After the pregame warm-ups end, Danny Briere digs a pile of pucks out of the net. Like a poker player gathering his chips, he stacks them in front of him and goes to work about 10 feet from the goal.
In rapid succession, he fires short shots, tucking each one under the crossbar. Aaron Asham is the lone teammate watching. The others are filing up the tunnel into the locker room.
With 12 minutes remaining in the second period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday at the Wachovia Center, Briere replicated his pregame ritual, lifting the puck under the crossbar to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Briere, whose goal was his 12th of the playoffs, also assisted on two goals by Scott Hartnell - including the late-third period score that tied the game, 3-3 - bringing Briere's points total to 30 in the postseason, breaking the Flyers' record of 28 set by Brian Propp in 1987.
Someday, the record may mean something to Briere.
But that day won't come for quite a while, not until the heartache of the 4-3 overtime loss that cut short the Flyers remarkable run toward the Cup subsides.
"I hope there are many years to come when we get this far, but right now it's kind of tough to appreciate everything we went through," Briere said, his voice quivering. "It's going to take a few days, at least, to get over getting this far and coming up empty-handed."
Briere empathized with goalie Michael Leighton, who allowed Patrick Kane's shot from a tough angle to get through at 4:06 into overtime.
"We all feel bad for Michael," Briere said. "He had a tremendous run in the playoffs, and it ends up on a fluky goal like that. I think it's going to sting all of us for a long time. We all feel responsible to some degree for losing that game."
Along with the rest of his teammates, Briere was stunned as he stood in the handshake line to congratulate the Blackhawks, who won their first Stanley Cup since 1961. He had no idea Kane's shot had found its way through Leighton. There seemed to be a lot of confusion among the players over whether there was a goal.
"I thought it was a whistle," Briere said. "I had no clue. And all of a sudden, I see a few guys jumping on the ice, not knowing what was going on. I'm thinking, that can't be it. You can't win the Stanley Cup not really being sure if you won it or not. But it doesn't change how much it hurts."
Like his 30-something peers on the Flyers, guys like Kimmo Timonen (35) and Simon Gagne (30), the 32-year-old Briere knows the opportunities to win the Stanley Cup are rare and he's running out of time.
He, Timonen, and Gagne had played a lot of hockey but had never before been in the Finals. So it's likely they appreciated the chance more than their younger teammates. They talked extensively about it in the days leading into the Finals. They said they hoped to get that message across to the 20-somethings.
Briere certainly did his part. He proved his worth as a big-game player in each of the four playoff series spanning more than two months, and he centered the Flyers most effective line against the Blackhawks.
"We just believed it was supposed to happen," Briere said. "We score late in the third period to send it into overtime. We just thought we were meant to go back to Chicago."