THE MORNING after the Flyers trounced the Penguins, John Stevens still was reeling by the way the Penguins played.

It didn't help that Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien told the media after the game that he felt the Flyers showed a "lack of respect," by trying to score when the game was out of the Penguins' reach.

For Stevens, the issue was that Therrien kept sending out players like Colby Armstrong, who kept taking shots at Flyers' players.

"It wasn't just [Armstrong]," Stevens said. "Go back and look; [Sami Kapanen] got elbowed in the head, [Mike Richards] got elbowed in the head by Armstrong. The puck is long gone and [Georges] Laraque breaks his stick over the top of [Lasse] Kukkonen. [Sidney] Crosby runs into [Biron] then Laraque runs into [Biron].

"When teams are going to just take liberties on you and you don't try and score, what are you going to say, just keep taking liberties. [Therrien] says it's a lack of respect. It's not a lack of respect. I have a great deal of respect for that organizations and the players on that team. If they were just penalties, I would keep rolling the lines, much like I did late in the game. It's not often you get a lead like that."

Therrien's accusation seemed just as off-base to the Flyers' players.

"What happened last year when they played the Flyers and [the Flyers] were struggling? Did they let up," asked Daniel Briere.

"We're all competitive and we all want to get more and do more for the team. It's human nature. What do you expect us to do? They're breaking sticks over our players, and we're supposed to just tell them 'OK'?

"There were so many penalties, we can't just play with five guys. We have our two power-play units and two guys were in the dressing room [because of] fights."

As upset as both coaches seemed about the game Tuesday night, won 8-2 by the Flyers, it was clear the fans at the Wachovia Center loved the action as much as they loved harassing Crosby with chants, and Stevens understood that.

"There's a great rivalry, certainly, throughout the [Atlantic] division," Stevens said. "But for us, it's important to play well at home and get a win for our fans.

"We hadn't played well at home and haven't given them something to be excited about," he said.

"But as a fan watching that game, you've got one of the best players in the world, arguably two of the best players in the world [Crosby and Evgeni Malkin], teams that are in the same division fighting for very important points in the standings. There was a lot of scoring, a lot of physical play. There were a lot of good things to like."

Hatcher still day-to-day

While Simon Gagne (concussions) continues to skate and work hard, making progress toward a return to playing, Derian Hatcher remains day-to-day while he is treated for fluid on his right knee.

Hatcher missed Tuesday night's game and will not play tonight against Montreal. After having surgery to remove cartilage that was causing fluid and swelling, the problems have returned.

Hatcher said he is not in pain but that the fluid causes a loss of muscle in his leg.

"It's just swelling up and basically I lost a lot of strength in my muscle," Hatcher said yesterday. "The fluid shuts down the muscle. They drained it [Tuesday] and before the Colorado game [last Friday]. To me it doesn't feel bad, but it's a lot of agitation.

"I'm day-to-day right now. I won't play [tonight]. We're doing a few things differently [to treat it] . . . Now it's a matter of getting the strength back to a level where the doctors agree, we'll say. I'm going to retest [today]. I haven't practiced in 5 days."

Hatcher said there was a chance he could play Saturday night against Carolina. *