RALEIGH, N.C. - They can mystify, horrify and electrify you - all in the same game.
There is simply no rational way to describe how the Flyers can play such a disciplined game one night against one of the best teams in hockey, then look like a bunch of pond-hockey pickups the next game against a lesser opponent.
Tonight, the Flyers again resembled champions during a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center.
It was Father-Son Night, too. The Flyers had the players' fathers flown here for two days of family fun. Eric Hatcher must have enjoyed watching his son, Derian, score his first goal of the season, especially since the Flyers defenseman was playing his first game since coming off the injured reserve list.
"I don't know who it was, but last night at dinner, someone said that all the dads should put in 10 dollars for the first goal of the game," Derian Hatcher recalled. "My dad made a comment about he didn't like his chances. I don't know if they ended up doing it, but hopefully they did."
The Flyers took a 2-0 lead into the third period before Mike Knuble, who played one of his smartest games of the season, scored on the power play at 33 seconds to silence the crowd, which may be wondering how the revamped Flyers could be 3-0 against their Hurricanes this season.
Six of Knuble's eight goals have come on the power play.
Flyers goalie Martin Biron was trying for his third shutout of the season after being yanked Monday night during a 6-3 blowout loss to the Boston Bruins. He lost the shutout at 9 minutes, 30 seconds of the last period during a Carolina power play when Cory Stillman backhanded a rebound over him in the crease.
The Flyers had to kill a bad tripping penalty by Denis Tolpeko in the waning minutes to preserve Biron's 12th victory.
Here's something we haven't seen for a while: a penalty-free opening period. It was scoreless, too - a rare combination in the new NHL.
The period was choppy and sloppy, with neither team getting any extraordinary scoring chances.
The last scoreless and penalty-free period involving Carolina was the third period on Jan. 21, 2004, at New Jersey.
Hatcher, back in the lineup after missing 13 games following right knee surgery, had the best scoring chance in that period with a laser shot from the right circle that goalie Cam Ward snared with his glove hand.
Biron, who was dreadful in Monday's loss to Boston with a no-decision, faced the tougher chances. His best save came late in the period when Scott Walker put one on net that was deflected to Chad LaRose. Using a screen, Biron had to make a tough chest save on LaRose's bouncing shot.
Hatcher broke the scoreless tie at 5:49 of the second period with an outstanding effort. Just as remarkable, he was leading the rush into the Carolina zone when R.J. Umberger put a shot on net. Hatcher went for the rebound and was knocked down.
He got up, Mike Richards put the puck in the slot, and Hatcher battled Niclas Wallin, taking four count 'em - jabs at the puck before it slipped inside the right post.
Hatcher had gone 125 games before scoring a goal last March and finished the season with three markers.
"I don't care what you say, but everyone enjoys scoring," Hatcher said. "I was just with the rush and went back to the point. I came back down and I whacked it in."
Not to be outdone, fellow defenseman Kimmo Timonen picked up his third goal at 15:16 to make it 2-0.
Ward came out of the net to his left to make a save against Richards from the right circle. The puck dribbled behind Ward, where Knuble - realizing he didn't have a good angle for a shot - sent it across the slot to Timonen, who put it into the empty net.
Contact staff writer Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or email@example.com.