UNIONDALE, N.Y. - If the Flyers had allowed Scott Hartnell to drive the team bus home tonight it probably would have caromed off a guard rail on the New Jersey Turnpike and landed directly in the Wachovia Center parking lot.
Yes, things are going that well for the feisty winger.
Hartnell scored his second hat trick in nine days and ran his number of goals to nine in the last six games to lead the Flyers to a come-from-behind 5-3 win over the Islanders tonight at Nassau Coliseum.
The win was the fifth straight on the road for the Flyers, who climbed into a second-place tie with New Jersey in the Atlantic Division. They are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games.
Taking advantage of wacky bounces of the puck that landed on the blade of his stick, Hartnell became the first Flyer to score a hat trick on three power-play goals since Brian Propp did it against Minnesota on Oct. 13, 1988.
Hartnell's season has taken a dramatic turnabout. He went without a goal the first 15 games and since has 15 in the 27 games.
"It's pretty weird how it happens," Hartnell said after the Flyers rubbed out a 3-1 deficit. "Some lucky breaks tonight. Sometimes you get them, and it's my time now."
The puck may have found Hartnell on his second and third goals, but his first came the old-fashion way as he set up in front of the net and rammed one past goalie Rick DiPietro.
The goal seemed like it might become moot after Richard Park, Josef Vasicek and Bill Guerin gave the Isles a 3-1 lead entering the second period.
After Steve Downie, who continued his excellent two-way play, pulled the Flyers to within 3-2, Hartnell tied it when Scott Upshall took a wraparound along the sideboard and sent it in front of the net, where Hartnell put it in to tie it, 3-3, with 7 minutes to go in the second period.
His eventual game-winner came in the first minute of the third period when DiPietro went behind the net to play a wraparound pass, but the puck caromed off the glass partition directly to Hartnell who, of course, was in front of the net.
"It's funny when you look back at the beginning of the year he had some unbelievable chances. But now the puck seems to find him wherever he goes," Flyers coach John Stevens said.
Mike Richards gave the Flyers some elbow room with his 21st goal with little more than seven minutes to go.
There are many ways to tilt the ice in your favor just when it seems you're about to spend the night sliding backward.
The Flyers were reeling, down, 3-1, when the Islanders were on a four-minute power play that extended into the second period. But they killed it. Shortly afterward, Derian Hatcher thumped Trent Hunter in a fight. The Flyers took control the rest of the game as goalie Marty Biron held off the Islanders.
"I thought that [penalty kill] was critical, and then I thought Hatch standing up for his team had a big impact on the game," Stevens said. "They kind of rallied around him."
The Flyers, who lead the NHL in power-play efficiency, have scored with the man advantage in 17 of their last 19 games.
Senators in town. The Flyers play Eastern Division leader Ottawa tomorrow at the Wachovia Center. It will be the first time Downie faces the Senators since he drew a 20-game suspension for a dangerous blow to the head of Dean McAmmond.