Philadelphia, PA – The Flyers surrendered a three-goal lead but Jeff Carter scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period to lead Philadelphia to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center.
Coupled with a 3-2 Rangers loss to the Islanders, Philadelphia now trails New York by three points in the race for the Atlantic Division. The Flyers have a game in hand, and the two teams will meet in the final home game of the season for Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
Carter's goal, his 22nd of the season, came when he found a loose puck during a scramble in front of the net at 13:28 on the power play, beginning with a slap shot from the point by Freddy Meyer. The Flyers won six of the eight games in the season series against last place Pittsburgh.
"It was a great play, we moved it around good the whole time," said Carter of the goal. "Freddy made a great play to get it to the net, and it was kind of just bouncing around and it popped out to me."
Flyers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock is still pushing for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Flyers currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
"Our fans will us in some games. They know the sense of urgency in a playoff series," he said. "I think that home ice is something you are going to need."
"All of them are important right now. It's a fun part of the year," said Robert Esche, who finished with 23 saves. "You obviously know at the end of the season it's going to be tight, especially in the East. We have our hands full."
After a scoreless first period, the Flyers scored three times in the second period to open up a commanding lead midway through the game.
First it was Simon Gagne scoring his 45th goal of the season. Petr Nedved, returning to the lineup after missing the last four games with a groin strain, found Gagne cutting to the slot and Gagne's shot sailed inside the near post past Sebastien Caron at 4:38.
"Our top two centers have not been around. One guy (Nedved) has come back and he plays a very good game today and the other guy (Peter Forsberg) should be back, hopefully, on Thursday," said Hitchcock.
Joni Pitkanen's perfect feed from along the boards to Brian Savage cutting to the net at 10:08 made it 2-0. Savage got around defenseman Brooks Orpik and got the back of his stick on the puck for his ninth goal of the year.
Philadelphia's first two goals both came during four-on-four situations. On the Savage goal, it was Sidney Crosby in the penalty box as the second-best rookie in the league tried to draw a penalty on Pitkanen moments before the goal, dropping to his knees after a weak bump by Pitkanen in the Flyers' zone. Play continued and ended with Mike Knuble hitting the post on a deflection attempt and with a hooking call on Crosby.
Crosby had a great chance to cut the lead to 2-1 later in the period, but his attempt was blocked away by Esche, who faced just 13 shots through two periods.
Pitkanen's slap shot from the slot made it a 3-0 game before Michel Ouellet tipped in a loose puck in front of the goal crease later in the frame to get Pittsburgh on the board before the second buzzer.
The Penguins did not go away easily. Ryan Whitney was left alone to the left of Esche in front of the net, and his wrist shot found the top corner at 1:32 of the third period to make it a 3-2 game. They tied it when Ryan Malone's shot deflected right to the stick of Crosby at the side of the net for an easy slam dunk goal at 8:16 to make it 3-3 seconds after a penalty to Eric Desjardins had expired.
Both teams ended the night 1-for-7 on the power play.
The Flyers play in New Jersey on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., CSN).
FLYERS NOTES Ryan Potulny got his first point in the NHL, assisting on Savage's second period goal. … Forsberg missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury. … Defenseman David Printz was recalled from the Phantoms and made his NHL debut, taking the place of Denis Gauthier, who was serving the first of a two-game suspension. … Meyer had two assists.