TAMPA, Fla. - Flyers coach Peter Laviolette didn't like the terminology, but many of his players called Tuesday night's showdown against Tampa Bay a statement game.
And the Flyers made a statement with a thrilling 4-3 shoot-out win over the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, on a deft backhand-forehand move, scored the game-winner in the seventh round of the shoot-out, beating goalie Dwayne Roloson.
Flyers goalie Brian Boucher was brilliant in the shoot-out, stopping six of seven shots. He has stopped 11 of 14 shots in shoot-outs this season.
Mike Richards also scored in the shoot-out for the Flyers, who earlier squandered a 3-1 lead.
The Flyers avoided what would have been their fourth loss to Tampa Bay this year. They finished the regular season 1-3 against the Lightning, a possible playoff opponent.
Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk had what has become commonly known as a Gordie Howe hat trick - a fight, a goal, and an assist.
In the overtime, Roloson stopped Claude Giroux in close, and Boucher turned aside Steven Stamkos' backhander - the teams' best chances in the extra session.
The Flyers increased their Eastern Conference lead to five points over Tampa Bay.
The Flyers, coming off Sunday's 1-0 loss to Los Angeles, entered the night in their worst offensive funk of their so-far superb season: eight goals in their last five nights.
The addition of right winger Kris Versteeg, they hoped, would help jump-start the attack against a depleted Lightning lineup.
"My heart was beating pretty quickly out there," said Versteeg, who began the night on a line with Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl. "Once things settled down and the heart started beating a little slower, I felt quite a bit better."
Tampa Bay, which started the game four points behind the first-place Flyers in the East, was missing three key players who were sidelined with injuries: forwards Ryan Malone and Nate Thompson, and Mike Lundin, the team's best stay-at-home defenseman.
Tampa Bay controlled the first part of the opening period as the Flyers had problems penetrating the Lightning's neutral-zone trap and had just three of the first 13 shots.
But some dirty work by Jeff Carter helped set up the game's first goal, van Riemsdyk's first tally in six games.
Carter won a scrum for the puck and fed Giroux, who, from behind the goal line, fed van Riemsdyk in the left circle. The sophomore winger beat goalie Dwayne Roloson to the right corner, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first period.
Earlier in the period, van Riemsdyk was in his first NHL fight, an even matchup against former Flyer Randy Jones. Van Riemsdyk was sticking up for Giroux, who took a spill from a Jones hip check.
"You don't like seeing a guy on your team like G getting hit like that," van Riemsdyk said. "I know anyone on our team would stick up for a teammate, and I just felt like it was my turn to get in there."
The Flyers held a 1-0 lead after one period despite being outshot, 12-4. Brian Boucher continued to shine. Boucher took the league's seventh-best goals-against average (2.25) into the game.
The Lightning tied it 59 seconds into the second period as Dominic Moore's right-circle shot appeared to deflect off the skate of defenseman Andrej Meszaros and past Boucher.
A short time later, Tampa Bay killed a Stamkos penalty. That made the Flyers' power play 0 for 13 against the Lightning this season.
With 12:27 left in the second, however, the Flyers ended their power-play drought against the Lightning as Scott Hartnell deflected a van Riemsdyk shot past Roloson to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
They increased the lead to 3-1 as Darroll Powe scored on a penalty shot after being tripped by Stamkos on a shorthanded breakaway. It was just Powe's second goal in his last 38 games.
"I usually try to go backhand, but I saw the blocker was kind of opened, so I just snapped it home," Powe said after the Flyers' first penalty-shot goal since Danny Briere did it against Montreal on Feb. 13 last year. "It's a pretty cool feeling."
Midway through the second period, Vinny Lecavalier trimmed the lead to 3-2, deflecting Marc-Andre Bergeron's point shot past Boucher. Less than a minute later, the Flyers allowed Teddy Purcell to penetrate deep into the left circle, from where he blasted home a drive to knot the score at 3.
The Flyers were trying to avoid consecutive defeats for the first time since Dec. 20 and 28, when they lost to Florida and Vancouver.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.