UNIONDALE, N.Y. - When his team was struggling last season, John Stevens moved all of the players to new lockers.
The move was typical for the guy known as a player's coach, and it seemed to work. The Flyers took the message that something new was needed and turned the end of the season around.
Not this time.
With his team just a few spots from the bottom of the league standings and playing unacceptable, lackluster hockey, Stevens is taking a new approach - play or sit.
On Monday he moved scoring winger Joffrey Lupul to the fourth line. Yesterday he sat Scott Hartnell for the entire third period.
"It didn't look like he wanted to play tonight, so we went in another direction. I didn't like his game. He didn't look like he was moving his feet," Stevens said.
It's hard to say if the discipline had anything to do with the Flyers' 3-1 win over the Islanders in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum yesterday afternoon, but the message was not missed by anyone on the bench, including Hartnell, who played just 14 shifts for 11 minutes, 19 seconds.
"I think you have to hold guys accountable, you've got to make a stand with someone and it was me. I've got to respond and come out with a better effort and be more prepared," Hartnell said. "I saw it coming. A couple of times he yelled at me for not moving my feet and things like that. I just hope he holds everybody accountable and it doesn't matter what number they're wearing on their back. It's all for the team now."
Maybe it will work. It was a welcomed move by any player who was asked about it, and with games in Pittsburgh tomorrow and Montreal on Saturday, it could not have come at a better time.
"Maybe this is for a good thing," said captain Mike Richards. "You play well and you're going to play. You don't play so well and you're not going to play. Maybe it prepares you more for the game, maybe it pushes you a little bit more, but that's how it really is supposed to be, I think."
While the win was a welcome relief and a good start to the three-game road trip, it came at an expense. Danny Briere, back for just his second game since missing six while recovering from abdominal surgery, scored the Flyers' first goal in the second period, then left the ice and did not return.
All the Flyers would say was that he had a "lower-body" injury that did not have anything to do with the surgery. He will be re-evaluated today but is unlikely to play in Pittsburgh.
"It was just something that appeared during the game," Briere said. "A little bit of playing on the cautious side at this point, and we will reevaluate it.
"It's a lower-body injury and at this point I would rather not say. It has nothing to do with the surgery that I had previously, it was just something that popped up."
As far as the game went, the Flyers started slowly but got stellar goaltending from Marty Biron, who made 35 saves, and solid penalty-killing.
Richards scored shorthanded in the third period and Kimmo Timonen added an empty-netter with 4 seconds to play.
The Flyers killed eight power plays, including two five-on-threes, one a pivotal, full 2 minutes long, in the second period that turned the game.
"That was the key for us tonight, to be able to keep them off the board and gain some momentum off of it,'' Biron said. "The second one I didn't even know it was a five-on-three. I actually just realized halfway through that it was a five-on-three and the guys did a good job neutralizing them, and that was great."
The Flyers were lucky to come out of the first period tied at 0-0. They were outshot, 9-2, before they started getting consistent pressure in the Islanders' zone.
Then Mike Knuble and Braydon Coburn took back-to-back penalties in the final minutes and the Flyers had to defend a five-on-three New York advantage for 43 seconds. But Biron was on his game.
The Islanders had a huge chance to get a lead with another five-on-three after simultaneous penalties on Knuble and Briere that lasted a full 2 minutes. But when they didn't score, the momentum was all orange and black.
Andreas Nodl sent an outlet pass up the wall to Briere, who skated into the zone as his line was changing and let loose a long, rising wrist shot that beat Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald and put the Flyers up, 1-0, 13:40 into the second period.
After he scored, Briere made a quick circle on the ice and went to the locker room with trainer Jim McCrossin following.
Midway through the third period, the Flyers gave the Islanders another power-play opportunity.
This time the Flyers scored shorthanded when Coburn won a puck battle in the corner and Richards picked up the loose puck.
Richards gave the puck to Simon Gagne and broke for the middle on a two-on-one.
Islanders center Doug Weight had a chance to trip Gagne and stop the play, but didn't, and Gagne skated in and shot. The rebound came right to Richards, who made it count at 10:51 for a 2-0 lead.
With a chance to increase the lead, Gagne made a weak pass instead of taking a shot in the offensive zone and the puck went back up ice for an Islanders' two-on-one. Trent Hunter took the shot and blew the puck past Biron to cut the lead to 2-1 16:20 into the third. But the Flyers buckled down and with MacDonald out, Timonen scored the open-net goal.
To win tomorrow in Pittsburgh, the Flyers will have to have everybody playing, and the result of Stevens' action should have an effect.
"That's something that hasn't happened to me in a few years," Hartnell said. "Stuff like that happens. You brush it off, learn from it and move on, and tomorrow's a new day. We won tonight and hopefully we'll get two points in Pittsburgh." *