MIKE RICHARDS would agree that a bounce can make a difference in a game and that sometimes bounces just seem to add up, one way or another.
Some can be slight and hard to see; others, well, they can be like the one in last night's 5-2 win over Colorado in the Wachovia Center, when Richards took a shot that missed the net, hit the glass, the top of the net, tipped off the post, hit the back of goaltender Peter Budaj's glove, rolled down his leg and fell into the net.
"When you hit the glass you don't expect it to go in,'' Richards said.
The goal extended the Flyers' lead to 4-1 in the second period. While it wasn't a momentum turner, it made a difference. The thing about bounces for the Flyers is that they are making their own.
The win was the fifth straight and 13th in the last 17 (13-1-3). It's a stretch that has included overtime wins, a shootout victory and a comeback from a four-goal, third-period deficit.
"I think we're playing well as a team and when you're playing well things can go your way and when you're playing bad it feels like it just snowballs,'' Richards said. "We're playing well right now and hopefully the bounces keep coming.''
Some of this successful stretch has been the result of favorable bounces, but mostly it's the result of determined, defense-first hockey and unbelievable special-teams play.
Jeff Carter scored his 22nd of the year, the team's 12th shorthanded goal. The Flyers had 13 all of last season.
They also scored two power-play goals, one each by Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne. Those were the Flyers' 13th and 14th power-plays goals in the last seven games.
So, some bounces are flukes, others are earned.
"I've always been a believer in the harder you work, the more bounces you get,'' coach John Stevens said. "We have had some good bounces lately and then you can go back a little bit in the beginning of the year. I thought the first six games we had some unfortunate bounces.''
Stevens is, of course, referring to the six-game winless streak the Flyers endured to start the year. It included a 5-2 loss at Colorado that began and ended badly and resulted in some soul-searching by the players.
"It's a funny thing sometimes,'' said Joffrey Lupul, who scored the Flyers' other even-strength goal. "At the start of the year we couldn't get a break and win a game."
Scoring first used to seem critical for a home game. But the Flyers didn't do that last night. After a soft dump-in behind the net came back out front, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen was tied up by Ryan Smyth, allowing Paul Stastny to swoop in and shoot the puck past Antero Niittymaki 9:23 into the game.
Knuble tied the game on the power play about 2 minutes later on a feed across the crease from Richards, who slipped the puck through the feet of Wojtek Wolski and right onto Knuble's stick.
"We had a bouncing puck out there,'' Knuble said. "Everybody started getting out of position and started circling around and that is when a power play can be dangerous.
" 'Richie' acted like he was going to shoot and the guy goes down and 'Richie' kind of sweeps around him. He is hunkered down right at the top of the crease. I kept my stick on the ice and 'Richie' snapped an incredibly hard pass right on my tape and all I had to do was shovel it toward the net.''
With the game tied and the Flyers on the penalty kill, Gagne got a lucky carom out of the Flyers' corner and started up ice two-on-one with Carter. Gagne held the puck, drawing Budaj over, and then passed to Carter, who wasted no time snapping the puck in to fashion a 2-1 lead at 18:12.
"We are just putting pressure on the power play,'' Richards said of the team's success shorthanded.
"Sometimes power plays have a little bit of a complacency when they have the puck and they try to think offense too much. When we get the turnover we try to go offensive ourselves. We kind of catch other teams sleeping sometimes.''
Lupul's goal put the Flyers up 3-1 11:24 into the second when he spun away from a checker on the wall and turned to the net. He took a quick look, then snapped the puck into the net under the crossbar.
Just 1:18 later Richards scored his 13th goal of the season on the best bounce of the game.
At 18:39, Colorado cut the score to 4-2 when David Jones tipped Tyler Arnason's shot past Niittymaki.
But Gagne got that goal back early in the third on the Flyers' next power play, tipping one in off a Timonen shot from the blue line.
"I think both our power play and our penalty killing have given us a lot of momentum this year,'' Stevens said. "Guys have confidence in it right now. They believe that they can score and when we go on the power play they get excited for the opportunity.'' *