Michael Leighton knew how the Carolina Hurricanes would try to beat him in the shootout. After all, he grew awfully familiar with their moves back when he was on their team.
Leighton stopped his former teammates cold, Mike Richards and Danny Briere scored in the shootout and the Philadelphia Flyers beat Carolina 4-3 on Saturday night to give coach Peter Laviolette a victory against his former club.
“They know me, I know them, so I know their moves and they know what I do,” Leighton said.
Richards, Briere and Jeff Carter scored in regulation for the Flyers, who blew a three-goal lead with 11 minutes left but regrouped to improve to 3-2 in shootouts this season. They won consecutive games for the first time in more than a month and kept the NHL’s worst team winless in three straight.
Jussi Jokinen scored two goals and Brandon Sutter added one for the Hurricanes. They came up empty in the shootout when Leighton stuffed Tuomo Ruutu’s backhand attempt with his pad and Jokinen – who entered 4-for-6 this season as the team’s shootout specialist – rang the left post.
“(Jokinen) does that move every time. I knew it was coming,” Leighton said. “It’s just hard to stop.”
Briere and Richards were a combined 0-for-6 in shootouts on the year before they both came through this time. Briere tucked his shot past Cam Ward’s left pad before Richards ended it in Round 2 by slipping the puck between the goalie’s legs.
For Philadelphia, a season-high six-game road swing that includes the Winter Classic at Fenway Park got started with its first winning streak since mid-November.
This one certainly wasn’t easy, though it looked early on like things would turn out that way.
The Flyers led 2-0 midway through the first period when Richards chipped his rebound past Ward at 10:13 and Carter slipped into the high slot and beat Ward with a high snap shot about four minutes later. Briere made it a three-goal game midway through the third.
But instead of burying the Hurricanes, that goal seemed to wake them up.
“When you give up the next goal like that, it’s easy for the momentum to switch,” Laviolette said. “And it did, and you could kind of feel it coming. Carolina’s notorious for that – being down and never being out of a game.”
Laviolette would know: He was the Hurricanes’ coach when those comebacks grew common in 2005-06 during their run to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup.
The stakes weren’t nearly as high during this late-December game, but at least the style was familiar, with Jokinen starting the rally by converting a backhand 24 seconds after Briere’s goal.
“If you’re down three and you’re not playing very well, it’s very difficult to believe in the game that you can come back,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “But we’d left enough sitting on their goal line to know that if we got one, we could get three.”
Sutter outmuscled Braydon Coburn to make it 3-2 with 4:02 left and Jokinen tied it with a wrist shot with 3:13 left, giving him his first multi-goal game of the season.
“We know (Leighton) hasn’t played that much hockey this year, and his confidence can’t be too high, so just shooting lots of pucks, we were able to find some ugly goals, which we haven’t been able to do this year,” Jokinen said.
Leighton finished with 37 saves for Philadelphia against the team that cut him loose earlier this month. He went 1-4 with Carolina but became expendable to the Hurricanes when they signed Manny Legace to fill in when Ward was hurt, and was claimed off waivers by the Flyers on Dec. 15.
Ward stopped 33 shots against his former backup for Carolina, which remains the league’s only team that has yet to crack double digits in victories and is winless in 12 of 16.
This was a matchup of the only two coaches the Hurricanes’ franchise has known since leaving Hartford.
Maurice shepherded the Whalers’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and led the franchise to the 2002 Stanley Cup final but was fired a year later and was replaced by Laviolette – who led Carolina to its only Cup in 2006 but was fired 2½ years later and was, in turn, replaced by Maurice. The Flyers hired Laviolette on Dec. 4 after they fired John Stevens.
NOTES: Carolina hasn’t beaten the Flyers in regulation since 2006. … Former Flyers D Joni Pitkanen skated in his 100th game with the Hurricanes, while D Niclas Wallin played his 500th career game.