PHILADELPHIA – Whether it’s a key goal, a defensive stop or a big save, the Philadelphia Flyers just find a way to win.
Jeff Carter and Danny Briere each scored a power-play goal, Brian Boucher stopped 31 shots and Philadelphia beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on Thursday night.
The Flyers have won four in a row, all by two or fewer goals, and lead the Atlantic Division by three points over Pittsburgh.
“It seems lately that’s all those games we’re playing, which is good coming down the stretch and getting ready for the playoffs,” Briere said. “We’re going to be facing a lot of teams that are fighting for their lives too, like Carolina tonight hanging on to eighth place.”
Philadelphia took advantage of Carolina’s weak penalty-killing unit while improving to 13-3 in 2011. The Hurricanes were 23rd in the league against the power play entering Thursday’s games, 25th on the road.
Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu was called for slashing late in the second period and Philadelphia made the most of the man advantage early in the third. Carter took a Mike Richards feed and fired a wrist shot off Cam Ward’s glove to make it 1-0.
Carter’s sixth goal in five games, including three straight, gave him 26 on the season, temporarily tying him with Briere for the team lead. Briere went back in front at 11:27, going top shelf on the right side of the net.
“What I liked about tonight was it seems like it’s been a while since our power play won us the game,” Briere said. “Two big power-play goals. It’s a good feeling.”
Carolina went 0 for 5 on the power play, and the Flyers have killed 30 of their last 32 short-handed situations in the past 10 games.
“(Our) special teams on both ends were good tonight,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “Power play scored a few big ones tonight, and our penalty kill did a good job. Boosh was probably our best penalty killer tonight. I think he did an excellent job.”
Boucher made a couple of big saves during a Carolina power play late in the first, turning away rookie Jeff Skinner with 1:28 left, then denying Erik Cole’s snap shot from the left hash with 37.2 seconds remaining.
Boucher has surrendered two or fewer goals in 13 of his previous 14 starts.
“He played tonight like he did the other night, like he was in control, and calm,” Laviolette said. “There wasn’t a lot of hoopla, just simple, stop the puck, cover the rebounds, wait for the face-off.”
Ruutu solved Boucher with 12:07 left, 40 seconds after Briere’s goal. He put in his own rebound to end Philadelphia’s bid for its first shutout of the season. It was his first goal in 11 games and No. 13 for the season.
The Flyers are the only NHL team without a shutout, and Boucher briefly thought about ending the streak.
“Yeah, maybe it crossed my mind for a second, but I only had a second because that’s when they scored,” Boucher said with a laugh. “Maybe somebody in the press box jinxed me.”
Ward, the starting goalie in last week’s all-star game, continued to struggle against the Flyers, dropping to 3-8-2 in 13 career starts against Philadelphia. He was making his 14th straight start, and stopped 23 shots.
The Hurricanes haven’t beaten the Flyers in regulation since 2006, when Laviolette was in charge of Carolina. The Hurricanes are 0-15-3 in the last 18 meetings.
They are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, and would meet the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended tonight. Ruutu sees parallels between the Hurricanes and the 2009-10 Flyers, who went from the No. 7 seed to the Stanley Cup finals.
“We’re a good team and were able to play well tonight,” Ruutu said. “Look at their team last year, as they hardly made the playoffs and then were able to make the Stanley Cup finals. All the teams are pretty equal in the conference. If we can make the playoffs we have a chance to go all the way as well.”
NOTES: Ruutu played in his 250th career game. … Carolina defenceman and former Flyer Joni Pitkanen was sidelined with a leg injury. … Claude Giroux’s assist on Briere’s goal gave him at least one point in 10 of his last 11 games. Giroux left in the second after blocking a shot with his left knee, but returned later in the period.