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Flyers survive near-disaster

RALEIGH, N.C. _ You can look at the Flyers' 4-3 shoot-out win in Carolina Saturday two different ways.

The glass is half-full: The Flyers survived a late collapse and gutted out their second straight victory _ marking their first two-game winning streak in five-plus weeks.

The glass is half-empty: The Flyers won't make the playoffs if they play like they did in the late stages of the game. They blew a late 3-0 lead by playing passively and allowing three goals in a 7:23 span of the third period. Against the lowly Hurricanes.

But at this point of a season that has been defined by their inconsistency, the Flyers will take the two points and run.

Mike Richards and Danny Briere scored in the shoot-out for the Flyers, who are 3-2 in SOs this season.

For most of the game, the story was goalie Michael Leighton and the Flyers' shorthanded defense.

Claimed off re-entry waivers from Carolina on Dec. 15, Leighton played brilliantly against his ex-teammates and appeared headed toward his first shutout in nearly six years.

But the Hurricanes took advanatage of some Flyers' miscues and tied it with three late goals, the last coming with 3:13 left in regulation.

Ryan "Bernie" Parent suffered back spasms in the pre-game skate and did not play. That left the Flyers with just five defensemen, and they may have gotten tired late  in the game from being double-shifted.

Chris Pronger played 32:46, Kimmo Timonen (four blocked shots) logged 30:11, Braydon Coburn played 27:16, and Matt Carle (five blocks) went 25:20. Oskars Bartulis,the fifth defenseman, played 14:38.

The defense looked tired in the third period, when the Flyers were outshot, 20-11.

But to their credit, the Flyers controlled the OT _ even though they were shorthanded for a minute of the extra session.

"We're trying to take steps forward," said new Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who was coaching against his former team. "We have to take another step" Sunday against the Islanders. "This was another small step."
    Before the game, Laviolette downplayed his return to Carolina, which he guided to the Stanley Cup in 2006.

"Obviously, when you have success, you have great memories here," he said before the game. "I enjoyed my time here, but it's not really about that tonight. We're in need of another win."

The Flyers (17-18-2) were coming off a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay, a game in which Leighton made 31 saves. Before last night, they had not won two straight since Nov. 16-18.

After Saturday's win, Laviolette said he wasn't sure if Leighton or Brian Boucher (injured ring finger) would start Sunday against the host Islanders.

In regulation, Richards, Jeff Carter and Briere scored to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.

It marked just the second time in the last 25 games that Richards and Carter had scored in the same game.

* * * * *

Breakaways. Defenseman Danny Syvret will be recalled from the Adirondack Phantoms....Briere, who had a power-play goal, led the Flyers with seven shots, followed by Carter and Richards with five apiece....The Flyers won 54 percent of the faceoffs, with Carter leading the way by winning 14 of 20 (70 percent).