PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette didn't like the way things were going early in the third period Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lighting. The Flyers held a 1-0 lead, but the dominance they had had for two periods was fading, especially on a long shift played almost entirely in their defensive zone.
Laviolette called a timeout at 3:24 of third period. The tactic worked when Jeff Carter won the faceoff and Chris Pronger swept the puck into the neutral zone where Danny Briere picked it up, flew down right wing and swept a pass to Scott Hartnell, who redirected it past Antero Niittymaki at 3:36 to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.
The Lightning got a goal from Martin St. Louis at 13:05, but Blair Betts scored two late goals to ice Philadelphia's 4-1 win. The Flyers' third win in a row moved them within a point of eighth-place Montreal in the Eastern Conference, and Philadelphia improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine since a 4-1 home loss to Florida on Dec. 21.
All because of a timeout.
"We had just been out on the ice for a long time," Laviolette said. "We had an icing and we had guys that were tired out there. One defenseman got off but one defenseman was still out there. We had three forwards who had been out for a minute, a minute-and-10, scrambling around in their own end. They looked pretty tired to me, and we had a lead. I was hoping there would be a timeout that I wouldn't need and we could catch our breath.
"We didn't draw that up on the bench, if that's where you're going with it," Laviolette said about Hartnell's goal. "It was a great play by the players but it was really just for our players to catch some wind. Like I said, they were taxed a little bit just from running around defensively in our end for a good minute. I just wanted to make sure they were fresh."
TampaBay's Steven Stamkos thought the goal following the timeout was the turning point.
"That's tough, I won the draw and we got a shot. Obviously, they were tired and that was a good timeout by their coach," Stamkos said. "I think everyone would have done that in the same position.
"It's a scenario where our defense pinched and we needed to have a guy back him up. It's a tough play. It's a 'read' where you need to get the man or the puck and they lucked out and got the puck by us on a 2-on-1 and into the back of the net. It was a game-changer, and obviously that third goal broke any kind of momentum and any chance we had of coming back in this game. That was tough to swallow as well."
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet wasn't pleased with the way a game that had turned competitive seemed to slip away.
"The first period, the Flyers outplayed us," Tocchet said. "Then we started to make a game of it. Then they had puck possession because they were a little more tenacious on the draws and certain parts of the game.
"There was a stretch there we started coming on. There was about a seven-minute clip where we starting coming. Marty scored and then the penalty and the 2-on-1 goal killed momentum. We tried to claw back against this club, but that took the momentum away from us."
Michael Leighton made 17 saves and improved to 7-0-1 as the Flyers' starting goalie. He was claimed on waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 5, just before Flyers' starter Ray Emery underwent abdominal surgery. The Flyers sent Emery, who had targeted this game for his return, to the AHL Adirondack Flyers, where he played well in a 2-1 loss to the Portland Pirates.
The only goal he allowed came when ex-Flyer Steve Downie won a battle for the puck along the left boards. Stamkos picked up the loose puck and fired a pass to St. Louis on the left wing. St. Louis' hard shot went past Leighton on the near side to narrow the score to 2-1.
But the Lightning didn't get another shot on goal, and Betts put the Flyers up 3-1 with 3:05 remaining and two seconds left in a 4-on-4 by slamming home a rebound of Ian Laperriere's shot from the slot. He added an empty-net goal with 27 seconds left.
Laviolette had high praise for Betts, a checking center who scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season.
"He's really valuable because he does a lot of things really well," Laviolette said. "He's a faceoff guy. He can play all positions. He can skate, he can hit and he can kill penalties. He can jump up and play on other lines. He can play in the last minute of a game. When you've got a player that you can ramble on like that, he's a valuable part of your team."
The Lightning, who led 3-0 midway through Friday's game at New Jersey when the game was postponed due to a lightning failure, headed back to Newark after the loss to Philadelphia and will try to complete Friday night's victory on Sunday.
"The worst thing we could do is act like we have a 3-0 lead," Tocchet said. "Hopefully we'll play a solid game, get a few points and get back to Tampa."
The Flyers took a 1-0 lead at 13:01 of the first period on Claude Giroux's power-play goal. Simon Gagne carried the puck from behind the Lightning goal line up the right boards, dropped a pass back to Mike Richards in the corner and his pass found Giroux in the slot for a one-timer that beat Niittymaki.
TampaBay's Matt Walker was in the box for slashing Jeff Carter behind the Lightning net. It was the Flyers' sixth power-play goal in their past three games.
It was also Gagne's 500th NHL point in his 626th game. Briere scored his 500th point in his 626th game on Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Neither team scored during the second period, though Niittymaki had to make excellent stops on Carter early in the period and Darroll Powe near the 8:30 mark.
Leighton made an excellent stop a couple of minutes later when Vincent Lecavalier, behind the net, found Alex Tanguay breaking in on the right side. Leighton was in position to smother the shot.
The Lightning finished the game with five defensemen after Matt Smaby went head-first into the boards at 6:46 of the third period and didn't return. Team officials said he had an upper-body injury and would be further evaluated Sunday.
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Martin St. Louis
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