UNIONDALE, N.Y. - With all the empty blue seats at the sleepy Nassau Coliseum Sunday afternoon, it felt like a meaningless preseason game.

There was little life in the ragged, old building.

But while there was no atmosphere, the game counted, and the Flyers did what they usually do when they face the lowly New York Islanders.

They found a way to beat them.

Goals by Andreas Nodl and Danny Briere erased a late 2-1 deficit and propelled the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the NHL's worst team.

The paid crowd was 7,773, but there were no more than 5,000 fans in the arena.

"It was kind of weird," Briere said of the quiet building. "There are going to be nights like that, or afternoons like that, where you have to find the motivation somewhere else."

Perhaps caught up in the arena's deadness, the Flyers played sluggishly for a 30-minute stretch that started with the second period.

"These kind of games, you kind of have to get yourself going, because you know the crowd isn't going to be too much into it," said defenseman Matt Carle, who notched his first goal of the season.

It was the Flyers' 18th win in their last 19 games against the Isles. The victory put the them in a virtual tie for first in the Atlantic Division and in the overall NHL rankings.

Overall, the Islanders have lost 17 of their last 18 this season. The skid, coupled with the Giants' NFL game on TV, caused the embarrassing crowd.

After Andrej Meszaros' shot deflected off defenseman Andrew MacDonald, Nodl flipped a rebound past Dwayne Roloson with 8 minutes, 26 seconds left, tying the score at 2-2 with three seconds remaining on a power play. It was the first power-play goal of Nodl's career.

Nodl rarely plays on the power play, but he replaced Scott Hartnell toward the end of the Flyers' man advantage.

"They must have run out of bodies to get me out there," said a smiling Nodl. "I took a short shift and I was fortunate to get out there."

With 5:44 to go, Briere broke the tie with his team-high 14th goal, a shot from the low slot.

The Flyers played a listless second period and took a 1-0 lead into the final 20 minutes.

"We let them hang around," Briere said, "and in the third, they started believing. They came out with a little bit of jump and got two quick goals, but we showed a lot of character through adversity."

The Islanders tied it at 1 on a goal that deflected off the skate of former Flyer Jon Sim with 14:48 left. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called a time-out and tore into his sleepwalking players.

"Basically [he] told us to wake up and start playing with more jam and energy," Briere said.

Thirty-six seconds later, however, Frans Nielsen's shot from the right circle went off goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and trickled into the net. The Flyers briefly protested that the whistle had blown before the goal was scored, but to no avail.

The Flyers regrouped and, with Matt Moulson in the penalty box for holding, Nodl scored the equalizer. A little less than three minutes after Nodl's seventh goal, Briere converted a slick pass from Ville Leino and scored his second game-winner in as many days.

"It was a scramble in the neutral zone and Scotty [Hartnell] was able to poke it by their forward," Briere said. "It was kind of a two-on-two, but both of their defensemen got caught on the one side of the ice, and when I saw that, I gave [Leino] a yell and he didn't even look and he fired it toward the middle of the ice. He had a feeling of where I was going to be."

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-313-3315 or scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.