RILEY COTE CAME rushing out of the back room, five fresh stitches in his right eyebrow and his hair all mussed up, looking frantic. He doesn't often get called into the postgame locker room for interviews, and he was concerned about his look.
So the Flyers' bruising forward stopped in front of a piece of shiny, metal equipment, wet his hair with a water bottle and tugged a Flyers cap down low.
After checking to be sure he was satisfied, Cote hurried into the room and took up a position for the cameras and the media.
He had earned his time in the spotlight.
Guys like Riley Cote have a narrowly defined role in hockey.
They make big hits and get in fights, all in the name of giving their team a lift. Those actions can ignite a team in a struggling moment, just like last night.
With one big hit behind the net on former Flyer Jon Sim, followed by a heads-up play and deft pass out front to Arron Asham, Cote sparked the Flyers to a 4-3 comeback win over the New York Islanders in the Wachovia Center.
It was Cote's first point since February of last year, 31 games in all, and it was part of a night in which the fourth line scored twice and the Flyers scored three of their four goals during five-on-five play, something they have been struggling to do.
"Obviously I'm not paid to score," Cote said. "But it's always a plus when you do. Our line is the 'energy' line. We were down 2-0 and we wanted to go out there and get a good offensive shift with some hits and good cycling. It worked out where I was on the forecheck and I ended up getting a hit.
"The puck just bounced right over to my stick. I tried to make the best play I could and it worked out. That's what we are trying to do, just trying to create some energy and get the boys going."
And the fight with Mitchell Fritz later in the game, and the resulting stitches?
"Yeah, well, I guess my modeling career is over," he joked.
Cote's hit and Asham's goal narrowed the Islanders' lead to 2-1 after one period.
Linemate Darroll Powe scored his first NHL goal 8:09 into the second, tying the score. At 16:02, Jeff Carter scored his 20th to tie for the league lead in goals scored, and a power-play goal by Simon Gagne with 8:52 left in regulation snapped a 3-3 tie.
That three of the Flyers' goals came at even strength was a plus for coach John Stevens, whose team had struggled recently scoring five-on-five. So they had focused on it in practice heading into the game.
"We talked about five-on-five and getting pucks to the net and crashing the net a little bit," Stevens said. "I thought we did that tonight and . . . hopefully that's a sign of things to come."
The penalty kill has been good to the Flyers, but it wasn't during the first period. With Scott Hartnell off for hooking, Andy Hilbert tipped a Chris Campoli pass by Marty Biron to put the Flyers behind by a goal.
That became a two-goal deficit a short time later when Doug Weight got to a loose puck off a rebound in front. Just like that, the Flyers were down two goals 10 minutes into the game.
Then came the energy kid. Cote followed Sim behind the net and plastered the diminutive forward into the wall.
That would have been enough, except Cote then turned, got the loose puck and passed it into the slot for Asham, who snapped it past Islanders goalie Yann Danis 11:55 into the first.
"It definitely got us going,'' Hartnell said. "Riley had that huge hit on little Sim and it definitely got us going. It was right on Asham's tape and he buried it top shelf. To see that guy work so hard, he's got one of the toughest jobs in hockey, doesn't play a lot of minutes, but the minutes he does play, he is very, very effective."
Powe's first NHL goal tied it up. Jumping in for Cote, who was in the box for fighting, Mike Richards got the puck along the wall and got a shot on net. Powe got to the rebound and popped it in.
"It was a breakout coming out of our end," Powe said. "I think it may have been a three-on-three. [Richards] just threw the puck at the net. It bounced off the pad and it came right to me. It was good to get that first one out of the way and hopefully lots more to come."
Then the Flyers took the lead. Hartnell bullied his way out of the defensive zone with the puck and got it in deep to Scottie Upshall, who got off a shot that was stopped by Danis.
But he couldn't stop Carter from scoring his 20th of the season.
The lead didn't last long. Early in the third, a puck shot by the Islanders' Blake Comeau ticked off Lasse Kukkonen's stick and bounced over Biron's pad, tying the game at 3-3.
Gagne put the Flyers back in front on the power play, blasting a Richards pass by Danis.
The victory enabled the Flyers to move into a second-place tie with Pittsburgh, which visits Saturday, in the Atlantic Division.
"We keep trying to help ourselves as best we can," Stevens said. "But I think if you put your eye on one opponent, you would be making a mistake.
"There are so many teams above you, around you, below you, that I think we have to tackle each game as it comes." *