Anybody who has ever played ice hockey - or even pickup street hockey - knows how defenseless it feels to be trailing a play as an opponent streaks down the ice/court on a breakaway.

That's why Flyers winger Scott Hartnell has become a folk hero of sorts.

Even if he did make a dumb play.

Anybody who has ever played hockey has felt like doing what Hartnell did in the Flyers' draining 4-3 overtime win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday. With 16.3 seconds left in regulation and the score tied at 3-3, Tampa's Ryan Malone went in on a breakaway. Hartnell, trailing the play,

threw his glove

at the Lightning forward in an effort to distract him.

Hartnell's timing was impeccable; his glove flew past Malone just before he was about to shoot.

It was something you would have expected from one of the Hanson brothers in

Slap Shot

but not something you figured to see from an eight-year NHL veteran.

It was so astounding, so pee-wee league, that Flyers captain Mike Richards said he was "still speechless" a day after the play, which will forever be known as

a Hartnell.

"I was at the end of a long shift," said the fun-loving 6-foot-2, 210-pound Hartnell. "It was out of desperation. Looking back, it was kind of stupid."

Marty Biron made the save on Malone's original breakaway, but, because of Hartnell's throw heard 'round the NHL, the goalie had more work. Malone was awarded a penalty shot. Hartnell, wearing a forlorn expression, sat on the bench and buried his head in his arms before sneaking a peek as Malone skated toward the net.

Again, Biron made the save.

The Flyers won in overtime, and everyone laughed about Hartnell's mistake.

Everyone except head coach John Stevens, who after the game voiced his displeasure at the gaffe.

The next day at practice, Stevens lightened up considerably, kidding about how Hartnell had helped boost Biron's confidence by forcing him to stop two late breakaways.

"Hartsy is a little bit unpredictable," Stevens said with a trace of admiration in his voice. "He's always clowning around. I don't think he even knows why he did that. . . . I know we still gave up a point, but it would be pretty painful if we're sitting here talking about a loss that came from that."

Lost in the shuffle is the fact that Hartnell - whose wild, curly hair draws comparisons to the locks worn by former Flyer Don "Big Bird" Saleski - has played solidly since being benched in Long Island last month for his lackadaisical play.

"He's skating well and . . . is a big part of the goals around the net," Stevens said. "He brings energy and enthusiasm to the team and, like anyone else, you have to reel him in once in a while. I think Scotty's played some of the best hockey he's played since he's been here of late. And he takes responsibility for what happened. He admits he made a mistake."

The play will live in infamy. It has become a favorite on YouTube, and the Flyers are not letting Hartnell forget about it.

Near the end of Friday's practice in Voorhees, Hartnell was skating toward the net on a breakaway drill when what should appear before his wide eyes?

A glove thrown by his teammate and good friend, Joffrey Lupul.

Hartnell didn't seem amused.

"Me and him, we always try to keep the mood light," Lupul said, grinning. "He's just getting sensitive now because everyone keeps bothering him about it."

Added Lupul: "I'm sure he doesn't expect it to all just go away. It's going to be a year-long thing. I think that's the first time in history, so you got to let him know."

"Scotty's going to have to put up with a little bit of that," Stevens said. "I'm sure he's going to hear it from the opposing teams for a while as well. Scotty's got thick skin, and he'll be fine."

Stevens couldn't help adding a zinger.

"A lot of good things came out of it at Scottie's expense," he said. "We just had a coaches' clinic Monday night downtown. We're trying to educate the local hockey people, so hopefully we've done that again by [teaching] what you

can't

do in a hockey game."

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.