This may be the most stunning statistic of the first two months of the Flyers' season: 12 of the team's 13 home games have been decided by one goal.

The only one decided by more than a goal was a 5-3 loss to Montreal on Oct. 13, but the Canadiens closed the scoring with an empty-netter with 35 seconds left.

So, in essence, all of the Flyers' home games - whether against powers like San Jose or the New York Rangers, or against lightweights like Atlanta or Tampa Bay - have been one-goal decisions.

One could argue that the Flyers are playing up - or down - to their competition.

Coach John Stevens does not see it that way. He attributes the close games to parity.

"I don't think it's possible to play down to the competition because I think every game is a hard game," said Stevens, whose team plays host to the New York Islanders tomorrow night. With "every team on the schedule, if you're not ready, you're not going to win. I think it's the situation the league wanted: There's parity in the league. Even teams in the standings that are maybe 15th in the East, they're not easy games. And if you don't have the ability to win those one-goal games, you find yourself in trouble and out of a playoff spot."

The Flyers are 6-6 in home games decided by one goal. All told, 17 of their 26 games have been decided by one goal.

Overall, they are 8-9 in one-goal decisions.

"I think it's the parity of the league now," winger Simon Gagne said. "It's tough to pick who's going to win games, and you're not surprised" by any results. . . . You need 60 minutes to win a hockey game and need to play right to the end. A perfect example for us is our last [home] game. We're up, 2-1, and make mistakes and lose the game."

He was referring to Thursday's 3-2 loss to visiting New Jersey, which scored the game-tying goal with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in regulation, then won it in overtime.

Gagne said there's little margin between winning and losing, "and that's the way it's been since the lockout."

After the lockout in the 2004-05 season, a salary cap was imposed on clubs, and that has evened the playing field.

"Teams aren't allowed to spend more than other teams, so you have equal talent on both sides," Gagne said. "Since we have a salary cap, it's not allowing the big markets to spend a lot of money on players; they have to [spend it] on six or seven guys, and then they deal with it after that."

Gagne said the competition is more balanced than when he broke into the league in 1999.

"Now it's hard to win. I remember my first couple years, it was a little bit different," he said. "If you were playing against a team that wasn't having success, you might have an easier night than playing against a team at the top of the conference."

Winger Scottie Upshall said opponents get pumped to play at the Wachovia Center, and that may be contributing to the close games.

"When I was with Nashville coming in to play Philly, it was always a good atmosphere in the building," Upshall said. "I'm sure teams get riled up to play us here. It just seems like everything is tight checking, and the goalies are making saves when they need to."

Asked whether the Flyers were playing to the level of their competition, Upshall said, "It's tough to say. We approach every game the same. Before the game, we might look at a team's play and their players and try to adjust to that, but more or less we're coming in with the same attitude each game - and that's worrying about us.

"We like those close games," Upshall added. "It's a playoff atmosphere when games are close."

But it's nerve-racking for the goalies - and the fans.