UNIONDALE, N.Y. - After last night's 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders, Flyers center Jeff Carter repeated the constant message from Peter Laviolette during the Flyers' monthlong slide. This time, Carter could smile about the coach's saying.
You just have to relax and play.
It looks as if the Flyers - especially Carter and his linemates - are finally taking that to heart.
For the first time since early November, the Flyers (18-18-2) have a three-game winning streak. They played three complete periods at the Nassau Coliseum, killed off key penalties in the third, and generated scoring chances from all four lines.
What a difference three games makes.
"Guys grip their sticks" during a slump, Carter said. "It's not much fun to come to the rink. We've really tried to come in with a smile on our face and work hard. It's starting to turn around."
And the coach, who has lambasted his team more times than not in his first 14 games behind the bench, was full of praise.
"Of the three wins, I thought [last night's] was our best," Laviolette said. "Offensively, we had an identity. Defensively, we were pretty tight. Our goaltender played well when we needed him. What was consistent about the effort, I think, was that it came from everybody."
It was the 13th straight time the Flyers had beaten the Islanders, the longest such current streak for any team against another in the NHL.
Carter scored the decisive goal at 16 minutes, 53 seconds of the second period with a pinpoint shot right underneath the right arm of Islanders goalie Marty Biron. That broke a 1-1 tie. It marked the first time Carter had scored goals in back-to-back games since the first two games of the season.
The line of Carter, Danny Briere, and Scott Hartnell accounted for both Flyers goals and played a cohesive game on the ice. Hartnell and Briere both made key defensive plays on back-checks. And whenever the unit was on the ice, the play tilted to New York's zone.
Briere scored the first goal of the game 1:51 into the opening period. He had another waved off three minutes into the third period as officials ruled that Briere kicked the puck into the net. However, replays showed no distinct kicking motion.
"I still think it's a missed call on that," Briere said. "I wasn't even looking when I came back to the bench. I didn't even have a clue it touched my skate before it went in. So I don't know how you can kick without looking.
"It is what it is. At the end of the night, we won the game, so it doesn't matter."
The Flyers team from three games ago might have been affected by the call. More than a minute later, Chris Pronger was called for boarding and the Islanders had momentum. But that power play - and another midway through the third - were stymied by the Flyers' penalty kill.
Third-string goalie Michael Leighton, who has won three games in a row for the first time in his six-year NHL career, stopped 28 of 29 shots. Jon Sim scored the only New York goal.
Laviolette hinted that his squad is gaining confidence, part of which has to do with some relaxation on the ice. That starts with the two playmakers, Carter and Briere.
"I can start to see an identity in the offensive zone with what we're trying to do, that speed that you need to create down there," Laviolette said. "Those guys get it. Danny especially gets it."