Danny Briere was a big reason the Philadelphia Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Final in June. He's also a big reason they look like a team that could get there again next spring.
Briere, the scoring leader during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scored twice and added an assist as the Philadelphia Flyers won 4-1 at Toronto on Thursday night. The speedy center has 4 goals in his last four games and 16 goals so far this season.
That's a continuation of his playoff success, when he had 30 points in 23 games -- mostly while playing between Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino. Coach Peter Laviolette has wisely kept the trip intact.
"It started last year in the playoffs," said Briere, who has 37 points in 34 games against Toronto. "For some reason it just keeps going. Even through some tough times early in the season, the coach kept us together, didn't mess up our line.
"We love playing with each other, we seem to have that chemistry in finding each other really well. That's a big reason I have goals right now."
Briere scored Philadelphia's final two goals. Leino and Chris Pronger also scored to put the Flyers (18-7-5) ahead 2-0 in the first period. Brian Boucher made 31 saves.
"I thought we played a good game for the most part," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "There was a few minutes in the second period at the end where we were a little bit loose, but I think overall we were pretty good defensively, pretty good on the attack, and we came out skating right away."
After posting a career-best 95 points with the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006-07 season, Briere signed an eight-year deal with the Flyers. He's struggled with injuries and inconsistency before blossoming in the playoffs and continuing to score this season.
"There's no doubt that since the playoffs last year, this is the best I've felt, the most comfortable I've been," he said. "(My) responsibilities are up. Any hockey player who's competitive, you want those responsibilities."
Mikhail Grabovski scored his third goal in three games, but the Maple Leafs (10-14-4) fell behind by three goals for the third consecutive game and second straight night -- they also fell into a big hole in Wednesday's 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh.
Toronto has allowed the first goal in each of its last five games.
Phil Kessel was particularly frustrated after his seventh straight game without a goal.
"I'm disappointed in myself, obviously," he said. "I'm getting chances to score goals, I'm just not burying them. I've got to bear down and find a way to get it done. ... They brought me in here to score goals and right now I'm (in) a big struggle.
"I've got to figure it out."
Kessel scored seven goals in the first eight games this season, but has only three in the 20 games since then. Toronto is 5-12-3 during that stretch.
"He's just got to keep shooting the puck," Wilson said. "He was getting fed tonight. When he gets those opportunities, the puck's going to go in. Hopefully, it breaks the slump."
Bruins 5, Islanders 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
The Leafs may thing they have it rough, but they're going great guns compared with the Islanders, who lost their 11th in a row on the road and 18th in 19 games overall as Milan Lucic scored twice at TD Garden.
"I am taking advantage of my opportunities right now, and it's also nice to have a little luck," said Lucic, who leads Boston with 15 goals after scoring just 9 all last season. "It's a credit to my linemates. They are finding me when I am open."
The Islanders fell to 1-15-3 in their past 19 games and haven't won since beating New Jersey at home on Nov. 26. The Isles are 5-16-5 and last in the overall standings with 15 points. They've scored two goals or fewer in 15 of their last 17 games.
"Finding a way to get up for these games is more challenging than you think, especially emotionally," Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara said after Boston improved to 4-0-1 in its last five. "Give New York credit though. They played hard and battled back in the second."
Frans Nielsen's penalty-shot goal after he was hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway tied the game 3:41 into the second period, and the Islanders dominated play for the next 10 minutes -- earning a chance to go ahead when David Krejci was called for holding.
But after John Tavares missed a half-empty net, Brad Marchand chased a clearing pass. Goaltender Rick DiPietro got to it first -- but his clearing try hit Marchand and went toward the end boards, where Marchand chased it down and scored into the vacated net at 14:40.
"Any time a team scores against us short-handed, it's a real kick in the butt. We want to make sure we do the same to them," Marchand said.
Michael Ryder's power-play goal with 5:44 left in regulation proved to be the game-winner when Rob Schremp beat Tuukka Rask with 3:33 remaining. Lucic and Patrice Bergeron added empty-netters in the final 63 seconds.
"The frustration builds when you lose, period," said DiPietro, who played at Boston University before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Islanders 10 years ago. "It doesn't matter how close or how. One goal, 10 goals -- a loss is a loss."
Blues 4, Blue Jackets 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
St. Louis rode a really special performance by its struggling special teams to a victory against the visiting Blue Jackets.
The Blues snapped an 0-for-22 power-play drought by scoring three times with the extra man, while the penalty-killers were a perfect 8-for-8. St. Louis has won back-to-back games after losing five in a row.
"Quick movement. I thought we moved around well, supported each other, but the puck moved quick, too," said Alex Steen, who had the first of the three-power-play goals. "We weren't hesitating, we weren't waiting to set anything up. It was just the next play was there. We gave it, we shot, rebound, got it back to the point, new shot. We kept attacking.
"In order for us to be good, that's the mindset we have to have."
Jay McClement and Vladimir Sobotka also scored power-play goals, and David Backes added an empty-net goal and a pair of assists. Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves, losing his shutout on Jan Hejda's goal 6:56 into the third period.
Columbus has lost six of seven.
"You can't wait against a team like that that's hungry in their building," Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. "You can't wait until the third period. I didn't know if we were hesitant, nervous or whatever that word is, but we didn't make plays."
Steen scored his third goal in two games 1:14 in after Carlo Colaiacovo kept an errant puck in the zone. McClement got his first goal since Oct. 30 when he redirected Eric Johnson's centering feed past Mathieu Garon at 13:19. The Blues preserved the lead by killing three 5-on-3 power plays that totaled 2 minutes, 28 seconds in the first two periods.
St. Louis took a 3-0 lead and made it 3 for 3 on its power play when Sobotka redirected Johnson's shot from the left point past Garon with 44 seconds to play in the second period.
"The power play had some extended time in the zone," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "I thought we moved more freely without hindrance in our thought process. It was work put in over the last couple of days that these guys felt that it would break through if we kept at it."
Wild 3, Coyotes 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Minnesota snapped a five-game losing streak as Andrew Brunette scored twice.
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