TAMPA, Fla. - Thanks to an unlikely source - fourth-line center Blair Betts - the Flyers rediscovered their offense last night.
After being sidelined for nearly a month by a dislocated right shoulder, Betts slowly is regaining his form.
Betts chipped in with a pair of goals as the Flyers ended a four-game losing streak, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2, at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Betts tipped in a shot taken by Oskars Bartulis with 9 minutes, 59 seconds remaining, snapping a 2-2 tie and helping the Flyers register just their fourth win in their last 18 games.
Mike Richards' second goal of the night, with 2:38 left, secured the victory. Simon Gagne added an empty-net score.
Michael Leighton, starting in place of the injured Brian Boucher, played solidly and made 31 saves.
"I thought the guys played a real gutsy third period," said Peter Laviolette, whose team is 3-7-1 since he was named the coach.
Laviolette called the win a "minor step, but it's a step. We needed that, and the guys worked for it tonight, especially in the third period - and it's really important to follow it up."
In a team meeting earlier in the day, Laviolette told his players they were playing too tight, saying they needed to enjoy themselves more.
"When you keep losing games, it's hard to make jokes and have fun on the ice," Gagne said before the game.
Gagne said Laviolette told the players to relax, noting that they "have nothing to lose."
"We're still trying to get in sync out there with what it is we're trying to do," Laviolette said after the Flyers scored as many goals as they had in their previous four games combined. "But it's coming slowly. There are times I think we look good, and times we don't, but the most important thing was getting the win tonight."
The Flyers sandwiched two excellent periods around a clunker of a second period, in which they were outscored, 2-0, and outshot, 14-4. That enabled the Lightning to climb into a 2-2 tie.
"We let ourselves down in the second period; we had a lot of turnovers," Betts said. ". . . We let them back in the game."
But the Flyers dominated the final 20 minutes to head into their two-day Christmas break on a positive note.
"We have to follow it up with a whole bunch of big steps," Laviolette said.
"It feels good to finally get a win, but we need to put four or five wins together here to get back above .500 and get a little more confidence," Betts said.
With Darroll Powe back in the lineup last night, all of the Flyers' top 12 forwards were playing together for the first time this season.
Powe, one of the Flyers' fastest skaters, has the speed to make him perfectly suited to play in Laviolette's attacking system.
In his first 10 games as the Flyers' coach, Laviolette was not impressed with the team's speed.
"We need to play the game faster than what we're doing now, so you get guys like Betts and Powe back in there who can really skate, I think it strengthens the identity we're trying to create," Laviolette, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., in the off-season and was reunited with his family Tuesday night, said before the game.
Powe's return had a ripple effect on the lineup, causing the LCB Line - Ian Laperriere, Betts and Dan Carcillo - to be reunited.
It paid early dividends. Carcillo took a shot that goalie Mike Smith turned aside, but Betts knocked in the rebound to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead after 3:59. It marked just the second time in the last eight games that the Flyers had scored first.
Powe, who had been sidelined since Nov. 20 with a torn ligament in his dislocated left shoulder, centered the third line between James van Riemsdyk and Arron Asham. Claude Giroux (two assists), who had been centering the third line, was moved to right wing on a unit with Richards (three points) and Gagne (two points).
Breakaways. Jeff Carter played in his 250th consecutive game, tying him with Brian Propp for the fourth-longest streak in Flyers history. The longest: 484 by Rod Brind'Amour. . . . The Flyers last night played the first of six road games in 12 days. . . . Hundreds of orange-clad Flyers fans were at the game.