PITTSBURGH (AP) – Jeff Carter and Michael Handzus scored in the first 21/2 minutes of the third period and the Philadelphia Flyers made a late lead hold up this time, beating Pittsburgh 6-3.

Simon Gagne got his NHL-leading 19th and 20th goals of the season as Philadelphia improved to a league-best 10-1-1 on the road after dropping its previous three games, including successive home overtime losses to the Penguins on Wednesday and Atlanta on Friday.

Gagne also assisted on Mike Knuble’s empty-net goal with 18 seconds remaining.

After the Penguins rallied three times from one-goal deficits, Carter put in his own rebound early in the third period after goalie Jocelyn Thibault stopped his initial shot, only to lose sight of a puck that sat on the ice along the goal line. Carter swatted it in for his seventh goal.

Handzus followed 41 seconds later with his fifth goal, picking up a loose puck and skating in to beat Thibault with a wrist shot. The Flyers and goalie Antero Niittymaki made the lead hold up, a night after Philadelphia squandered the same 5-3 lead late in the third by allowing Atlanta to score twice in the final 1:50 of what became a 6-5 overtime loss with Robert Esche in net.

The Flyers, playing their third game in four nights, led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 only to have the Penguins answer each time.

Gagne’s second goal deflected off former teammate Mark Recchi’s stick on a 3-on-1 short-handed breakaway at 16:24 of the second. The Penguins got a tying power play goal 9 seconds later on rookie Erik Christensen’s shot from the top of the right circle off a Ziggy Palffy pass that deflected off defenseman Joni Pitkanen’s stick, but Pittsburgh mounted little offense after that against Niittymaki, who made 27 saves.

Christensen’s power play goal was set up when rookie Sidney Crosby was tripped by Mike Rathje in the corner. Flyers star Peter Forsberg then angered Crosby by making a swimming motion with his hand, indicating Crosby dives to take penalties.

Crosby, who scored Pittsburgh’s first goal, yelled several expletives at Forsberg as they left the ice – a spillover from the Penguins’ 3-2 win in Philadelphia on Wednesday decided by Crosby’s breakaway goal in overtime.

Afterward, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock complained that Crosby goes to the ice at the slightest provocation to draw penalties, despite acknowledging he personally didn’t see any such infractions and Crosby drew no diving penalties.

That night, Crosby needed four stitches in his lip and repairs to three damaged teeth after twice catching sticks in the face and neck from defenseman Derian Hatcher. Crosby drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing after neither play drew an infraction.

Hitchcock also said he didn’t notice Crosby on the ice except during the breakaway, even though Crosby had two goals and an assist. That led an irritated Pittsburgh coach Eddie Olczyk to say Hitchcock’s remarks were an insult to Crosby and the Penguins, and he told Hitchcock to worry about his own team.

Crosby scored the Penguins’ initial goal Saturday by stuffing in John LeClair’s behind the back pass about six minutes in, his fourth goal in three games against Philadelphia.

Notes: Pittsburgh and St. Louis are tied with a league-low two home victories. … The Flyers are 4-0-2 in Pittsburgh since their last loss there Nov. 27, 2002. … Philadelphia has not lost four in a row since Jan. 8-13, 2004. … Penguins owner-player Mario Lemieux returned after missing Wednesday’s game with a flu-like ailment and assisted on Crosby’s goal.

AP-ES-11-19-05 2212EST

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