PETER Laviolette shrugged.

Yesterday, sitting at a podium in the Wachovia Center just hours after his team was drop-kicked out of Chicago in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, it all seemed so routine.

His Flyers have been in this position, facing elimination, so many times before this season that one 7-4 loss against the Blackhawks could hardly be considered a season-breaking defeat.

Laviolette has been in this exact position before, as a coach, with Carolina. His team was crushed, 4-0, in Edmonton against Chris Pronger and the Oilers in Game 6 when the Hurricanes had a chance to close it out.

"I lived it in 2006," said Laviolette, whose Hurricanes won Game 7. "I think what it does is it makes you remember that this is just one game. It's just one game, part of a series. You really have to remember that, whether it's good or bad."

With a win on Sunday night, it could have been really good for the Flyers. They could have been on the precipice of erasing a 35-year Stanley Cup drought tomorrow night at the Wachovia Center.

Likely, Laviolette would have been preaching the same thing.

Instead, Laviolette was forced to answer questions about his goaltending for Game 6, which the Flyers enter trailing three games to two. Would he go back to Michael Leighton, who is 6-0 at the Wachovia Center in the playoffs, or suddenly switch to Brian Boucher, who has relieved Leighton in two of the first five games of the series.

Laviolette said yesterday he already had decided on tomorrow's starter but would not reveal his decision because he had not yet informed his players.

"I want to make sure I do it at the right time and when I want to do it," Laviolette said. "[I'll go with] whatever is best for the team and whatever is going to give us the best chance to win one hockey game."

All signs point to Laviolette sticking with Leighton, who is 8-2 with a 2.34 goals against average and .920 save percentage in the playoffs. Leighton's numbers against Chicago - 16 goals against in parts of five games - are not stellar. Both Flyers goalies gave up three goals in Game 5, with Dustin Byfuglien adding an empty-netter late.

All of the Flyers readily admitted that neither Leighton nor Boucher was the reason they dropped Game 5. And they know that if Leighton needs to steal Game 6, they will be in big trouble.

Mike Richards said the Flyers left Leighton "out to dry."

"We are a team," Laviolette said. "It didn't seem like anybody brought their best game. We've got to get back as a team and make sure we're ready to play our brand of hockey. It's a team effort. We need to make sure we have all hands on deck."

So many things in the Flyers' game were alarming: the umpteen turnovers, the soft goals, the power play that hasn't scored in its last nine attempts, the absence of sustained offensive pressure and the lack of urgency to start the game.

"Maybe we might have been a little bit cocky," Richards said. "[We] might have thought we had to throw our sticks on the ice [to win]. Obviously not the case. We have some time to look at some things and do things differently."

The captain talked about getting back to playing "Flyer hockey." Maybe that's why they don't seem fazed, worried or even nervous. Compared to a three-game hole in a series, winning one game to get back to level ground seems like a walk in the park.

"It's the final," Chris Pronger said. "I don't know if being down 3-0 in a series is pressure enough. We've gone home. We understand what's at stake. The crowd is behind you, you're pumped up.

"Peter has been here before. He's done a pretty good job thus far of keeping everybody's focus and pointing out what we need to do to fix tough games like we had [in Game 5]."

Laviolette's conviction does not come from his experience in Carolina. It comes from his experience with this group, this team that refuses to die.

"If any team gets it, this team gets it, because we've been here so many times," he said. "To have our backs against the wall, we'll be comfortable [Wednesday]. I think when you get to this point there's a tremendous amount of confidence in your team to win hockey games. They get it."

Even though Game 5 was just one game in a series, the Flyers have just one game to extend their series - and their season - to another. And instead of a trip to the Eastern Conference finals when facing Boston, immortality is on the line.

"If you look at the final, it's like a novel," Laviolette said. "There could be seven chapters in it, and each chapter is its own story. It moves on to another day and another chapter."

Laviolette knows how they're going to write it.

Slap shots

The Flyers had a complete day off yesterday . . . Jeff Carter and Mike Richards each have one goal and one assist in the first five games against the Blackhawks . . . Chris Pronger joked that he was "day-to-day with hurt feelings" after Game 5 . . . Oskars Bartulis played just 1:58 in Game 5 . . . The Flyers' power play was 0-for-3 in Game 5, the first game it has been held scoreless, but is 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) for the series . . . Sunday night's game earned the best non-overtime ratings for a Stanley Cup Game 5 in 8 years, up 54 percent from last year's clash between Pittsburgh and Detroit on NBC. Chicago led all markets with a 26.0 rating and a 41 share and Philadelphia followed with a 19.7 rating and 28 share . . . Game 3 was Versus' most-watched telecast in network history. *