They had a two-goal lead against a New York Rangers team that had beaten them in five of the last six meetings.

The Flyers' 2-0 advantage midway through the third period should have been enough at this crucial time of the year, when they are desperate for points and a playoff berth.

But they survived another scare and posted an emotionally exhausting 4-3 shoot-out victory over the Rangers last night on Mike Richards' fancy backhander.

"I just had that [move] in my head," Richards said. "The games are so big right now. To get these two points is big . . . not only standings-wise but also confidence-wise."

The victory moved the Flyers to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with 84 points, a point ahead of Boston, which fell to eighth.

Danny Briere had two goals in another wild third period, one in which the Flyers also led by 3-2 with less than four minutes to play.

"I can't say I was worried," Briere said. You're in the action and don't have time to be worried. For a second there, there's some frustration: 'There it goes again.' Right away, we turned around and said, 'Let's get it back, not let more bad things happen to us. Let's make it happen.'

All night long, the Flyers stick-checked the puck away from the Rangers or blocked shots. Midway into the third period, Vinny Prospal stole the puck from Chris Drury and fed Briere at the net for a wrap-around goal that made it 2-0.

Briere was in position because he had been knocked to the ice behind the net by defenseman Dan Girardi.

That should have done it. Yet the Rangers scored twice in 1 minute, 48 seconds to tie the game. First, goalie Martin Biron gave up a terrible goal at 12:01 on a floating wrist shot from near the point by Marek . Then Nigel Dawes scored on a wide-open shot in the high slot that hit Flyers winger Patrick Thoresen.

"We felt like we were the better team, and we carried the play," Flyers coach John Stevens said when asked about the attitude on the bench at that stage. "It was kind of unbelievable at that point, but I didn't sense any panic."

Briere's second goal, and 28th overall, came at 16:23 on a Scott Hartnell rebound. It gave the Flyers the 3-2 lead. Jaromir Jagr then retied the game at 18:09 on a blind backhanded rebound that ricocheted off Flyers defenseman Jason Smith with Biron on the edge of the crease.

Biron, who had faced only a couple of tough shots until then, did not come up big until the shoot-out. His save on Dawes clinched the victory after an awful overtime in which the Flyers looked to be in panic mode.

"We're going to make it exciting and win, I guess," Biron said. "Everybody is happy."

What does that say about this team?

"That we've got to be even better than [tonight], and we showed some guts and resilience to get back into the game and getting the third goal and shoot-out win," Biron said. "There's a lot of positives to take out of that."

The Flyers got superior energy from both Richards' and Jeff Carter's lines. They did an outstanding job most of the night getting sticks in the lane to break up passes and scoring chances while keeping shots outside the face-off dots.

A blocked shot led to the only goal of the first period. Richards got his stick on a shot from Malik near the blue line, then began a two-on-one race the other way with Joffrey Lupul. Lupul did a fine job angling off Michal Rozsival, preventing him from getting to Richards as Richards he bore down on goalie Stephen Valiquette.

Richards buried a slapper, beating Valiquette over the glove hand for his 26th goal of the season at 4:37.

"It was a switch in the defensive zone," Richards said of his defensive play. "He hit me right in the shin with the puck, and I just went in on the breakaway. I tried to shoot top glove, and it hit there."

Valiquette, the Rangers' designated goalie against the Flyers, came into the game with a 3-0 record, an 0.36 goals-against average, and two shutouts against the Flyers.

Maybe the Flyers' luck is changing, late though it may be.

"This is a step in the right direction," Briere said. "There's still a lot of work to be done."

Loose pucks.

Kimmo Timonen missed time with a bruised right foot but is expected to play tomorrow against the New York Islanders. . . . Scott Gomez suffered what was apparently a left-shoulder injury in the first period and did not return. . . . The Flyers are 2-5 in shoot-outs.

See more photos from last night's game at

http://go.philly.com/photos.