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Briere scores twice as Flyers drub Leafs 6-2

by John McGourty
PHILADELPHIA -- Hitting the road for the holidays appears to have been just what the Philadelphia Flyers needed to find their game.

Philadelphia improved to 5-1-1 in its lasts seven games with a 6-2 victory over the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. It was the Flyers' first home game since a 4-1 loss to Florida on Dec. 21 -- a defeat that dropped them to 2-10-1 in a 13-game slide that included the firing of coach John Stevens and the hiring of Peter Laviolette.

"We didn't play very good hockey in front of our fans just before Christmas," said forward Danny Briere, whose 500th NHL point was one of his two goals. "We got our chance to regroup and get our confidence back on the road. Tonight, the way we played and the way the crowd cheered us on in the second and third period, this is a good sign."

Laviolette said he has long been impressed with Briere, having coached against him while running the New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He's just a guy who is really quick, agile and hard to contain," Laviolette said. "He gets into areas, he's got skill, a great playmaker, a great goal-scorer."

Laviolette was also impressed with Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, whom he coached briefly in Carolina and who improved to 5-0-1 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .932 save percentage since being claimed off waivers from Carolina on Dec. 5.

"He's played well," Laviolette said. "It should get recognized that he had to make some big saves tonight, really big saves. They were at the point, early, when the game was 0-0, 2-0 and 3-0. He came up with some big saves. Again, Michael Leighton has given us a chance to win a game."

The Leafs came into the game with the NHL's poorest penalty-killing unit, and the Flyers made them pay with three goals in six tries during a game that featured 15:23 of power-play time, eight fighting majors and a pair of misconducts.

The Flyers scored on their first shot when Briere lifted a power-play goal over Jonas Gustavsson's right arm at 4:11 of the first period after Alexei Ponikarovsky was penalized for tripping Claude Giroux in Toronto's offensive zone. The goal came on the Flyers' first shot of the game after Toronto had outshot the Flyers 4-0 to that point.

"They came out hard and we kind of weathered the storm," Briere said. "But after that we slowly took over the game -- and except for a couple shifts here and there I thought we played a very strong game tonight."

The Flyers' second goal resulted from hard work by their third line. Darroll Powe chased Jason Blake and the puck to the right boards in the Toronto zone and drove Blake into the boards, freeing the puck. Coming back from the goal line, Arron Asham outskated John Mitchell to the loose puck and threw a backhand pass to Danny Syvret, who scored his second NHL goal with a hard slap shot past Gustavsson's glove at 19:09.

Syvret got his first career goal Friday against the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park when he scored the game's first goal in the Flyers' 2-1overtime loss.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson was upset with his team, which was unable to build on Tuesday's 3-2 win over Florida.

"I'm sure they'll say that but there's no excuse," he said when asked if his players might have been tired. "You come out, shot out of a cannon and they're on their heels and then we had a few guys didn't compete at the level that we need and the next thing you know it's 2-0.

"We didn't battle for pucks in our end. We were last to every confrontation. We didn't challenge for pucks and if challenged, we often turned it over. You can't win, especially on the road if you're not competing at the level that you need to.

"You're standing beside a guy, watching him shoot it into the net," Wilson added. "We didn't have any energy for some reason until it was too late."

The Flyers continued to dominate in the second period, outshooting Toronto 5-0 over the first 7:38 and making it 3-0 at 10:13 when Dan Carcillo scored with his fourth and undoubtedly most skilled goal of the season. Blair Betts carried the puck into the Toronto zone and passed to Carcillo on the left side. Carcillo started down the left side and stopped, causing Luke Schenn to fall down. Carcillo cut to the right and evaded defenseman Tomas Kaberle before beating Gustavsson low on the right side.

Philadelphia's Mike Richards had a scoring chance blocked by Gustavsson with 3.4 seconds left and Colton Orr then jumped Richards in retaliation for a hit on Nikolai Kulemin, picking up a roughing call. The undisciplined penalty proved costly when Richards scored a power-play goal at 1:22 of the third period when Simon Gagne took a pass from Pronger and found Richards alone in the low slot for a shot into a wide-open net.

Wilson said he wasn't upset by Orr's retaliation.

"No, we've got to start sending messages to other teams," Wilson said. "I need more guys to show up and make the other team pay a price if they're going to do some things. We just don't have enough of that."

That goal was followed by a scrap between Asham and Toronto defenseman Garnet Exelby. The fight may have lifted the Maple Leafs, who scored at 4:14 when Matt Stajan passed to Kulemin breaking into the Flyers' zone on the left side. Kulemin cut to the middle and beat Leighton low on the right side.

The Flyers then got the goal back at 4:56 when Jeff Carter won a battle for the puck to Leighton's right and tipped a pass to James van Riemsdyk, whose long pass found Briere breaking into the Toronto zone. His quick shot overpowered Gustavsson to make it 5-2.

But the Maple Leafs roared back with a goal of their own at 5:05, with Ponikarovsky finishing off Kaberle's pass on Leighton's left side.

The Flyers wrapped up the scoring at 7:08 when van Riemsdyk tipped Pronger's long shot off a pass from Timonen into the net with Francois Beauchemin off for cross-checking.

Wilson said he didn't fault his goalie for the lopsided loss.

"There was nothing he could do on any of those goals," Wilson said. "He should sue for lack of support."

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