UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Patrick Thoresen doesn't pick up many points on the ice. Instead, he makes plays.

The Norwegian winger made a critical play last night at Nassau Coliseum that helped the Flyers get a late goal before center Danny Briere won it in a shoot-out, 4-3.

Staring at a 3-2 deficit with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, Thoresen went into the corner, stripped defenseman Radek Martinek of the puck, then fed Mike Richards at the net for the tying goal, setting up overtime.

"We lost the face there, and I jumped on the defenseman and lifted his stick," said Thoresen, who has played 18 games here. "Got the puck, another defenseman came to me, and Richie was alone in front. I got the puck through."

It was a pivotal play with huge overtones. With Boston's 4-0 rout of Ottawa, the Flyers (91 points) remained seventh in the Eastern Conference. Washington also won, staying three points behind them. Any combination of four points involving the Flyers' winning and the Capitals' losing clinches a playoff berth for the Flyers.

"Oh, yeah, Washington was winning, and if we had lost this game, it would have been so tight," Thoresen said. ". . . These two points were unbelievable. It's been like that the last 10 games."

The Flyers lost Friday's shoot-out in New Jersey. This time, Briere went with a double move, beating goalie Wade Dubielewicz with a backhander. Dubielewicz had been 6-0 lifetime in overtime/shoot-outs.

"It wasn't the prettiest move," Briere said. "When I tried to go backhand, I fanned on the puck a little bit, and that is why it was so slow coming to me. In the end, it worked."

Meanwhile, Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki, who had not played since March 18 against Atlanta, was terrific, stoning all three shooters.

"I felt pretty good about myself," said Niittymaki, who had not played in four games. "I've been practicing breakaways a lot this year in practice. It was my first shoot-out this year. I wasn't sure what to expect. But I felt pretty confident and we've been scoring some goals in the shoot-out lately."

He got some help as the Flyers killed off two penalties in overtime.

"It might be the gutsiest effort of the year," coach John Stevens said. "We showed a lot of resilience. They got a fortuitous bounce on their first goal. We had all kinds of pressure on them and they make it 2-0 and you think we're going to go away and we don't."

The Flyers trailed by two goals early and were behind, 2-1, in the third when Joffrey Lupul scored his 19th goal at 3 minutes, 22 seconds. It was Lupul's first goal in nine games since returning to the lineup from a right ankle sprain. His last goal was Feb. 14 against Tampa Bay.

The Islanders got the go-ahead goal at 10:19 when former Flyers defenseman Freddy Meyer chipped the puck off the wall to Frans Nielsen in full stride. Nielsen went into hyper-gear around Braydon Coburn (minus-3), rifling a shot from the left circle.

Five minutes later, Richards tied it with his 28th goal off Thoresen's assist.

"I lost it cleanly," Richards said of the face-off. "They weren't expecting it, and Thor made a great pass to me."

The Isles got a strange goal from Richard Park in the first period. Defenseman Aaron Johnson sent the puck off the side boards, and it went the length of the ice behind the Flyers' net, then took an odd bounce off the boards, then off Niittymaki's stick.

Park crashed the net, slid, and swiped the puck into the net with both Kimmo Timonen and Coburn on him. In the second period, the Flyers unleashed a season-high 23 shots, but a turnover and coverage mix-up also resulted in Blake Comeau's making it 2-0.

Briere got one back at 15:24 coming out of the penalty box, giving the Flyers a power play when both teams had been going four-on-four. With the puck tied up behind the Isles' net, Richards gave Briere a pass in the left slot. Briere fanned on his initial attempt, then swung again, going high and short-side for his 31st goal of the season.

Notes. Left winger Vinny Prospal missed the game with the flu. . . . Lupul began the game on Briere's line with Scott Hartnell, but Stevens moved him to Richards' line with Thoresen. . . . Steve Downie replaced Prospal in the lineup. He had been scratched for 10 of the last 13 games.