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Flyers continue to roll at home

by John McGourty
PHILADELPHIA -- Peter Laviolette's first order as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers back on Dec. 5 was to reduce undisciplined penalties.

The Flyers were very disciplined in ignoring the Toronto Maple Leafs' early invitations to scrap Sunday night and scored the first goal en route to a 3-1 victory, their fourth-straight home victory and fourth-straight win over the Maple Leafs at the Wachovia Center.

That allowed the Flyers (34-26-4) to solidify their hold on sixth place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens and three ahead of the No. 8 Boston Bruins. The Flyers are now 6-1-1 in their last eight games, outscoring their opponents, 31-21. The Maple Leafs were the first opponents in a four-game homestand this week.

The disciplined play was just one of several positives for the Flyers who got goals from Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Danny Briere. Goalie Michael Leighton made 27 saves, several of them outstanding, including a four-save flurry near the end of the first period.

"(Leighton) was rock solid tonight. He was really good, sharp," Laviolette said.

Carter became the first Flyers player to score 30 goals this season when he beat Toronto goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the final second of the Flyers' second 5-on-3 opportunity of the first period, thanks to undisciplined play by Toronto's Colton Orr.

Danny Carcillo didn't react to Orr's cross check at 7:52 of the first. Orr then punched Carcillo and was hit with an additional roughing minor and easily could have got a second one for the right cross he threw under the linesman's arm that connected with Carcillo's jaw.

Laviolette was very pleased with Carcillo's response, or lack of one.

"You ask those guys to play on the edge, a guy like Danny Carcillo, to agitate, irritate, and to be effective in that job," Laviolette said. "It's a fine line that he has to walk, and I think he's done an excellent job. He gives that (Mike) Richards line a forechecking presence. You saw what he did today -- he was able to draw penalties. I thought he had a terrific game for us tonight. He worked hard, he generated offense."

"That guy (Orr), I'm just never going to fight him," Carcillo said, rubbing it in. "I mean, he plays three minutes a night, he doesn't really do anything unless somebody fights him. I kind of knew he was going to run me there, and then I sucked him into a few, and luckily, we scored a little bit later."

The Flyers were held without a shot on the first penalty and weren't making much headway before Dion Phaneuf took a high-sticking penalty at 11:23. At the end of his penalty, Orr went on the penalty kill and had a short-handed shot off a 2-on-1 on Leighton and then crashed into the goalie in his net, setting up another 5-on-3 for the Flyers. It was that Orr penalty that upset Toronto coach Ron Wilson.

"Well, it was more the one where he hit the goalie. That was an unnecessary penalty, the other ones I didn’t mind," Wilson said. "The penalty kill was excellent and then we gave them an extended 5-on-3, and after that it was only a matter of time before they got the first goal."

Carter scored on a wide-open net from the right side off a Pronger pass from the right point after Richards fed him from the goal line to Giguere's left side. Carter has eight goals in the past eight games.

Leighton kept the Flyers ahead with four big saves and a couple of breaks during Darroll Powe's tripping penalty at 17:49. He stopped Nikolai Kulemin from point-blank range and Tomas Kaberle from the left boards. Christian Hanson couldn't convert a pass across the crease and Carl Gunnarson drilled a low shot that Leighton denied with his left pad with 11 seconds left.

Kulemin backhanded a rebound of Gunnarsson's shot past Leighton at 3:55 of the second period, but the Flyers took a 2-1 lead on Simon Gagne's goal at 17:09.

Gagne, who missed 24 games early in the season after hernia surgeries, has six points in the past five games, 12 points in 12 games and 26 points in 31 games since returning on Dec. 19.

"Everybody seems to be finding their game, including Simon," Laviolette said. "Everybody seems to be getting better. Like I said, two weeks off is a long time, and everybody seems to be taking a step, and Simon does as well.

"Your goal scorers have to score. He's a natural goal scorer. That was a big goal that he scored for us. Danny Briere, another guy, he comes off the break and he starts to get going here. We need him to get going as well. Everybody has roles. Danny Carcillo has his role. Simon has a role on this team -- it's to put the puck in the back of the net, play some good two-way hockey, and bury some goals. Everybody needs to be firing."

Philadelphia extended its lead during a 4-on-4 situation, as Braydon Coburn passed through traffic to Briere, who beat Giguere at 18:25 of the second with a wrist shot despite tight coverage from Christian Hanson.

"It's tough to go into the third on the road, two goals behind against a team like that," Giguere said. "You're not going to win very often. I think we felt if we could go in there 1-1 or 2-1, we would have a chance."

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