Eric Cole made sure the Philadelphia Flyers
wouldn't spoil the night for former teammate Rod Brind'Amour.
The Carolina Hurricanes retired Brind'Amour's No. 17 before Friday night's game, and Cole sent the sellout crowd at the RBC Center home happy when he scored the tie-breaking goal with 3:03 left to lift Carolina past the Flyers 3-2.
Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner scored early goals about 2 1/2 minutes apart for the Hurricanes, who played before a packed house and seemed inspired by a pregame ceremony to retire the No. 17 jersey worn by Brind'Amour, their former captain. Carolina allowed the Flyers to tie the game, but used Cole's clutch goal to deny Philadelphia its second straight season sweep and a 10th straight win in the series.
"Maybe it was perfect timing to have Rod Brind'Amour's night tonight just because of the inspiration that he gave to us players with his speech," goalie Cam Ward said. "It was an exciting night, and we wanted to make it extra special for Roddy to walk away with a win on his night."
Eric Staal, who succeeded Brind'Amour as captain, started the play by freeing the puck along the boards in the Carolina zone and hitting Jussi Jokinen at center ice. Cole outraced the defense to give the 'Canes a 2-on-1 break, took a cross-ice pass from Jokinen and hammered a one-timer past Sergei Bobrovsky's glove for the go-ahead goal.
Nearly a decade ago, Cole and Brind'Amour joined Bates Battaglia to form the "BBC" line that helped carry the Hurricanes to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final. Now Cole and this edition of the 'Canes are scrambling to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- the win moved eighth-place Carolina four points ahead of Buffalo and Atlanta.
"We're trying to prepare ourselves for the ups and downs of what playoff hockey is like," Cole said. "Momentum can change within a shift to a 5-minute span, a 10-minute span, a period, a game, whatever. You just have to be able to have a short memory and just continue playing the same way."
Braydon Coburn tied it at 2 with 5:11 to play after Blair Betts scored a shorthanded goal for the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers, who had won two straight and 15 of 19 since New Year's Day and have the NHL's best road record. Philadelphia lost in Raleigh for the first time since 2007 and were beaten in regulation by the Hurricanes for the first time since 2006.
"Early on, they grabbed the energy of the building and the energy of the night," said Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette, who coached the Brind'Amour-led 2006 'Canes to the franchise's only Stanley Cup.
If the standings hold up, this won't be the last time these teams see each other. Philadelphia - which won the previous three matchups by a combined 13-4 - entered with a comfortable margin atop the East while the Hurricanes have steadily climbed to the No. 8 spot.
"They're probably one of those teams that we're going to have to get through to get to the Stanley Cup, so we've just got to keep pushing and keep beating the teams in front of us," Cole said.
Bobrovsky finished with 26 saves for the Flyers, who scratched captain Mike Richards late with flu-like symptoms. It was his first missed game in more than two full years. Laviolette said it had his team "juggling" and may have contributed to its early two-goal hole.
Ward stopped 21 shots -- including a gem during a Philadelphia power play midway through the second period. Matt Carle's shot appeared headed for the back of the net when Ward, lying on his side, reached his glove hand up and snared it.
"Desperation mode, at that stage," Ward said.
The Hurricanes returned home after going 1-2-2 on a five-game trip.
With the cheers of Brind'Amour's retirement ceremony still echoing in their ears, the 'Canes jumped to a quick 2-0 lead on goals by LaRose and Skinner just 2:25 apart.
"It makes a difference when you can feed off the atmosphere," Ward said. "If that's not playoff hockey, I don't know what is. It had a buzz all night."
LaRose wound up being credited for an unusual deflected goal. Joe Corvo uncorked a slap shot that appeared to deflect off both Flyers defensemen, Sean O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros, before LaRose redirected it through Bobrovsky's pads for his 11th goal and first since Jan. 20.
Skinner made it 2-0 by beating Bobrovsky on a 2-on-1 for his 22nd goal.
Betts got the Flyers on the board early in the second when he skated across the blue line and beat Ward past the glove with a slapper. In the final minutes of the period, Philadelphia killed a two-minute, 5-on-3 disadvantage.
"(If) you can withstand it and get to the other side without getting scored on, you think maybe it's going to be one of your nights where you can come back and win a hockey game," Laviolette said. "We did it. We got there in the end. Just a tough break."