PHILADELPHIA - All those impatient boos and a string of games without a goal are in the past for Danny Briere.
Briere has gone from so-so to sensational in his first playoff series with the Flyers and has suddenly performed like he's worth every dollar of that big-bucks free-agent deal.
Briere has played more like the top player in the league than likely MVP Alex Ovechkin, scoring two more goals with an assist, leading Philadelphia to a 6-3 victory over the Washington Captials in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round series on Tuesday night.
"The playoffs are extra special," Briere said. "I'm not going to lie about it, there's a little extra there."
No player has more post-season points the past three years than Briere. His four goals and two assists in the first three games of this series are a huge reason why the Flyers hold a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 is Thursday night in Philadelphia.
"Danny had a twinkle in his eye," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He looked like a player who was going to play the way he did."
Briere struggled for nearly two months in the first year of an eight-year, US$52-million contract and briefly heard some boos from the Philly fanatics. He got hot down the stretch and earned the loudest roars from a pumpkin-orange crowd that was dying to let loose in Philadelphia's first home post-season game since 2006.
"That was a great thrill the way the crowd was early on and it certainly played a big role," Briere said.
All that energy turned into a bundle of nerves in the final minutes after Brooks Laich beat Martin Biron with 4:34 left in the game to make it 4-3. The play was reviewed for several minutes to make sure the puck wasn't played with a high stick, but the goal stood.
Their worries were soothed when Mike Richards scored on a penalty shot not even two minutes later to seal the win, and Mike Knuble added an empty-netter with 1:05 remaining.
The Flyers never let goalie Cristobal Huet or the rest of the Capitals get comfortable early in front of the raucous crowd. They finished their hits in a fast-and-furious first period that was capped by three goals in a 2:33 span - Briere scored first, and Scottie Hartnell and Sami Kapanen scored 17 seconds apart.
Biron delivered again, stopping 16 shots.
Ovechkin may be taking the MVP back to Washington, but the league's leading scorer has yet to really get going in this series. He scored the winning goal in Game 1, but has otherwise been stymied on each of his lengthy shifts. Ovechkin, who did not talk to the media, took only four shots in 24:51 of ice time.
"I just think they're zoning in on our top line," defenceman Mike Green said. "I mean every time those guys touch the puck they're getting hit. Not only that but we've got to find it within us to battle through that."
The Flyers even shut down Ovechkin after they lost stud defenceman Kimmo Timonen in the final minute of the second period. Laich cross-checked Timonen into the net and he was slammed on his right arm into a camera. Timonen writhed in pain, was helped off the ice and did not return.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Timonen would be evaluated on Wednesday.
Briere, who scored twice in Game 1, scooted down the ice and scored his 17th career playoff goal with 9.8 seconds left for a 4-2 lead.
"He's playing as good as he played all year and maybe as good as he ever has in the playoffs," Stevens said.
The Captials got to Biron midway through the second when they pulled to 3-2 on Green's power-play goal. He faked Hartnell and had a clear shot at Biron for the power-play goal.
The fans erupted when Lauren Hart, the daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sang "God Bless America," alternating lyrics with Kate Smith, who was on a video image. Smith's rendition of the song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since the mid 1970s.
"We put a good show on for them tonight," said forward Vaclav Prospal, who had three assists. "They showed us the emotion and the energy and we fed off that."
Briere sent the faithful into a frenzy when he scored with 3:50 left in the first. Eric Fehr quickly tied the game with his first playoff goal.
The Flyers needed only 17 seconds to go up 3-1 late in the first.
Hartnell turned a crisp circle-to-circle pass into a slapper for his first post-season goal. Briere made it happen when he tied up Tom Poti in the crease and caused a nice distraction.
"He's a tricky little player," Laich said of Briere. "You can't take your eye off him for one second because he'll find a little hole and pop one in."
Before the fans had even stopped celebrating, Jim Dowd stole the puck from Milan Jurcina and dropped it behind him to Kapanen, who scored his first playoff goal since 2004.
Notes: Biron's wife, Ann Marie, gave birth to the couple's third child, a daughter named Emily Marie, on Monday. ... Flyers F Patrick Thoresen was on the fourth line four days after a puck to the groin sent him to the hospital and nearly cost him a testicle. ... Flyers D Derian Hatcher also returned to the lineup for the first time since he broke his leg on March 15. ... Each team was 1-for-7 on the power play.