1 to give Philadelphia the lead for good with 3:07 left in the second. Scott Hartnell, who assisted on both goals for the Flyers, slid a pass across and Carter waited for Islanders goalie Martin Biron to move before lifting a shot over him.
"We kind of realize the way we need to be successful as a line and come together as a team," Hartnell said. "We're riding high right now."
Jon Sim had tied things up for the Islanders earlier in the period. Sim got to a loose puck that caromed off a pair of sticks before beating Leighton, who is 3-0-0 since the Flyers claimed him off waivers from the Hurricanes. Injuries to the goaltending tandem of Ray Emery and Brian Boucher opened the door for him to start in Philadelphia.
Both teams were playing for the second time in 24 hours, as the Flyers won a shootout in Carolina on Saturday while the Islanders beat the rival Rangers in overtime at the Garden. Briere gave Philadelphia the early jump when he took Carter's pass at the bottom of the right circle and beat Biron to the top right corner 1:51 into the first.
"Sometimes you get messed up with your schedule," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "You don't think about it too much and your body doesn't get a chance to seize up. You don't have to loosen up quite so much. You just come to the rink and play. We played pretty freely."
Biron, who hasn't won since Nov. 13, was starting for the first time in four games. He played well but has now lost six straight decisions.
"Marty has been playing great," Islanders forward Trent Hunter said. "We haven't given him the offensive support needed, and hung him out to dry a few times. That is something we really can't do."
Material from wire services was used in this report.
1 - 0 PHI
1 - 1 Tie