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Flyers hold off Predators 3-2

by Mike G. Morreale /
PHILADELPHIA -- While Ville Leino admitted a three-goal game would have been nice, he'll gladly settle for the first two-goal effort of his NHL career.

Leino's second goal off a ridiculous spin-o-rama backhand from the slot with 3:14 remaining in regulation gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 3-2 victory against the Nashville Predators on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.

"It felt good but I wouldn't have minded having a third one," Leino said. "I guess another time."

After collecting a pass from Claude Giroux between the circles, Leino spun away from a totally confused Martin Erat before swinging a rising backhand that went over goalie Anders Lindback's glove.

Leino had just served a shift alongside usual partners Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell before Flyers coach Peter Laviolette sent him back onto the ice with Jeff Carter and Giroux following a television timeout.

"I thought time was ticking down and we're looking for something," Laviolette said. "I thought with the break that he had … the TV timeout was late because the flow kept going on. He ended up catching a break and just catching some wind so I put him back out there. I think it was more of a hunch than anything else."

Said Leino: "I guess it was a pretty good choice."

The victory was the seventh in nine games for the Flyers, who rebounded from a miserable 4-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The 2010-11 Flyers are now tied with the 1973-74 and 1974-75 teams for the third-best record in franchise history after 52 games (34-13-5).

"That play was all instinct," Leino said of his game-winner. "I felt (the defender) was on my right side, so I turned away and I knew there was an empty space there and had to get it up and it worked well. It was pretty much the only spot I could have gone. I knew (Giroux) would make that play. I use that play quite a lot, and every time, the goalie is going to be down so you just have to get it up. Sometimes it doesn't work, but it bounced perfectly for me to get it high."

It was particularly sweet since Leino had been the recipient of several big hits throughout the course of the game.

"Sometimes you need to work hard and get to those hard spots," he said. "When you get hit, you want to pay them back some way. I don't think I'm going to kill anyone with my hits, so I have to find other ways."

Carter had a goal and a pair of assists, and rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves in the victory, which came on a night the Flyers honored Hall of Fame legend Bobby Clarke with the jersey banner that hung inside the old Spectrum during a pregame ceremony.

"(Philadelphia) has tremendous depth … they have three lines that are first or second-line quality," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We had (Kimmo) Timonen, and we know he is one of the smartest defenseman in the League. (Chris) Pronger is going to be a Hall of Fame, Norris (Trophy) guy every year. They have really good depth, mobility, smarts. They're the deepest team that I've seen out of the East, there is no question about it."

Leino, who entered the game with no goals in five career games against Nashville, has already established career highs in goals (13), assists (25), points (38) and plus-minus rating (plus-18).

"Everybody knows what Ville can do out there," Carter said. "He's probably one of the more skilled players on the team. Whenever he has the puck, he's going to make things happen. He'll make the fancy plays and he'll make the easy plays, so you're never really surprised about what he does.

"The way he handles the puck is tough to teach. Not too many guys have the patience and the skill like he does with the puck … I wish I had it."

The Predators pulled into a 2-2 tie at 10:18 of the third when Joel Ward slammed home a rebound from the slot with his team on the power play. Bobrovsky stopped Erat's initial shot from the right circle, but the rebound slid to Ward, who made no mistake after setting up in prime position.

"They are a good team, obviously atop the East," Ward said. "We knew it was going to be a challenge to come in here and get a couple points. We worked hard and just couldn't capitalize. They did, and that's all she wrote."

Leino had given Philadelphia its second lead with a power-play goal 6:55 into the third. Mike Richards and Carter made the play happen with excellent work on the perimeter before Leino moved in from behind the cage to stuff the puck past Lindback at the right post.

Bobrovsky, winner of five of his last six starts, was sharp after being pulled on Tuesday, when he gave up three goals on six shots in the first period against Tampa Bay.

"It was a very important game … it was very important for me to rehabilitate myself in front of the team," the Russian rookie said through an interpreter.

Lindback, who finished with 26 saves, was making his first start since Jan. 16, when he allowed six goals on 34 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago. Pekka Rinne had started the previous six games (3-2-1) but was coming off three successive defeats.

"We just need to find a way to clamp down," Predators captain Shea Weber said. "We are not a high-scoring team, so we need to make sure we're playing well in our own end."

The loss was the fourth straight for Nashville, which is second in the Central Division. The Predators, playing their League-leading 31st road game, are home for six of their next seven, beginning Saturday against the division-leading Detroit Red Wings.

"I thought we had a really good effort," Trotz said. "We came back twice in the game and tied it up and then just some coverage break down. The low forward on the third goal (Erat) was really loose on Leino and then panicked and Leino executed. I thought we should have come out of here with a point."

The Flyers, who play their next three games at home, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in a penalty-free first period when Carter scored his 24th of the season at 10:18. Carter retrieved a puck along the left-wing boards before stickhandling into the slot and beating Lindback with a wrist shot along the ice.

"It was pretty much a track meet the whole game, but that's how they play," Carter said. "They seem to wear teams down and win games like that. We fell asleep in the second and regrouped and came out hard in the third and got two points.

The lead didn't last long, however, as the Predators squared the contest just 59 seconds later when Marcel Goc ripped home his ninth of the season. Goc fired from the left circle after taking a pass from Cody Franson from the opposite circle.

It appeared Nashville had taken a 2-1 lead midway through the second when Goc's uncontested shot from the right hash mark flew by Bobrovsky. But referee Denis LaRue quickly waved off the goal, ruling forward Patric Hornqvist had interfered with Bobrovsky in the crease.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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