Flyers' win may be season's best

The Flyers' 3-1 win in Pittsburgh today was arguably their most impressive victory of the season.

For several reasons:

** It was registered in a hostile environment against a team that was 10-0-2 in its previous 12 games.

** It moved the fourth-seeded Flyers two points ahead of the Penguins _ and Philadelphia has three games in hand.

* * The Flyers did a much better job defensively than in recent games. They had allowed an average of 40-plus shots on goal in their previous four games; today they allowed 28 shots, including just seven in the final period.

* * Unlike Tuesday in Detroit, the Flyers were able to play a strong third period and close out the win. They also sent a message that they can beat the Penguins if they meet in the playoffs. Pittsburgh had won eight of 10 against Philly since last year's playoffs.

* * The power play clicked. In their previous 12 games against current playoff qualifiers, the Flyers were 4 for 56 on the PP (7 percent). Today, they were 2 for 7, thanks to goals by Simon Gagne (29th) and the irrepressible Scott Hartnell (27th).

* * Goalie Marty Biron, the fans' whipping boy for most of the season, continued his remarkably strong March. It has become clear that Biron, who was primarily a backup in Buffalo, has problems pacing himself in the regular season. It has also become clear he gains extra focus and raises his game in the stretch run.

* * Mike Richards Jeff Carter and the defensive pairing of Ryan "Bernie" Parent and Kimmo Timonen shut down superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who combined to have zero shots on goal. Zero! (They also combined to have six giveaways.) During one sequence, Parent saved a goal after the puck got past Biron and was headed into the net.

* * The Flyers showed great restraint and discipline (really), committing three fewer penalties than the Pens.

This win ranks up there with the consecutive early-season victories over New Jersey, along with the the 4-3 and 4-2 wins in Boston.

* * * *

After missing two games with a hip injury, Randy Jones retuned to the lineup. Danny Syvret was scratched.....The Flyers have scored two PP goals in each of the last two games. Before yesterday, the last time they had at least two PP goals in consecutive games was Dec. 13 (four PP goals vs. Pittsburgh) and Dec. 16 (two PP goals vs. Colorado).....The Flyers host New Jersey on Monday and Florida on Thursday.