The Flyers' six-game winless start has faded more quickly than Sarah Palin.
Buried in the standings in the first few weeks, the Flyers continued their climb last night as they overcame a two-goal deficit and defeated the lowly New York Islanders, 4-3, at the Wachovia Center.
Simon Gagne's power-play goal with 8 minutes, 52 seconds left snapped a 3-3 tie.
Gagne took a slick drop pass from Mike Richards and scored on a one-timer from the top of the left circle, firing a shot over the glove of netminder Yann Danis for his 14th goal of the season.
But it was an unlikely source - fourth-line players Darroll Powe, Riley Cote and Arron Asham - that triggered the victory and moved the Flyers into a second-place tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Atlantic Division.
"The fourth line was huge," Gagne said.
The speedy Powe scored the first goal of his NHL career, and Cote, the club's enforcer, keyed the comeback by snapping a 31-game scoreless streak with an assist that set up Asham's goal.
"We've been really happy with our fourth line, and [Cote] just continues to work at his game and get better," coach John Stevens said. "I think our fourth line all year has been tremendous. They get pucks deep and spend time on the cycle. It's great to see them get rewarded, because they work so hard and do so many things that aren't necessarily measurable on the stat sheet."
The Flyers had been struggling in even-strength situations, but scored three five-on-five goals last night.
With the Flyers facing a 2-0 deficit, Cote checked Jon Sim hard into the boards behind the net and then sent a perfect pass to Asham, who drilled in a shot from the slot with 8:05 left in the opening period.
"I saw him just go in for the forecheck at 100 m.p.h.," goalie Marty Biron said, "and I knew something good was going to come out of it."
"Our line is the energy line," said Cote, who later lost a second-period fight despite bloodying Mitchell Fritz. The Flyers winger needed five stitches to close a cut above his right eye.
"It worked out where I was on the forecheck and I ended up getting a hit," Cote said of Asham's goal. "I was just trying to create some energy and get the boys going."
With about 12 minutes left in the second period, Powe, the pride of Princeton University, scored on a rebound of Richards' shot, tying the score at 2-2.
"It's pretty surreal," Powe said of his first career NHL goal. "You work your whole life to get here. Then you get here and you finally score that goal that you dreamed of your whole life, so it's a pretty cool feeling."
Jeff Carter, on a rebound, scored his 20th goal of the season with 3:58 left in the second period to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead. Carter, who did not score his 20th goal last season until Feb. 25, tied Buffalo's Thomas Vanek for the NHL goal-scoring lead and became the seventh-fastest Flyer to tally 20 goals.
The Islanders tied the game at 3-3 on Blake Comeau's goal 2:17 into the third period. Comeau's soft shot from the right circle deflected off defenseman Lasse Kukkonen's stick.
The Flyers, who continue to play one-goal games at a stunning rate, are 10-1-3 in their last 14 games and just four points behind the first-place New York Rangers.
As for his second-period fight, Cote said he was "doing what I get paid for. We ran into each other and dropped the mitts, and a couple of punches were thrown each way."
He smiled when asked about the stitches.
"My modeling career is long gone," he said.
Jeff Carter scored his 20th goal of the season last night in the Flyers' 27th game.
Here are the Flyers who reached 20 goals the fastest, with season and number of games:
Tim Kerr 1985-86 18
Kerr '84-85 19
Simon Gagne '05-06 19
Kerr '86-87 23
Kerr '88-89 24
Reggie Leach '79-80 25
Jeff Carter '08-09 27
Source: The Flyers