Carter helps Flyers edge Hurricanes

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) — After captain Mike Richards
grabbed a share of the lead in one goal-scoring category earlier
in the game, teammate Jeff Carter claimed a share of the top
spot in another for the surging Philadelphia Flyers.

Carter scored his league-leading 19th goal of the season at 3:34
of overtime, giving the Flyers a 2-1 triumph over the Carolina
Hurricanes on Saturday.

Richards netted his NHL-best fourth shorthanded tally and Antero
Niittymaki made 35 saves for Philadelphia, which improved to
9-1-3 in its last 13 games.

“Overall, it was a good defensive game by both teams,” Richards
said. “We just wanted to be patient. We didn’t want to push
the envelope. We waited for our chances, and we got some. …
It seemed like whoever had the last shot would win.”

“We just keep battling,” Carter added. “It’s definitely not a
position we want to be in – one-goal games, overtimes and
shootouts. We never give up. We just keep going.”

Sergei Samsonov tallied on the power play for the Hurricanes,
who fell to 0-3-0 on their four-game homestand.

“We had some chances in overtime and during the game,” Samsonov
said. “It was a solid effort, but it just came down to

With his team down a skater early in the contest, Richards
received a pass from Simon Gagne and skated in on a short
breakaway. After deking former teammate Michael Leighton,
Richards slid a backhander into the net at 3:59 for a 1-0 edge.

It was just the second shorthanded tally allowed by the
Hurricanes this season.

“Giving up a goal on (our) power play, it sets you back a little
bit,” Samsonov said.

Richards pulled even with Gagne for the league lead in
shorthanded goals, a category in which the Flyers stand atop
with 11.

“It’s been huge,” Richards said. “It seems like every time we
get a good kill or score a shorthanded goal, it builds momentum
for us. Specialty teams are such a big factor. It seems like
if you come out of it on the plus side of special teams, you’re
going to win the game.

“Lately, we’ve had great special teams, and it has created
momentum. Our penalty kill has stepped up, and our goaltenders
have been our best ones.”

After a scoreless second session, Carolina forged a tie less
than a minute into the third.

Failing to convert their first four power-play opportunities,
the Hurricanes cashed in on their fifth. Ray Whitney’s
cross-slot pass from the right faceoff circle deflected off the
stick of a defender and directly to Samsonov, who fired the puck
into a vacant left side of the net just 55 seconds into the
period for his third goal of the season.

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The Hurricanes rank 29th in the league with the man advantage at
13.5 percent (17-for-126).

“We’re making small strides on the power play, finding different
people and finding different units,” said Carolina coach Paul
Maurice, who replaced Peter Laviolette on Wednesday.

In the third of four meetings between the teams in a span of 16
days, the Flyers improved to 2-0-1 in the season series thanks
to Carter. The clubs meet for the final time this campaign
Thursday in Philadelphia.

“It’s kind of like a playoff series,” Carter said. “They were a
lot grittier. It’s like they competed a lot better.”

“You play the same team over and over again and it’s almost like
a playoff series,” Philadelphia coach John Stevens echoed.
“They’re big points for them and they’re big points for us. It
seems like every game has big implications. That we play a team
four times inside of two weeks is a little unusual.”

After winning a faceoff in the right circle, the 2003 11th
overall draft pick spun around and fired a bouncing puck between
the pads of Leighton to help Philadelphia improve to 7-3-3 on
the road this season.

“It was kind of a broken play,” Carter said. “I was actually
trying to go back to the point (with the puck), but it bounced
straight up. I got a little positioning on (Leighton) and spun
it at the five-hole.”

With the goal, Carter pulled even for the league lead with
Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek, who also netted his 19th in the Sabres’
4-3 triumph over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

Making just his ninth appearance of the season and first since
posting a 3-1 win here on November 26, Antero Niittymaki made 11
saves in the third period and five in overtime.

“He really sharpened up his game,” Stevens said. “He seemed
like he was a little unsettled in the beginning with his
rebounds (last game). Tonight, he looked extremely sharp, very
confident and had to make some key saves that gave us the
opportunity to win the game.”

“It gets easier as the season goes on,” Niittymaki said of
keeping sharp between outings. “You get used to it. It is what
it is. … It helps when you have a good game against somebody,
to play against them again. You just feel more comfortable.”

Leighton turned aside 29 shots for Carolina, which has lost five
of six and fell to 0-1-1 under Maurice.

“Through 60 minutes, anyway, he was really, really strong,”
Maurice said of his goaltender.