SUNRISE, Fla. - Hanging out in their hotel that overlooked Fort Lauderdale's pristine beaches, coach Peter Laviolette said the Flyers used a nontraditional technique to finally conquer the extra point in the shootout that has eluded them since 2005.
"We threw some chairs together in the meal room today," Laviolette explained with a laugh. "We got some sticks, some tape balls, and we practiced our moves. It really paid off."
Whatever they did, it worked, as the Flyers sailed into the NHL's 5-day All-Star break with a 3-2 win last night over the Florida Panthers at the Bank Atlantic Center by way of the breakaway contest.
For the league's worst shootout team, last night's win snapped a six-game losing streak in shootouts. It was just their fourth win in their last 14 shootouts; their last win was March 19, 2011, in Dallas.
Last night, Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall, stopping Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Mike Santorelli in succession to steal the win in front of his father, Andrei, who flew more than 15 hours from Russia to join the Flyers' fathers on their annual road trip.
Claude Giroux scored the only goal in the shootout.
"It was nice to get a shootout win," Laviolette said. "There haven't been a lot of them in the year-and-a-half. It was good to get one on the road, before the break. Now we can go into the break with a win."
Even with the Rangers' win against Winnipeg last night, the Flyers sit just three points back of New York for first place in the Eastern Conference - despite all they have been through in the first half of the season. And the list is long. Consider:
* Last night against Florida, nine out of the 20 players in Laviolette's lineup weren't even a part of the organization last year. That number does not include names like Ben Holmstrom, Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon, who were on the Phantoms.
* Ilya Bryzgalov, the free agent signed to put this team over the top, has averaged three goals-against per game and saves just under 90 percent of his shots in his 33 appearances.
* The Flyers went through a hellacious stretch in December and January in which they played 20 out of 29 games away from Philadelphia.
* Captain Chris Pronger played in just 13 games before he was lost for the season with a concussion. Jaromir Jagr, Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn have all missed significant time with injuries.
* The Flyers have gotten little production out of oft-injured James van Riemsdyk, once thought to be a key piece to the puzzle with his enormous playoff production and new contract once Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were dealt last June.
Yet, now at the NHL's unofficial halfway point of the season, the Flyers are somehow on pace for 108 points - which would best their Atlantic Division-winning total of 106 points from last season.
There are few discussions that fail to include the Flyers among the serious contenders for Lord Stanley's prize.
"I would say, on a scale of 1-to-10, I would give us nine points," All-Star defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "Coming into the season, we had a lot of new faces, a lot of young faces. I thought it was going to take a little more time for everyone to get used to each other and get on the same page.
"It surprises me, too, how well we've played while adjusting to everyone and the changes."
Last night marked the 11th game out of their last 13 that the Flyers got a tally from at least one rookie.
About the only knock on the Flyers, at this point, is their lack of depth among defenseman - something that can certainly be righted before the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
At this point last year, with Briere and Claude Giroux headed to the All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C., with the NHL's best record in tow, the Flyers were 33-12-5. They finished just 47-23-12, going 14-11-7 over the second half of the season before they were swept out of the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Bruins.
That left a lot to be desired, Laviolette said.
"We've gotten a lot of contributions from a lot of new players, a lot of young players, a lot of career years from players," Laviolette said. "There's been a lot of positives. But I think there's always things you can do better. I could list them. But I hope that we continue to work and get better and put on a good second-half push. I'm hoping we can go in a different direction in the second half than we did last year. We got by and we go through it, but I'd like to see us get better and really make a push toward the playoffs."
Max Talbot has been with the Flyers for only 48 games, but he already has bested nearly all of his offensive career highs. On pace for 38 points, Talbot is making his 5-year, $9 million deal look like a bargain - and that says nothing about his contribution on the penalty kill and in the locker room.
Talbot, 27, has 12 goals, only two away from setting a career high, and 22 points overall. He is four assists and four points from matching his previous best over his first six seasons.
On Sunday against Boston, Talbot posted his first two-goal game since scoring both of Pittsburgh's goals in the Penguins' Stanley Cup final Game 7 win over Detroit in 2009. It was his first two-goal game in the regular season since Oct. 13, 2007.
Scott Hartnell (five goals shy) and Wayne Simmonds (three goals) also are close to matching career highs through the first half.
Claude Giroux played more than 27 minutes for the second consecutive game and the fourth time this season . . . Panthers forward Scottie Upshall, who spent 2007-09 with the Flyers, remains scoreless in four career games against Philadelphia. The Flyers are the only team in the NHL he has not registered a point against . . . The Flyers committed just four giveaways and have given the puck away more than 10 times just three times in their last 21 games, dating back to Dec. 10.