Toronto Maple Leafs\' goalie Martin Gerber stands in front of the net after Philadelphia Flyers\' Simon Gagne scored in the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, April 3, 2009, in Philadelphia. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/H. Rumph Jr
PHILADELPHIA - Criticized by their general manager, the Philadelphia Flyers answered the challenge.
Jeff Carter scored three goals, Danny Briere had a goal and three assists, and the Flyers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 8-5 on Friday night.
Simon Gagne, Randy Jones, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell also had goals for the Flyers, who passed Carolina for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The top four teams get home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
On Thursday, GM Paul Holmgren made it clear the team's best players had to step up their performance after three losses in four games.
With his sharp words still ringing in their ears, the fired-up Flyers came out strong. Five players scored in the first period as Philadelphia made sure it didn't lose consecutive games to Toronto, which isn't going to the playoffs for the fourth straight year. The Leafs won the first game of the home-and-home series 3-2 Wednesday night.
"We were sitting comfortably in fourth place and sometimes you lose that intensity," Briere said. "That was a wake-up call and we responded."
Carter's first NHL hat trick gave him 44 goals. Only Washington's Alex Ovechkin has more this season.
Luke Schenn, Boyd Devereaux and Mikhail Grabovski scored for the Leafs in the last four minutes of the second period to cut a 6-0 deficit in half. Nikolai Kulemin and Jamal Mayers also had goals for Toronto.
"We had some guys who basically mailed it in tonight and didn't want to compete," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We knew that they would come hard."
The Flyers scored three times in a span of 4:38 to take a 3-0 lead. Jones got the first one on a backhander after the rebound from Briere's shot kicked right to him inside the left circle.
Briere helped set up the next goal by speeding up ice and sending a perfect crossing pass to the streaking Arron Asham, who quickly pushed the puck to Giroux. The rookie forward deked goalie Martin Gerber with a nifty fake and scored his eighth goal.
Gagne scored his 32nd goal on a power play, firing a slap shot from the slot through a screen. That was it for Gerber. He was replaced by Curtis Joseph after allowing three goals on nine shots. Joseph wasn't much better. He gave up two goals on five shots and returned to the bench for the start of the second period.
"It feels like playing soccer, the net keeps getting bigger and bigger, but you never know, you try to keep it close," Gerber said.
Hartnell made it 4-0 with his 30th goal later in the first. Carter scored on a breakaway 1:27 after that.
"Obviously, Homer said we needed to play better," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "It was a wake-up call."
With the son of one of the notorious Hanson brothers from the movie "Slap Shot" making his NHL debut, this briefly turned into a boxing match. Two fights broke out in the final minute of the first period, but the fisticuffs didn't carry over.
Christian Hanson, the son of Dave of "Slap Shot" movie fame, played his first game for the Leafs after signing a two-year deal on Tuesday. His father sat in the stands and drew loud applause when he was introduced in the third period.
Schenn's wrist shot from just inside the blue line started Toronto's comeback attempt. Devereaux scored on a one-timer 97 seconds later. Grabovski got a long rebound and slapped it past Martin Biron to cut the deficit in half.
But Carter scored early in the third and the Leafs couldn't get within two goals.
"I've had a lot of two-goal games. I'm just happy to get it out of the way," Carter said of his hat trick.
Notes: The five goals in the first were a season high in a period for the Flyers, and their eight goals were a season best. ... The teams met for the 150th time in the regular season. The Flyers are 78-48-24. ... Giroux has a goal in three straight games.