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Hurricanes 3, Flyers 2, OT @NHLdotcom

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -Glen Wesley wasn't about to let the NHL's worst team return to Tobacco Road and earn a second win against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Wesley's short-handed goal 16 seconds into overtime gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.

"We faced adversity, we faced injury - we faced a lot of things this year, and hopefully this is something that we can look back at in a positive way and know that this could be a stepping stone for us," Wesley said, "and hopefully build on this game and continue to peck away and climb the ladder in the standings."

Carolina blew a two-goal lead against the worst team in the league, yet recovered to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Hurricanes entered the game in eighth place in the conference, one point ahead of Toronto and the New York Islanders.

For a while, it seemed the Flyers were on their way to another win in Raleigh. They tied the game with four minutes left in regulation, then started overtime with the man advantage.

"We battled our way back into the game and we missed our opportunity there at the end with the power play," center Mike Richards said.

Justin Williams set things up for Carolina by bringing the puck down the boards and into the slot, then passed to Wesley. The defenseman snapped it past Antero Niittymaki for his first goal since Feb. 2, 2006 - a stretch of 82 games.

"I yelled at (Williams). He was there and kind of froze everybody and kind of jumped across," Wesley said. "It was just one of those things where we had nothing to lose - if we go back the other way, who knows what would have happened?"

Rod Brind'Amour reached the 20-goal mark for the 12th time in his 18-year career, and Andrew Ladd added a goal for the Hurricanes.

Brind'Amour's milestone "might mean something when I'm done, and I can look back and say 'That was pretty good. I got some goals.' But at this point it means absolutely nothing," he said.

John Grahame, who backs up Cam Ward, started for the first time since Feb. 1 and made 33 saves in his first victory since beating Florida on Jan. 16.

Alexandre Picard had a goal and an assist, and scored late in regulation to tie it at 2-2. Dmitry Afanasenkov also scored for Philadelphia, which has lost four of five and is last in the NHL with 40 points.

Niittymaki made 27 saves for the Flyers, who had scored at least four goals in each of their past four trips to Raleigh - including a 5-2 victory on Dec. 31.

The Hurricanes scored twice late in the first period to take the early lead. Brind'Amour put the Hurricanes up 1-0 with about seven minutes left when he skated into the left circle, took a pass from Bret Hedican and snapped a shot that beat Niittymaki high to the glove side. Ladd made it 2-0 about five minutes later when he worked his way to the net, fought through a check and hammered a rebound past Niittymaki.

"You never know what would have happened but a stronger start would have helped," Richards said. "It's not like we had a poor start. It's just as the period went on we got worse instead of getting better. That shouldn't happen."

Afanasenkov pulled Philadelphia to 2-1 midway through the second when he skated into the left circle, hesitated and snapped a shot past Grahame's glove side. Picard tied it late in the third period by tapping in the rebound of Richards' shot.

"They had their looks and their chances through the night, and they had their way with us at times," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought we had our way at times. I thought when they were playing pretty good hockey that we were sloppy with what we were trying to do."

Notes: Williams had two assists to record points for the first time in five games. ... Philadelphia has won once since trading Peter Forsberg to Nashville on Feb. 15. ... Simon Gagne, who had nine goals and four assists in his previous seven games, was held scoreless. ... The Flyers are the only team in the NHL with fewer than 50 points. ... Hedican played his 300th game with the Hurricanes. ... Tempers flared in the second period when Philadelphia's Todd Fedoruk and Carolina's Tim Gleason traded punches after Fedoruk gave Ray Whitney a shove from behind.

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