They call it new life, the playoffs, but the truth is that you can and often do take your past with you. You take your special-team troubles with you, take how you're feeling with the puck on your stick and off it. Sometimes you shake it off in time to make that new life rewarding, sometimes you die a thousand familiar deaths making the same mistakes that haunted you down the stretch. Sometimes you get a little lucky. Sometimes you don't.

Jeff Carter skated into last night's game the latest entry of the what's wrong with the Flyers handbook. Two goals in his last 10 games, seven goals in 31 playoff games, including the first two of this first-round series with the Buffalo Sabres. He could have had a hat trick in Game 1, his chances were that many. He could have put a couple more in Game 2, if he didn't whiff on pucks placed within his reach.

"Kind of snakebitten there," he said after last night's 4-2 Flyers' victory over Buffalo regained home-ice advantage. "Definitely a little weight off the shoulders to see one go in."

Hours after his coach had pulled him aside after the morning skate for a little emergency psychology, Carter scored the game's first goal last night, taking advantage of a fortuitous bounce to rip a shot past Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller at the tail end of a power play that had produced little offense. It hit a stick on the way in, wasn't the kind of pretty play that accounted for the majority of his team-leading 36 goals this season. But like the slugger who finds his way out of a batting slump with a seeing-eye single, the relief on Carter's face afterwards was of a man released from a chokehold.

Which, by the way, there were a few of last night.

But I digress. The early lead, at 4:42 of the first, dulled a raucous sellout crowd of 18,690, gave the Flyers some needed footing to survive what followed. Over a stretch that included the last half of that period and the early part of the second, Buffalo fired 14 unanswered shots at the Flyers net, at least half of them facilitated by soft and errant passing in their own end. The smell of those ugly, second-half, regular- season losses hung all over them.

But Carter's goal gave them a tiny cushion, and veteran goalie Brian Boucher made the coach look like a genius. He answered the mocking "Boo-shay" chants of Sabres fans by stopping 15 of 16 first-period shots, some routine, some spectacular, some with his team shorthanded for 6 of the period's final 9 minutes.

When Carter scored, the Flyers were outshooting the Sabres 6-3 and dictating play. Two minutes later, after a series of harrowingly sloppy turnovers in their own end, that dynamic flipped. Boucher stopped Patrick Kaleta after Matt Carle put it on his stick, and about a minute later Braydon Coburn leveled Kaleta behind his own net and was called for interference.