PHILADELPHIA - Flyers goalie Brian Boucher admits he's never played behind a defense as suffocating as this year's six-man unit in Philadelphia.
The irony is that the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers remain the only team in the League without a shutout this season. While they came close again on Thursday, Boucher was just as thrilled with the next best thing -- a victory.
Jeff Carter and Danny Briere connected for power-play goals in the third period and Boucher turned aside 31 shots as the Flyers continued their mastery of the Carolina Hurricanes with a 2-1 victory before 19,726 at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers, who stand atop the East with 36 wins and 77 points, have ranked among the top 10 in goals-against average (2.50) much of the season.
The Flyers led 2-0 and were less than eight minutes away from that elusive first shutout before Tuomo Ruutu scored with 7:53 remaining.
"I'm aware we don't have a shutout this year and it's always nice for the goalies, but we tried to keep them off the board, especially in a tight game like that," defenseman Braydon Coburn said.
When asked where exactly this Flyers defense stood in his 11-plus seasons in the League, Boucher had nothing but praise.
"It's probably the best," Boucher said. "We've got six really good defensemen that make our job -- the goalie's job -- a lot easier out there. You can count on them to block shots and make right plays. We've got speed, we've got some skill, we've got the smarts out there. It's fun to play behind them."
After two scoreless periods, Carter put the Flyers ahead 18 seconds into the third when he collected a feed from Mike Richards in the right circle and ripped a power-play wrister that deflected off goalie Cam Ward's left glove and into the net. Carter now has 6 goals and 9 points in his last six games and 10 goals and 15 points in his last 12 contests.
Briere made it 2-0 at 11:27, retrieving a pass from Claude Giroux at the left post before firing up and over Ward from a tough angle. The 'Canes pulled within a goal just 37 seconds after Briere scored when Ruutu, who finished with five hits, jammed home a rebound for his first goal in 12 games.