It must have felt like a rebirth for Peter Forsberg last night at the Wachovia Center.
Although the Flyers lost, 4-3, to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shoot-out, Forsberg had jump in his skates to go with his mesmerizing tape-to-tape passes and occasional redirects in front of the net.
In a miserable season for the Flyers, the Swedish center in most games would display only one of those skills because of the problems he has had finding a skate boot to support his surgically repaired right foot.
Yet, against Tampa Bay, Forsberg's game sprang to life - even though the Flyers extended their home losing streak to 11 games.
Vincent Lecavalier's goal won it, while goalie Johan Holmqvist improved to 4-0 in shoot-outs this season with 15 saves in as many chances.
Forsberg's backhander in the shoot-out almost slipped past him. Regardless, it was the Flyers' best game of the season.
"We're making progress with the skate," he said. "It was 10 times better than all year and fun to play again. Hopefully, we find the right way. It was definitely a step in the right direction."
Forsberg broke a 2-2 tie at 3 minutes, 13 seconds of the third period with a devilish goal. Joni Pitkanen fired on net and Forsberg knocked the puck out of Holmqvist's glove, off the knee of Lightning defenseman Nolan Pratt, and into the net for his ninth goal of the season.
Everything Forsberg did last night seemed to come from his ability to fly around the ice without falling.
"You could see it when he was slipping the puck by guys, and it's been a while since we've seen him do that and look awesome," winger Mike Knuble said. "That is what he does so well."
Meanwhile, his teammates played a strong game. Goalie Robert Esche (30 saves) made two brilliant stops during a Bolts power play early in the third period before Forsberg scored the go-ahead goal. Lecavalier tied it up again, 3-3, on a bouncing deflection nine minutes later.
"We've been playing well the last three or four games where we're just expecting a consistent, energized effort here," coach John Stevens said. "I thought we had it tonight. It's unfortunate we didn't get a win for our fans. We had a lead in the third period. We didn't get it done in the shoot-out, but I certainly like a lot of things we're doing right now."
Podiatrist Frank Tursi made more adjustments to Forsberg's right boot during the morning skate, and it showed in the opening period as Forsberg made a sizzling move to deke around Tampa forward Vinny Prospal on one shift. The next time, he took the puck into the Tampa zone off the left boards, cut hard on the inside of his troubled right skate to go around Bolts defenseman Paul Ranger and to the net, and drew a holding penalty on Dan Boyle.
"That first period was a classic example of coming in on his forehand and sweeping laterally across the ice and getting a great shot on goal," Knuble said. "The vision is still there to make passes. When he feels comfortable on his feet, he is a one-on-one threat again."
Late in the period, Forsberg charged hard from behind, diving and poke-checking a puck off Martin St. Louis and preventing an odd-man rush into the Flyers' zone.
Each team scored twice in the second period. Tampa broke the ice with St. Louis' 31st goal, on the power play at 6:32 during a two-man advantage. Mike Richards' first goal since Black Friday tied it a minute later. It was the first of two Flyers shorthanded goals in the period.
Forsberg continued to weave through traffic to give himself and his linemates chances.
"I think I had more chances [tonight] than in the last 10 games," he said. "It was fun to be out there and able to skate and do what I usually do - feed my linemates and just have the balance and not being scared out there. It was great."
Late in the period and skating shorthanded on a delayed penalty, Gagne fired a pass to the net off the rush and Jeff Carter redirected it for a 2-1 lead. The lead lasted just 35 seconds. Ruslan Fedotenko retied the game with a power play goal.