UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Caution was sprinkled in among the happiness in the suddenly jubilant Philadelphia Flyers dressing room.
A long-awaited three-game winning streak will do that for a team, even one mentioned as a Stanley Cup contender during the pre-season.
Jeff Carter snapped a tie in the second period and the Flyers beat the New York Islanders for the 13th straight time, 2-1 on Sunday night.
The Flyers (18-18-2) are trying to get back into a relevant position in the Eastern Conference after a dismal start cost coach John Stevens his job and left the club in danger of becoming an also-ran.
“Confidence is a key factor,” forward Danny Briere said. “You’re not as bad as you think when you can’t find the goals to win and you’re not as good as you think when you get on a winning streak. You’ve got to find that even keel, and it’s a tough thing to do.
“We have to realize there is still lots of work to be done.”
The Flyers, who have won three in a row for the first time in two months, haven’t lost to the Islanders since Feb. 12, 2008. It is the longest active streak in the NHL, one win more than Washington’s 12-game run over Tampa Bay.
Philadelphia is 5-7-1 since coach Peter Laviolette took over.
“Of the three (straight) wins, I thought tonight was our best,” Laviolette said. “Offensively we had an identity and defensively we were pretty tight.”
The Flyers killed off a pair of New York power plays in the third period.
“We did have some chances,” Islanders goalie Martin Biron said.
Briere scored in the first to give the Flyers their first lead and he nearly added another goal in the third, but it was waved off. Video replay determined that Briere steered his own shot in with a skate after the puck hit Biron at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.
“I was laughing because I thought for sure there was no kicking,” Briere said. “I had no clue the puck even touched my skate.”
The Flyers overcame that and got strong goaltending from Michael Leighton, who stopped 28 saves while making his third consecutive start. Leighton, who has played 80 NHL games, had never won three in a row. He was forced to win a shootout at Carolina on Saturday after making 37 saves.
“We should’ve won that game (Saturday) in regulation, and he shut the door tonight, too,” said Scott Hartnell, who had two assists.
Philadelphia is 3-0 on its six-game trip.
Due to weather, the Flyers didn’t arrive in New York from Carolina until 3:30 a.m. – 13 1/2 hours before the late afternoon puck drop on Long Island. Philadelphia hadn’t won three straight since a five-game run from Oct. 31-Nov. 12. Its previous two-game spurt before Saturday came on Nov. 16-18.
“Sometimes you get messed up with your schedule,” Laviolette said. “You don’t think about it too much and your body doesn’t get a chance to seize up. You don’t have to loosen up quite so much. You just come to the rink and play. We played pretty freely.”
The Islanders also were looking for a rare three-game winning streak, following victories over Toronto on Wednesday and at the New York Rangers on Saturday. The Islanders are 2-7 in the second half of back-to-back games.
Jon Sim’s fourth goal brought New York into a tie in the second period, but the Islanders generated no more offence. Former Flyers goalie Biron made 28 saves, yet lost his sixth straight decision. New York has dropped nine of 13.
“Marty has been playing great,” Islanders forward Trent Hunter said. “We haven’t given him the offensive support needed, and hung him out to dry a few times. That is something we really can’t do.”
Briere got the seemingly tired Flyers going early. Carter avoided contact with Islanders defenceman Andy Sutton in the slot and fed a pass to Briere at the bottom of the right circle for a shot to the top right corner on 1:51.
Sim tied it 1-1 at 3:35 of the second when he got to a loose puck that caromed off two sticks.
That set the stage for Carter.
Hartnell skated on Carter’s right during a 2-on-1 break and calmly slid a soft pass to him. Carter waited for Biron to move before lifting a shot over him with 3:07 left in the second. Carter has three goals in six games after recording two in the previous 11.
“We kind of realize the way we need to be successful as a line and come together as a team,” Hartnell said. “We’re riding high right now.”
Notes: Biron hasn’t won since topping Carolina on Nov. 13. He hadn’t played in three games, but got the start over Dwayne Roloson, who made 36 saves in the 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers on Saturday. … Carter, who had a goal at Carolina, hadn’t scored in consecutive games since the first two contests this season. … Islanders coach Scott Gordon is 0-7-2 against the Flyers.