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Hurricanes 4, Flyers 3, SO @NHLdotcom

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Now that the Carolina Hurricanes are alone atop the NHL standings, maybe they'll get noticed.

Rod Brind'Amour scored in the fourth round of a shootout to lift the surprising Hurricanes to their eighth straight victory, 4-3 over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

Erik Cole's breakaway goal for Carolina with 3:58 left in regulation sent it to overtime as the Flyers twice wasted two-goal leads in the third period.

The first four shooters in the shootout scored, before Brind'Amour got the decisive goal after Simon Gagne failed to win it for the Flyers.

``It's strange. We've been winning games like this a lot,'' Brind'Amour said. ``Sometimes we have no business being in the game, but we hang around enough and find ways to win.''

Matt Cullen and Oleg Tverdovsky also scored in regulation to help the Hurricanes move past Ottawa for the NHL lead with 66 points. The Flyers are two points behind.

Ray Whitney and Cullen also beat Antero Niittymaki in the shootout, and Martin Gerber stopped Jeff Carter to seal the win.

The Hurricanes haven't lost since the Flyers beat them 4-3 in overtime on Dec. 29. Carolina's last loss in regulation was at Ottawa on Dec. 28.

``We're getting contributions from different guys every night,'' Brind'Amour said. ``One night the goaltending steals us the game and another night one player gets us up with a goal here or there.''

Carter, Kim Johnsson and Freddy Meyer scored goals for Philadelphia, which has lost three straight games. It was the Flyers' second game since returning from an 11-game road trip in which they went 8-2-1, setting an NHL record for most points (17) during a stretch of games away from home.

The loss could be costly for Philadelphia because Peter Forsberg, the team's leading scorer with 60 points, left with a mild groin strain after playing two periods. Forsberg will be examined again Wednesday, but it doesn't appear the injury is too serious.

``I'm very hopeful it shouldn't be that long,'' Forsberg said.

The injury-depleted Flyers already are without four injured regulars: captain Keith Primeau, goalie Robert Esche and defensemen Eric Desjardins and Joni Pitkanen.

Coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't pleased with the Flyers' sloppy play in the third period.

``If you get beat on coverage or you get beat 1-on-1, that's hockey, but when you give the puck away like we did for the last two goals, that's disappointing,'' Hitchcock said.

Carolina tied it when Cole took a pass from Frantisek Kaberle, streaked in alone and beat Niittymaki.

Just 1:46 after Meyer gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead, Tverdovsky cut it to 3-2 with his second goal this season.

Gagne could've won it for Philadelphia in the shootout after Niittymaki stopped Eric Staal's shot, but he missed the net on a backhander.

``It's pretty frustrating,'' Gagne said. ``That was a big point for us.''

Gerber didn't stop Mike Richards and Michal Handzus in the shootout, but forced Gagne to miss and made a clutch save on Carter.

``The first two I got caught. I was too aggressive,'' he said. ``You want to close down their options.''

The two teams combined for 21 goals while splitting their previous two meetings in Carolina, but this was a defensive struggle for the first two periods. The Hurricanes didn't even get a shot on net until Cory Stillman took one almost 18 minutes in.

Carter gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 7:23 left in the second. The rookie center took an outlet pass from Chris Therien, skated down the middle, fought off Kaberle and lifted a backhander under the crossbar for his 11th goal.

Johnsson made it 2-0 early in the third period, flicking a shot past Gerber from the side of the net. However, Cullen scored just 21 seconds later to cut it to 2-1.

Meyer, a rookie defenseman, scored on a slap shot from the right circle to extend Philadelphia's lead to 3-2.

Philadelphia had a two-man advantage for 1:03 early in the second period, but couldn't score. The Flyers also failed on a power play in the final minutes of regulation.

A goal by Mike Knuble in the opening minutes was disallowed because his stick was higher than crossbar when he whacked the puck in.

Notes: Niittymaki made his 16th consecutive start. ... Therien played in his 746th game with the Flyers, tying Joe Watson for fourth on the club's career list. ... Hurricanes D Mike Commodore missed his second straight game because of a leg injury. ... Carolina's streak of scoring a power-play goal in 14 consecutive games ended. ... The Flyers had their 21st sellout in 23 games at the Wachovia Center.

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