ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Philadelphia Flyers stumbled at the start of the season, losing their first six games. Now they're tied for first place with the New York Rangers in the contentious Atlantic Division, and they don't plan on looking back.
Mike Richards scored the only goal in a shootout and assisted on goals by Ossi Vaananen, Braydon Coburn and Mike Knuble, leading the Flyers to a 5-4 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
The Flyers, who came within three wins of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, know what it's like to overcome adversity. Last season they became the second team since 1979-80 to reach the conference finals one year after finishing with the NHL's worst record.
"We talked about it today for the first time, only because there was first place on the line in a very difficult division," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "It's been a long hill to climb, and it doesn't get any easier to try and stay there."
Martin Biron, who shut out Anaheim the last time the teams met on Feb. 2 at Philadelphia, improved his career record against the Ducks to 8-0-0 with 23 saves. Josh Gratton scored his first goal of the season.
Andrew Ebbett scored his first NHL goal on his 26th birthday, and Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf each had a goal and an assist for the Ducks. Rob Niedermayer also found the net for Anaheim.
"I think this was the most intense game that we've played in a while," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "When you score four goals in a hockey game you expect to win. But if we can bottle this intensity, this emotion, this energy and continue to play at this level, we'll make some great strides."
Philadelphia played without second-leading scorer Simon Gagne, who injured his shoulder just 15 seconds into Tuesday's 3-2 win at Vancouver. Right wing Scottie Upshall returned to the Flyers' lineup after missing four games with a sprained right knee, and got an assist on Gratton's goal.
After blowing a 3-1 lead, the Ducks went back in front at 18:46 of the second period while Coburn was sent off for hooking. The power play lasted just 13 seconds as Perry dug the puck out of the right corner and backhanded the puck into the low slot, where Getzlaf was left unchecked.
The Flyers pulled even again just 14 seconds later on a one-timer from the left circle by Knuble.
"The second period was a little crazy," Biron said. "They scored three goals after getting one in the last minute of the first. There were some good plays and some deflections, but we battled back hard."
Niedermayer gave Anaheim a 2-1 lead just 32 seconds into the second period, beating Biron high to the glove side from the top of the right circle. Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer was credited with his 500th regular-season assist on his younger brother's ninth goal of the season.
Ebbett, playing in his ninth NHL game and sixth since getting called up from the minors because of an injury to Teemu Selanne, was standing in front of the net when Chris Pronger's wrist shot from just inside the blue line glanced off his stick and past Biron's glove for a 3-1 lead at 6:16 of the second. The goal came while Luca Sbisa was off for boarding.
"We've been working on getting shots to the net and getting two or three guys in front for rebounds," Ebbett said. "It just happened to come at me about waist-high, and I was able to get my stick on it and tip it in. It was pretty exciting. It's a good feeling to get that first one over with and not have to worry about it anymore."
Gratton scored just 16 seconds later, beating Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the glove side with a 15-foot wrist shot from the left circle. Coburn made it 3-all at 17:41 of the second during a goalmouth scramble while Samuel Pahlsson was serving a holding-the-stick penalty.
"It's tough to get your momentum and keep it going when you're killing penalties," Getzlaf said. "As a group we were hitting and were energized. That's what we need to show every night."
Vaananen, who spent all of last season playing in Sweden, opened the scoring at 13:57 of the first period with his 13th goal in 461 NHL games spanning seven NHL seasons. It snapped a 67-game goal drought dating back to New Year's Day 2007.
Anaheim's George Parros got into a brawl with Riley Cote at 17:21 of the opening period, and Ducks defenseman Steve Montador mixed it up with Josh Gratton just 8 seconds later. All four players were still serving their fighting majors when Perry tied the score just 35 seconds before intermission.
"We knew Anaheim would come out hard because they weren't happy with how they were playing and they wanted to get some energy in their game," Stevens said. "I thought the Gratton goal was huge for us. After it got into overtime, we just had to push the envelope and try to get the extra point. I thought it was a gutsy effort. It's a huge two points."
Notes: The standing-room-only crowd of 17,597 was a Ducks record, 122 more than attended a 3-3 tie with the Los Angeles Kings on March 21, 1995. ... Flyers RW Joffrey Lupul, whom the Ducks dealt to Edmonton for Pronger in July 2006, has no goals and one assist in five games against Anaheim since the trade. ... The Flyers visited Anaheim for the first time since beating the Ducks 7-4 on Nov. 15, 2006.