TAMPA - The New Year is almost upon us, but the Flyers have already started making good on their resolution: get consecutive victories.
Goalie Marty Biron's heroics and a three-point game from Joffrey Lupul enabled the Flyers to harness the Lightning, 4-2, today at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Coupled with Thursday's win over Toronto, it represented consecutive wins by the Flyers for the first time since Nov. 10-12, over Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders)
"A lot of it has to do with being a young team," Lupul said of the club's inability to win back-to-back games. "Sometimes you get caught up thinking we're too good a team. We have to get a mindset to play hard and consistent every night to win."
Biron had 31 saves - 23 through 40 minutes - and kept the Flyers in the game early.
"The first period, we did a poor job on breakouts. And all the opportunities they had, we gave them," said Flyers coach John Stevens. "We didn't execute our game plan very well. Second period, we got into some trouble there. They pressured hard on the walls. . . . But as the game wore on, we got some odd-man rushes."
Leading 2-1, Scott Hartnell's tip-goal 31 seconds into the final period on a delayed penalty was a huge momentum swing for the Flyers. Three minutes later, Kimmo Timonen's rebound goal on rookie goalie Karri Ramo iced it as Tampa lost for the ninth time in 11 games.
The Flyers are 16-1-0 when leading after two periods, and this was just their second victory in the last 13 meetings against the Lightning.
"This was a big night for us," Lupul said. "We had a lot of problems in this building in the past."
Lupul gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead 7 minutes, 13 seconds into play off a penalty shot. It was his 16th goal this season - tying last season's total in Edmonton - and his 10th goal in the last nine games.
"I was going down the wing pretty much as fast as I could, and [Mike Richards] made a good pass to me," said Lupul, who drew a hook and a penalty shot from Tampa Bay's Brad Lukowich.
On the penalty shot, Lupul wristed the puck off Ramo's inside pad and into the five hole.
"I'm more of a shooter than a deeker, so I am coming in looking shot first," Lupul said. "I thought I saw him backing up, and with just a quick little release I was able to get it through the five hole."
The goal snapped an 0 for 8 penalty shot drought by the Flyers. Simon Gagne had scored the last one on Feb. 21, 2004, against Atlanta's Pasi Nurminen. It was just the 13th successful penalty shot in Flyers' history. They are 13 of 38 overall.
Tampa Bay's Vinny Lecavalier, who's warrants consideration for the league's MVP for the first half of the season, tied the game with his 26th goal at 11:44 on the power play. Only Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk, with 31, has more goals this season.
The Flyers were sloppy in front of Biron the entire first period, turning the puck over 10 times while getting trapped in their own end for long stretches, and Biron faced 14 shots. Chaos persisted in the second period as the Lightning forchecked with ferocity.
"We felt if we got the puck up the ice as a five-man unit we could break out easily," Biron said. "Once we threw the puck around the boards, they put on a lot of pressure."
The Flyers' Mike Knuble has 11 goals this season, nine on the power play. He added another in the final minute of the period on sheer determination. Jeff Carter angled the puck from the left circle to Lupul in the slot. Everyone converged into the crease, where Knuble jabbed at the puck three times, his last jab putting the puck in to regain the lead, 2-1, at 19:04.
"It was kind of a bang-bang play," Knuble said. "The puck went around the horn, pretty much everybody touched it."
Loose pucks. An MRI on Randy Jones' right knee was negative, Stevens said. That means his mild sprain won't require arthroscopic surgery. . . . Lasse Kukkonen played despite his nagging left foot injury and again labored in his skating. . . . Scottie Upshall sprained his right ankle and is questionable for tomorrow at Florida, although he says he will play. . . . Antero Niittymaki will start in goal tomorrow. . . . Healthy scratches yesterday were Jim Dowd for the sixth time in nine games; Stefan Ruzicka, who was called up for the trip; and Rory Fitzpatrick for the seventh straight game.