UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The premise that this Flyers team is unwatchable is true only in a parental-control kind of way. If you're a fan of chaos, disorder, mayhem - even unprovoked violence - well, this team still beats the hell out of sitting home with the wife and watching "Saw" for the umpteenth time.

Take, for example, last night's second period at the Nassau Coliseum, when the Flyers climbed back into the game after spotting the Islanders a 4-1, first-period lead. The Flyers skated harder and pressured the Islanders more consistently in the period, and when none of that seemed to work, they initiated two long fights that required bags of ice to be delivered to each penalty box afterward.

Neither Todd Fedoruk's bout with Chris Simon or Darren Reid's ensuing square-off with Arron Asham could be considered wins - unless you count what happened next.

"I asked him and he was willing," Fedoruk said of Simon. "Not a lot of guys go at 5-2. It's pointless. But he said, 'If you really need to . . . '

"I said, 'Yeah man, it's 5-2. I've got to get these guys going.' "

And he did. A messy Islanders turnover near the blue line inside their zone led to a Dmitry Afanasenkov goal that pulled the Flyers to 5-3 at 7:10 of the second period. Two third-period goals followed, the last a Simon Gagne hacking, Herculean, bull-rush across the front of the net that tied the game at 9:07 of the third period, and led to overtime.

And then?

Well . . . you know. The Flyers are 2-10 in overtime this season, and 1-31-3 when trailing after two periods.

"It's disappointing in that we battled and gave ourselves a chance," Flyers coach John Stevens said after Trent Hunter's power-play goal at 4:29 of overtime gave the Isles a 6-5 victory. "It's encouraging but at the same time, we have to start winning these hockey games. And stop giving away freebies."

Oh yeah, that. The feel-good that began earlier in the day with the Martin Biron news conference lasted 2 minutes into last night's game between the playoff- hopeful Islanders and your hope-starved Flyers.

OK, it was 2 minutes, 10 seconds, and to be fair, the Flyers held the Islanders without a shot until that point. And to go all out to find some more silver amid the muck of this frightening but memorable season, let us also note the Flyers outshot the Islanders in the first period, 10-8.

But as the Flyers have learned repeatedly, this league rewards quality over quantity. Four of those eight shots on Flyers goalie (of the moment) Antero Niittymaki resulted in goals. Two of those eight shots were breakaways. One was even a three-on-none, an unfathomable sight for a team with the fourth-lowest goal total in the league.

Then again, this is a Flyers team with the highest number of goals allowed, so maybe it's not so hard to fathom.

But it's still quite a, um, sight.

So were some of the other Kodak moments of that period, a period in which Islanders winger Jason Blake - trade bait himself until the Islanders played themselves from trade-deadline sellers into buyers - scored a hat trick.

The last of those goals came with just seconds left in the period, when Sami Kapanen fanned a 2-inch pass right onto Blake's stick. Blake walked in alone on Niittymaki, and on this night, and often in this season, that has meant a goal.

None of the first four goals could be blamed on the Flyers goaltender. But like Robert Esche, Niittymaki has been marked down this season, his durability and consistency both in question.

Enter Biron from Buffalo, who is expected to make his first start for the Flyers tomorrow night in Boston. General manager Paul Holmgren said he wants to take a long look at the goalie he traded for yesterday, which likely means some long faces for the two goalies that have taken turns in this rainfall of terror.

Niittymaki didn't stay around long enough to ponder that. Esche, who did, vowed that he wouldn't mope.

"I have to work hard every day," he said. "People are looking at you. You have to set a good example for everybody." *