One more stride.
One more stride and Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen would have been in the neutral zone, and the puck he inadvertently shot into the Wachovia Center seats would not have been a two-minute penalty for delay of game.
And, who knows, the outcome of yesterday's latest installment of the Flyers' blood feud against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins might have been different.
"It's a tough way to decide a hockey game," Flyers captain Mike Richards said after the Penguins defeated the Flyers for the fourth time in five games, this one by a 2-1 score. "But they had no choice but to call it."
There were a lot of ifs, ands and buts circulating in the Flyers' locker room - as well as plenty of griping about the officiating - but none of it changed the fact that the Penguins cashed in on Timonen's mistake when Matt Cooke tipped in Sergei Gonchar's drive from the point for the power-play goal that decided the game with 1 minute, 47 seconds remaining in the third period.
"I didn't do anything," Cooke said. "Gonchar shot it off my stick."
The loss ended the Flyers' six-game home winning streak - they'd won three straight overall - and blunted their attempt to close the gap between them and Pittsburgh in the standings, which is now 10 points. With seven wins in their previous nine games, the Flyers had been on the rise.
This was their latest chance to measure themselves against the champs, and they can curse their hard luck and rant about the officiating all they want, but they had nine power plays and scored on only one - Jeff Carter's early goal, which gave them a 1-0 lead.
Also, there was no rule that prevented them from killing off the power play that led to Cooke's goal.
"That's not what you want, but it's part of the game and you have to find a way to kill those and we didn't do it," Simon Gagne said. "At the end of the day, all that good work without getting a point is tough to take."
The play that really grated on the Flyers involved Gagne and occurred in the first period. For a moment, they thought they had a 2-0 lead when Richards scored. But the goal was disallowed because a whistle had blown signaling penalties against Gagne and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who were in a scrum along the boards behind the play. Both got roughing penalties, but Gagne was given an extra two minutes for high-sticking. Little more than a minute later, Gonchar tied the score with a wrist shot from the blue line that squeezed through a crowd in front of the net.
"He shoots and you don't even know it's coming," said Flyers goalie Ray Emery, who was solid in his fifth consecutive start.
Afterward, Gagne seemed perplexed that he got the extra two minutes. His coach was just plain angry.
"Simon Gagne did not high-stick anybody," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.
The Flyers had an opportunity to even the score after Cooke gave the Pens a 2-1 lead when Gonchar went off for hooking with 48 seconds remaining. They pulled Emery to create a two-man advantage, but to no avail.
"I don't think we were bad on the power play, but we were just a half-second late on all the pucks around the net," Danny Briere said. "I don't think our power play was as much a problem as the amount of penalties we took. We'd been good in that department, not taking so many penalties. I know [Pittsburgh's] power play has been struggling all season, but guys like Gonchar and [Sidney] Crosby and Malkin, you know at some point they can make a difference. The power play with two minutes left, that did it for them."