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Fluke goal lifts streaking Panthers past Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Gratton's mistake turned into the game-winner for the Florida Panthers.

Gratton got credit for a fluke tiebreaking goal early in the third period to lead the Panthers past the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Thursday.

Gratton, who also had an assist, was credited with the unassisted goal that broke a 1-1 tie at 1:43 of the period when Flyers goaltender Martin Biron's clearing attempt bounced off the right shin pad of Philadelphia defenseman Randy Jones back into the net.

Philadelphia's Scott Upshall said that it was a weird way to lose a game.

"That was the hockey gods tonight," Upshall said. "That might happen once every 50 years or something like that."

"It was actually a bad dump on my part," Gratton said. "I gave it right to Marty. He's pretty good at moving the puck. I knew he wanted to make a quick up and the defenseman just happened to be caught in the middle.

"It was an unfortunate bounce but we wanted to try and get two points out of this game. It was a big game for us," Gratton said.

"I guess I was looking ahead of Jones," Biron said. "I wanted to go up to our winger near the red line. I tried to get it up there. It couldn't have bounced more perfect for them."

Ville Peltonen also scored for the Panthers, who have won six of their past seven games.

"When you're working hard and playing better, you get those bounces," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "Some nights you need that. It's part of the game."

Dmitry Afanasenkov scored for the Flyers, who have dropped two straight.

Florida goaltender Ed Belfour made 26 saves for his 21st win. His best stop came midway through the second period when he slid across the goal mouth to deny Jeff Carter's point-blank shot. He preserved the lead with a glove save on a hard shot by Simon Gagne with 1:32 left in the third period.

"We've been getting all-star goaltending," Gratton explained. "Eddie has been playing unbelievable for us the whole year. He's been our best player night in and night out.

"When you have a 40-year-old guy doing that, it motivates guys and you want to win for him because he's such a competitor," Gratton said.

Belfour is 8-2-2 in his past 12 starts.

Biron, making his fourth straight start for the Flyers, stopped 35 shots.

Afanasenkov put the Flyers ahead at 1:55 of the second period with a brilliant move. Skating from behind the net, he scored his ninth goal on a backhanded wraparound shot that sailed past Belfour's glove.

Florida tied it 1:20 later when Peltonen's shot from left of the slot glanced off the far post into the net. It was his 13th goal of the season.

Game notes
The Flyers failed on six power-play opportunities and are 2-for-39 in the past nine games . They are 5-for-52 with the man advantage in the 11 games since Peter Forsberg was traded . ... Philadelphia has won only six home games, the fewest in the NHL. ... The Panthers, who finished a two-game road trip, are 8-2-2 in their past 12 games. ... Philadelphia right winger Upshall and defenseman Lasse Kukkonen hit the post in the second period.