SUNRISE, Fla. - Despite the Florida Panthers' yearly struggles, the BankAtlantic Center has been a house of horrors for the Flyers in recent years.
On Wednesday night, however, they overcame the absence of injured winger Ville Leino and outlasted the feisty Panthers, 4-2, to open a seven-point lead over second-place Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference.
Mike Richards, Andreas Nodl and a revived James van Riemsdyk scored for the Flyers, who are on a 15-4 run.
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who has quietly climbed back into the rookie-of-the-year hunt, raised his record to 23-8-3 with his eighth win in his last 10 starts.
"We play an aggressive system and we roll four lines," said Richards, who opened the game's scoring. "Right now, we're trying to get better heading toward the playoffs and closing out these games."
The Flyers almost blew a 3-0 lead. Florida dominated the final period against a Flyers team that looked gassed from playing the previous night in Tampa.
The Flyers, coming off a draining 4-3 shoot-out win over the Lightning, are a league-best 19-6-3 on the road.
Danny Briere secured the win with an empty-net goal with 21.7 seconds left.
Earlier, Rostislav Olesz scored on a rebound while Chris Pronger was in the penalty box, cutting the Flyers' lead to 3-1 with 18 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game.
After a Darroll Powe turnover, David Booth made it 3-2 by scoring from the left circle with 7:31 remaining.
Before Wednesday, Florida was 6-1-1 on home ice against the Flyers since the start of 2006-07.
Leino suffered a minor upper leg/groin injury as he was knocked into the boards Tuesday in Tampa, and that kept the productive winger out of the lineup. The Flyers didn't skip a beat. Peter Laviolette juggled the lines and, voilà, the team scored a pair of quick goals to take control.
Richards and Nodl scored 1:05 apart in the opening period to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.
Richards, on a line with newcomer Kris Versteeg and Dan Carcillo, scored from the right circle 8:36 into the game. Versteeg set up the goal and notched his first point as a Flyer.
Nodl tapped in a Briere feed for his first goal in 19 games. The winger replaced Leino on a line with Briere and Scott Hartnell.
"Danny B. made a great pass right on my tape, and all I had to do was pretty much put it on the net," Nodl said.
Before Wednesday, the lowly Panthers had a 6-1-1 home record against the Flyers in their last eight games in South Florida since 2006-07, but they were outmatched from the start.
The Flyers outshot the hosts, 18-5, in the opening period.
Briere said the Flyers' 5-0 loss to visiting Florida on Dec. 20 was on his team's mind.
"It's something we talked about," he said. "We remembered and didn't want that happening tonight."
The Flyers extended the lead to 3-0 as van Riemsdyk knocked in a rebound of Briere's shot past Tomas Vokoun with 14:10 left in the middle period. Van Riemsdyk, whom Toronto wanted in the Versteeg trade, is playing like he is thankful he wasn't dealt. He has goals in each of his two games since the deal, and he has played much more aggressively - witness his five hits in Wednesday's first two periods.
Bobrovsky made dazzling saves on Cory Stillman, who was playing in his 1,000th NHL game, and Mike Santorelli in the second period. Stillman was stopped on a deflection midway through the period, and Santorelli was turned aside on a scramble in front a few minutes later.
With about three minutes left in the second period, Nodl made perhaps the best save of the night.
Bobrovsky was out of position and Nodl, a winger, was behind the goalie when he got his left skate on Marty Reasoner's shot during a scramble in front. The puck appeared to cross the goal line, but replays were inconclusive, and the Toronto war room ruled that the goal was not scored.