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Flyers 5, Panthers 4 @NHL

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Mike Knuble hopped the boards at the perfect moment for Philadelphia.

Knuble scored a short-handed goal with 3.2 seconds left to give the Flyers a 5-4 victory over the slumping Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

Knuble jumped off the bench for a shift change, caught the puck and rifled a slap shot from the right circle past a stunned Jamie McLennan to lead the Flyers to their sixth straight win and ninth straight at home.

``It kind of took off on me a little bit and went right up in the joint,'' Knuble said. ``It's probably one of the timeliest goals of my NHL career.''

Knuble scored twice, Simon Gagne added his 17th goal, Peter Forsberg had his NHL-best 25th assist and Robert Esche stopped 26 shots. Gagne is tied for the NHL goal lead with the New York Rangers' Jaromir Jagr.

The Panthers lost their eighth straight game and have gone nearly three weeks since they last won, against Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. Philadelphia's 5-4 win two nights later started Florida's skid and helped the Flyers skate away to a sensational start.

While the Flyers won their fourth straight game by one goal, the Panthers lost by a goal for the fifth time in their losing streak.

``The guys are just going to have to be a little more sharp the next time,'' said McLennan, who had 34 saves. ``That's the way it goes right now and maybe we'll get some bounces later on in the season.''

The Flyers appeared to go ahead in the waning minutes of the third period when the puck slipped past McLennan, but the whistle blew and the refs ruled play was stopped before the goal.

Only moments later, Joni Pitkanen was called for hooking and left the Panthers with the advantage, but Knuble scored his 10th goal of the season.

``I looked up and it was 3 seconds and I thought this can't be possible,'' Florida left wing Niklas Hagman said.

Florida's Martin Gelinas tied it at 3 early in the second period when he took a sharp pass from Stephen Weiss in the slot and flicked in his fifth goal of the season.

Pitkanen scored on a power play to give the Flyers a 4-3 lead, but Hagman flipped the puck over for Esche for his first goal of the season.

So much was expected out of the Flyers this season - like win a Stanley Cup - and they've done little to disappoint with an 11-3-1 record.

``I think we can play better than how we have,'' Forsberg said. ``We've been pulling them out in the end and that's a good sign, but we have to play better for 60 minutes. I don't think this is going to do against a good team.''

One concern Saturday was how they were unable to hold their leads.

Gagne and Knuble scored in a 2:01 span early in the period for a 2-0 lead.

But Kristian Huselius and Gary Roberts scored goals 1:17 apart to even the score. Roberts caught Esche leaning and had a wide-open net for his second goal of the season.

``Just a couple of breakdowns and they ended up in the net,'' Esche said. ``But we battled through the whole game and it paid off in the end.''

Jeff Carter made it 3-2 when he took the puck nearly the length of the ice and scored a short-handed goal, his sixth, late in the period. That gave the Flyers a whopping three goals on only six shots.

Notes: McLennan allowed three goals in the first period after allowing only three goals the last three games. ... Forsberg has an assist in seven of the last eight games. ... Gagne has a goal in seven of the last eight games. He has scored 15 goals at home.

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