BOSTON - The Boston Bruins were on the verge of falling into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, just three points away from being out of the playoffs entirely.
Then their long-dormant offence showed up and kept the Philadelphia Flyers from jumping past them in the standings.
"It gives us a little cushion - not much," said Aaron Ward, who scored at 2:17 of overtime to help the Bruins beat Philadelphia 3-2 on Saturday. "There's no room for error, but this helps us."
Andrew Ference tied it with 27 seconds left in regulation, then he assisted on Ward's winner. Tim Thomas stopped 24 shots for the Bruins, whose three goals were the most they've scored in eight games this month, not counting shootouts.
"I'd hate to have been sitting here having lost 2-1, thinking we can't score," Thomas said. "I saw the breakaway developing clearly, and I thought to myself: 'If you stop one here, it's easier than a shootout, when you have to stop three.' "
With the teams playing 3-on-3 because of off-setting roughing penalties early in overtime, Ference turned over the puck at the point and Jeff Carter broke in on Thomas, all alone. Thomas made the pad save with 2:55 left and the puck went back the other way, where Ward blasted it past Martin Biron.
"When you're in the lead in the third period, you should be able to close it out," Flyers forward Danny Briere said. "We've thrown away a lot of points lately.
"We're frustrated that we're blowing leads, but we're right there, still in the hunt."
Ward also beat the Flyers 42 seconds into overtime on Jan. 12, the last time he scored before Saturday.
"He seems to have Philadelphia's number in overtime games," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Too much ice and too little amount of players there."
Mike Richards scored for the Flyers in his return from a nine-game hamstring injury, and Briere also scored. Biron stopped 33 shots for the Flyers, who coughed up a chance to take over seventh place in the conference.
Boston, which had won just once in seven games, took a two-point lead over eighth-place Philadelphia with 10 games to play.
Flyers defenceman Derian Hatcher injured his right leg blocking Ference's shot in the first period, and said he feared it might be broken. Instead of going with the team to Pittsburgh, he returned to Philadelphia for an MRI.
"When you can't put any weight on it, that's a bad sign," he said. "I am really disappointed.
"This is the stretch drive here. It is a real bad feeling not to be a part of the team when you are battling for a playoff spot and the games are so important."
Ference scored his first goal of the season to send the game into overtime, converting a bouncing rebound after the Bruins pulled Thomas in the final minute for an extra skater. Ference was on the ice because Bruins captain Zdeno Chara has missed four games with an unspecified upper body injury.
Chuck Kobasew gave the Bruins a first-period lead, but they watched as the Flyers scored twice in a span of 3:11 in the middle of the second period. The Bruins have scored two or fewer goals in regulation in eight straight games.
Joffrey Lupul, who missed 26 of the previous 33 games with a sprained ankle and concussion, helped set up Richards' goal.
The Flyers were back in Boston for the first time since Oct. 27, when Randy Jones hit Patrice Bergeron into the boards from behind, giving him a concussion and broken nose. Bergeron, the Bruins' best young player, hasn't played since.
Notes: On March 15, 1970, Boston's Bobby Orr had two goals and two assists to become the first defenceman in NHL history with 100 points in a season. ... Kobasew has scored in consecutive games after going 15 straight without a goal. ... The Flyers fell to 2-5 in games decided in overtime. They are 1-5 in shootouts. ... The Bruins won the season series 3-1, giving them the edge over the Flyers in a potential playoff tiebreaker.