Philadelphia Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki, of Finland, shuts the door on Ottawa Senators left wing Jarkko Ruutu, of Finland, in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008, in Philadelphia. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Tom Mihalek
PHILADELPHIA - Jeff Carter and the Philadelphia Flyers are ready for their long road trip.
The way the Flyers centre is playing this year, he should count on another getaway - to the all-star game. Carter scored his NHL-best 26th goal, Simon Gagne got the winner late in the third period and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Ottawa Senators 6-4 Tuesday night.
"I think last year, maybe this is a game we'd lose," said Flyers coach John Stevens. "The team comes back. I just see a lot of guys who want to be on the ice, that want you to call their name, that think they can make a difference."
Count Carter as one of those players.
Omitted from the all-star ballot, Carter continues to shine and prove he deserves a spot as an Eastern Conference reserve in next month's game. He was knocked on his back and slid into the boards in the second period, a prime scoring shot wiped out on a tripping penalty. Carter needed little time to get up and punch in No. 26 to put the Flyers ahead 3-2.
As they do every time he scores this season, the Flyers flashed "Write Him In!" on the scoreboard to make sure he makes it to Montreal for the Jan. 25 game.
Ottawa scored twice in the third against Antero Niittymaki to even the score, then Gagne scored his 18th goal with 5:30 left.
The Flyers won their sixth straight at home, punctuated by Mike Richards' empty-netter in the final seconds.
The Flyers start a six-game road trip on Friday and don't return home until Jan. 8
"When you're winning games on a regular basis like we are, it makes everything easier," Carter said. "Everybody's got confidence in this room. If we give up a couple of goals late or get down a goal late, nobody panics on our bench. We keep going right to the end."
Niittymaki had been strong in place of an ill Martin Biron until he hit a rough patch in the third. Dany Heatley scored his second goal of the game midway through the period and Chris Phillips ended his scoring slump minutes later with a slapper inside the blue-line to make it 4-4.
"We're a fragile team, but I thought we came out and showed some desperation in the third period," Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg said. "I think the guys have to get away from the game for two days. We have to show more desperation. We're in a desperate state here. We have to get points. We had a chance to get a point tonight and let it slip away."
The win got away from them when Gagne, who has bounced back nicely after missing most of last season with a concussion, took a shot from the left circle that appeared to knock off a pair of defencemen and trickle in.
"They gave it to Gagne so it must have hit him," Senators goalie Alex Auld said. "I never really saw it. It didn't hit me so I'm not really sure how it got in."
That was the kind of break the Flyers never really felt they got last year until the playoffs.
"You need everyone down the stretch and we have that here," Carter said.
Heatley's first goal of the game and 15th of the season early in the second made it 2-2.
Carter seemed poised to give the Flyers a lead when he sprinted down the ice for the puck with Ottawa defenceman Christoph Schubert on his tail. Carter was ready to shoot on Auld when Schubert tripped the Flyers centre from behind and sent him sprawling to the ice.
Schubert was whistled for two minutes for tripping. Carter made Ottawa pay when he knocked in the puck for the lead.
Andreas Nodl gave the Flyers scored his first career goal to make it 4-2. While Niittymaki had a 2.46 GAA in his last eight starts (6-1-1) entering the game, Nick Foligno needed only five minutes to poke the puck into the net for a 1-0 lead.
"It was one of those games that it was kind of hard to find the puck, and there were a lot of bad bounces," Niittymaki said.
The Flyers evened the score on Matt Carle's third goal of the year, and Joffrey Lupul made it 2-1 on his 13th goal when he tipped in the puck from the crease off a sizzling shot from Scott Hartnell along the boards.
Notes: The Senators got off to a rough start on their season-high eight-game road trip that lasts until mid-January. Ottawa's eight points on the road are fewest in the Eastern Conference and it has only three road victories this season. ... Senators D Anton Volchenkov left the game in the first period when he slid face first into the glass.