NONE OF the Flyers could remember ever having 3 days off during the holidays.
This is usually when the Flyers head out for a long road trip and turn the home ice over to Disney skaters.
The Flyers broke the tradition this year and, after a 3-day break with no practice and no games, came back to the Wachovia Center and snapped a six-game skid, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, 4-1.
"It's been awhile," goalie Martin Biron said of having time off after Christmas. "I remember playing on the 26th a lot. It was a well-spent break for a lot of guys here. You saw what happened and the tempo of the guys. That was good.
"This was as well as we've played all year defensively and it created offense for us. We had a few goals on the rush because we were able to get the puck out of our own end after just 5 or 10 seconds, instead of spending 35 or 40 and then having to dump the puck in because we need fresh legs."
Joffrey Lupul continued his recent goal spree, scoring two to go with goals by Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere.
Lupul has scored eight goals in his last seven games.
"I feel I'm playing hard, I'm going to the net," he said. "I made two good shots and I feel if I keep getting those opportunities in the slot like that, I can score. It's a product of working hard and my linemates working hard, and if I can keep getting chances like that I feel I can stay hot."
And the Flyers will need that.
With the skid behind them for at least one game, they will now get to the traditional road trip and head to Florida for a weekend back-to-back set against Tampa Bay and the Panthers.
If they start piling up some points, they could climb back into the playoff picture in short order.
"We wanted to win at home," said coach John Stevens. "We wanted to leave home with a good feeling. Our fans have been waiting for a win for some time here. Going on the road now, we'll have just a little more energy, feel just a little bit better about ourselves.
"You can feel the confidence build when you win and we can go down south with two tough games feeling good about ourselves," he said.
Since the last time the Flyers were in Florida, the team went on a win-one-lose-one stretch of 21 games followed by the six-game skid. They dropped in the standings and out of the playoff picture.
But with the league as tight as it is, a few wins could straighten things right out.
"We feel like we're right in it," Stevens said. "Seems like the whole Eastern Conference is moving along like a big block; someone gets points every night. We've got to do our part and win some hockey games."
The first period came close to ending scoreless and without a whole lot of excitement. In the final minute, Carter started a play in the defensive zone and ended it at the Toronto net.
Carter won a faceoff back into the corner. Randy Jones got to the puck and chipped it up the wall, off Toronto defenseman Pavel Kubina's stick and down the ice.
Scott Hartnell put on the gas and beat Kubina into the offensive zone as Carter was crashing the net. A quick pass through the crease to Carter's stick and the Flyers had a 1-0 lead, 19 minutes, 25 seconds into the game.
Lupul pushed the lead to 2-0 on a second-period power play. Toronto had controlled a lot of the play in the period and outshot the Flyers.
With the man advantage, Lupul made a play at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone and get a pass into the corner for Briere.
Briere made a pass to the net that was tipped away but Lupul got the puck, held it for a second and then slipped it under Andrew Raycroft at 17:03.
But as has been the Flyers' big problem the past month, they gave up a late-period power play. Mats Sundin blew a long shot past Biron in the last minute and the Flyers led, 2-1, at intermission. It was the ninth time this season the Flyers have given up a goal in the last minute of a period.
Coming into the game, the Flyers were 14-1 leading after two periods and, by the way they started the third, they were intent on making that 15-1.
The Flyers took the game to Toronto and at 3:05. Jason Smith took a shot from the blue line that Briere tipped home for the 3-1 lead. Lupul sealed the victory, converting a near-broken play that Mike Richards recouped to set up Lupul with a pass that he shot over Raycroft at 7:56 for a 4-1 lead.
"It's a good feeling," Briere said. "After a while, you forget what it is to win. It tastes a lot better than losing the way we were lately, especially the way we were finding ways to lose.
"Maybe the 3 days rest helped us a little bit to get away from all the negative we were hearing lately." *