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Flyers get 3 late goals, beat Thrashers 5-2

by John Manasso /
ATLANTA -- As they showed last spring in the Stanley Cup Final, when the Philadelphia Flyers' trio of Ville Leino, Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell are going well, there might not be a better line in the NHL.

With the score tied 2-2 late in regulation on Friday night, the threesome struck again - in the person of Briere -- for their 16th goal in the last eight games. Briere put the Flyers ahead to stay and Philadelphia won for the fifth time in six games by beating the Atlanta Thrashers 5-2 before 15,081 at Philips Arena.

Briere said he didn't think that the line had played well as a group for much of the game until Leino deflected Hartnell's slap shot from high in the zone to Briere, a few feet away, for an easy back-door conversion with 7:12 left in regulation.

For Briere, who was omitted from the League's All-Star selections on Tuesday, the goal was his team-leading 24th. He entered the day sixth in the NHL in goals.

"I think a big part of it is the confidence we have now," Briere said of his line's success. "The whole game we were always like half a second short. Bounces were just going a little too far ahead or just behind us and I was telling myself, 'Just stay positive. At some point something good's going to happen. Something good's going to turn our way. Try not to get frustrated.'

"And, finally, it did and I think confidence is a big part of it."

Hartnell has 7 goals and 2 assists in Philadelphia's last eight games, while Leino has 2 goals and 5 assists; and Briere has 7 goals and 6 assists. Hartnell and Leino each picked up assists on Briere's game-winner.

"That was a big goal they scored tonight," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "They were good. I thought everybody played well. I thought we controlled the game from start to finish."

The only exception that Laviolette allowed to that statement was when the Thrashers were able to cycle the puck in the Flyers' zone and when they were able to get on the power play.

After playing the first 36:37 of the game scoreless, the Thrashers and Flyers combined for four goals in the final 3:23 of the second period, including three within 57 seconds.

Andrew Ladd got Atlanta on the board first with his 15th goal at 16:37. Niclas Bergfors dug a puck out of the corner and sent it towards the slot. The puck took a couple of funny bounces before arriving on the stick of Ladd, who beat goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with a wrist shot.

Thirty-six seconds later, Jody Shelley blocked Dustin Byfuglien's point shot, raced down the left wing and put a slap shot over Ondrej Pavelec's left arm. Laviolette called the shot block a "great sacrifice" by Shelley, citing how hard the puck hit the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder in the ankle.

The Flyers struck again 21 seconds later. The Thrashers blew a defensive zone coverage and Claude Giroux set up Kimmo Timonen with James van Riemsdyk screening Pavelec.

Evander Kane, activated earlier in the day off injured reserve, drew a hooking call on Timonen with 58.2 seconds left in the period, leading to Atlanta's tying goal. Bergfors, often a resident in coach Craig Ramsay's doghouse, again earned the primary assist, this time from low on the left circle. He fed Rich Peverley in front, and Peverley put in his own rebound with 3 seconds left in the period.

After Briere put the Flyers ahead, Giroux added a goal with 2:57 left and Jeff Carter hit the empty net with 20 seconds to play.

The night before, the Flyers had had a four-game winning streak snapped with a 7-5 loss at Boston on Thursday. Laviolette said he thought the Flyers had played well in that game but that the team was the victim of weird bounces. He told his players to "wrap it up and throw it away."

In that game, goalie Brian Boucher allowed six goals on 36 shots. On Friday, Bobrovsky stopped 27 of 29, making a few spectacular saves -- including one on Kane shorthanded in the first period. Kane had taken the puck from the goalie behind his net, but before he could successfully complete his wrap-around try, Bobrovsky got back just in time, diving with his paddle along the ice to stop a likely goal.

Bobrovsky, who has won his last two starts while stopping 65 of 69 shots, was asked how important it was to rebound from that loss.

"Yesterday was yesterday and today was today and it's very important to win every game," Bobrovsky said through a translator.

Atlanta continues to struggle. The Thrashers are 3-6-2 in their last 11 and have won just once in regulation since Dec. 20. They are still eighth in the East, three points ahead of Carolina, but the Hurricanes have three games in hand.

As has been the case for much of the season, Pavelec was outstanding -- he finished with 31 saves.

"It was very disappointing to play that hard, to be in position to win," Ramsay said. "It doesn't feel like a 5-2 game but it is at the end of the day because we didn't quite battle hard enough."

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