With Tuesday's critical 5-2 victory in Pittsburgh, the Flyers took a major step toward winning the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
They also may have discovered something that will serve them well in the forthcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.
Specifically, an adjustment made by the Danny Briere line helped that unit break out of a funk and spark the win. Briere and linemates Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino combined for three goals and four assists and the line was plus-7 as the Flyers moved closer to securing their first Atlantic title since 2003-04.
"It was a good feeling, to be honest," Briere said. "The way they played defense, Pittsburgh forced us to change our plan a little bit with the way we were moving the puck. We had to come a little closer to each other, and support each other closer. We started doing that in the second period, and all of a sudden, we started getting a bunch of chances.
"It might be something we'll have to do more often."
The line excelled in the first 41/2 months, but the players have been in prolonged slumps in the last five weeks. Before Tuesday, Hartnell had just two goals in his last 19 games, Leino had four goals in his last 22 games, and Briere had four goals in his last 18 games.
In Tuesday's win, Leino had a pair of goals and an assist, Hartnell had a goal and an assist, and Briere had two assists.
Hartnell's goal was on the power play, which had been in a 1-for-18 drought. Jeff Carter's first-period goal was scored just as a Penguins penalty expired and, technically, wasn't a power-play tally, but it was created by the five-on-four advantage.
"In previous games, there wasn't enough intensity in our game, and I think that carries over at times [onto the power play]," coach Peter Laviolette said. "The same can be said when you are playing well, and you're moving your feet and you're generating. A lot of times that carries into the power plays as well. It seems like there was some good movement out there, good attacks at the net."
Leino's first goal, which gave the Flyers a 4-2 lead with 141/2 minutes left, was scored just 19 seconds after Laviolette called a timeout. He didn't call it because his team was winded, and he didn't draw up the goal-scoring play during the stoppage.
"At that point, it was probably 6-0 in shots for them [in the third] and they had a couple of scoring opportunities," Laviolette said. "A couple of weeks ago, we talked about not sitting back with the lead and to make sure we were on the attack."
Breakaways. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who apparently injured his hip in Tuesday's game, was feeling "much better" on Wednesday and is probable for Thursday, general manager Paul Holmgren said. . . . The Flyers' magic number is six points to win the Atlantic and seven points (provided they get at least three non-shootout victories) to win the East. . . . In his last three starts, Sergei Bobrovsky is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .958 save percentage. . . . The Flyers were given a day off from practice Wednesday. . . . The Flyers are 15-6-5 without Chris Pronger in the lineup.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/BroadStBull