NEW YORK - The Flyers trailed by a goal for 46 minutes at Madison Square Garden. A month ago, that would have finished them, but last night they dug deeper within themselves to defeat the New York Rangers, 2-1, in overtime.

Mike Richards scored the game-winner at 2 minutes, 16 seconds of the extra session.

"It was tight both ways and both of us had to earn opportunities," Richards said. ". . . We got a lucky break at the end."

Flyers defenseman Jason Smith set up the winning goal when he picked off a Sean Avery pass to feed Richards, who fired a backhanded shot over goalie Henrik Lundqvist's glove hand.

"I was going to try and go forehand," Richards said of his 27th goal. "The defense was right there and I shoveled it in, and it just bounced and trickled in over him. A garbage goal, yeah. It wasn't the prettiest or where I wanted to shoot it."

The victory kept the Flyers in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 88 points, two ahead of eighth-place Boston, which defeated Toronto. The Flyers have five games left; Boston has six.

"That was huge," said Danny Briere, who scored the tying goal 7:32 into the third period. "Lately, we have dropped a couple of games where we were up by a goal or two in the third period and we would find a way to lose. So, tonight was huge for us to come back in the game and tie it up and find a way to win in overtime. . . . It is nice to get one back, especially at this time of the year. Every point is so critical."

Lundqvist cherished a 1-0 lead until Briere scored his 30th goal off a give-and-go assist from Vinny Prospal. The two have combined for 10 goals and 12 assists in 16 games together.

"We talked before the game this was an opportunity for us to really take a step as a team," said coach John Stevens. "I thought we played with a lot of composure, our veteran guys really stepped up again, and we got contributions right through our lineup."

Stevens began the game by matching the 5-foot-8, 179-pound Briere against 6-1, 210-pound center Brandon Dubinsky. On the Rangers' first shift, they kept the puck in the Flyers' end with Dubinsky and Martin Straka controlling it.

That allowed Jaromir Jagr to wheel around the net with the puck, lose Kimmo Timonen in the process, and toss a quick turnaround shot out of the right circle that beat Marty Biron at 1:41.

It was Jagr's 40th career goal against the Flyers, and Stevens quickly changed the matchup.

During a power play in the final four minutes of the second period, Biron made two difficult saves against Dan Girardi and one against Chris Drury. It could have been 3-0 then.

"Sometimes I need help from the guys, like I need the power play to come through or the [penalty kill] to come through, and sometimes you have big saves," said Biron, who made 31 saves. "When you're in a situation and it's 1-0 and the game is there for us to have, desperation sets in. Penalty killing is all about desperation. And the work ethic. And that is where we got our momentum in this game."

They certainly didn't have the momentum early as the Flyers were outshot by 21-12 through two periods while being muscled off the puck.

Briere's first shot of the game came four minutes into the second, a hard drive down the slot off Lundqvist's shoulder. The Flyers' first power play didn't come until 12:49, and during the two power plays they had in the period, their only scoring chance came when Braydon Coburn laced a shot from the right circle into Lundqvist's chest.

Still, the Flyers stuck with it and capitalized off a turnover.

"I'm very disappointed," Avery said. "I made a terrible pass and they went on to score. We made two mistakes, primarily both by me, and that's the difference in the game."

The season series ended with the Rangers winning five of the eight games.

"The way we've been playing the last few games has been a pretty good team effort," Timonen said. "For two periods, we were not on top of our game, but it was 1-0. It was so close, we just needed one [goal] and it was our game."

It was theirs for the taking in overtime, and the Flyers stole it.