12/10/96 -- 11:31 PM


PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia Flyers just had to win two periods to beat the Florida Panthers.

Eric Lindros, Joel Otto and John LeClair each had a goal and an assist as the Flyers won their third straight Tuesday night, 5-4, but three third-period goals by the Panthers made it much closer than Flyers coach Terry Murray wanted.

``I felt we did a lot of good things to dictate the flow in the first 40 minutes, but, geez, in the third period, we need to execute better,'' he said.

Lindros' breakaway goal at 12:17 of the third period, which came 45 seconds after Florida's Jason Podollan scored his first NHL goal, turned out to be the decisive one. It gave the Flyers a 5-2 lead, but not for long.

At 12:43, Martin Straka scored for the Panthers when he chipped in a pass from Dave Lowry, then Scott Mellanby scored on the power play with 1:47 left to bring Florida within 5-4.

But Mellanby's goal seemed to wake up the Flyers, and Philadelphia kept control of the puck for most of the remainder of the game.

``We had some bad luck,'' Lindros said. ``They had five shots in the last eight minutes and everything that went at our net went in.''

Panthers coach Doug MacLean said his team got some bad breaks, too, especially on the goal credited to LeClair that gave the Flyers a 4-1 lead late in the second period.

LeClair's pass from behind the net popped into the air in front of Panthers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck. An onrushing Mikael Renberg pushed Mellanby, the puck and Vanbiesbrouck into the Florida net.

``I thought Mellanby was pushed into Vanbiesbrouck,'' MacLean said. ``Apparently the puck was in the crease before Renberg.''

But Mellanby said the bigger problem was Florida's inability to score early. ``We can't get down 4-1 against a good defensive team like that,'' he said.

The Flyers improved to 4-0-1 in their last five, cut first-place Florida's lead in the Atlantic Division to seven points, and evened the season series between the teams at two wins apiece.

The Panthers lost for only the third time in 14 road games this season (8-3-3).

The Flyers outshot the Panthers 12-7 in the first period and came away with a 2-0 lead.

Otto opened the scoring at 7:53 when he slapped in the rebound of Pat Falloon's shot from in close.

Scott Daniels made it 2-0 midway through the first period. He slipped past Panthers defenseman Gord Murphy and deflected a pass from the left corner past Vanbiesbrouck.

The Panthers cut the lead to one with a power-play goal four minutes into the second period. A giveaway by the Flyers in the Florida end produced a 2-on-1 for Straka and Sheppard.

Straka waited before passing to Sheppard, who beat Ron Hextall with a short, low shot just inside the glove-side post.

But Philadelphia scored the second period's other two goals to take a 4-1 lead into the third.

Eric Desjardins gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead at 5:19 when he moved in from the point, took a pass from behind the net and lifted a 25-footer over Vanbiesbrouck.

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