PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Simon Gagne is proving he can be a premier goal scorer in the new NHL.
``He's built a great foundation of two-way hockey,'' Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said of Gagne. ``He's a heavy player. He scores greedy goals. He scores three goals tonight, but the three plays he makes in the third period tonight in our (defensive) zone were unbelievable.''
Gagne leads the NHL with 15 goals, and has scored five goals in his last three games. Forsberg leads the league with 21 assists. The Flyers' top line of Gagne, Forsberg and Mike Knuble accounted for three of the Flyers' four goals in the win.
``Simon is kind of everywhere right now,'' Forsberg said. ``He's putting the puck in the net, and he's making me and Mike (Knuble) just enjoy the ride.''
Forsberg had assisted on each of Gagne's goals this season before his linemate's second goal.
``It's been a great time playing with Peter and Mike on the same line,'' Gagne said. ``We got a couple again tonight. I feel pretty good right now.''
Gagne's first hat trick came in March 2002 in New York against the Rangers, in a game the Flyers lost. Since then, Gagne believes he's developed into a more complete player.
``I'm having a great time right now,'' he said. ``The last two years have been a little tough, but this year, I'm enjoying to play the game again. I'm excited when I come to practice and every game. I enjoy every game and every shift.''
Robert Esche made 28 saves and won his fourth straight game for the Flyers.
Marian Hossa, Peter Bondra and Serge Aubin scored for Atlanta, and Mike Dunham recorded 14 saves, falling to 2-7-1 overall against the Flyers.
Atlanta outshot Philadelphia 26-11 in the last two periods, including 13-3 in the third.
Philadelphia had a two-man advantage when Gagne opened the scoring 3:46 in, redirecting Forsberg's pass and beating Dunham to the stick side.
Forsberg added to the lead with less than 2 minutes remaining in the period, scoring his fourth goal on his own rebound after a pass from Gagne. Hossa scored Atlanta's first goal 8 minutes into the second on a power play, beating Esche to the stick side.
Hossa, who has six power-play goals this season, has recorded a point in 10 of 14 games.
Esche stopped Marc Savard on a breakaway seconds later, preserving Philadelphia's lead. Gagne scored his second goal less than 2 minutes into the third period with Philadelphia on another two-man advantage. He beat Dunham with a shot from the slot.
``They're good players,'' Dunham said of Gagne and Forsberg. ``You give players like that 5-on-3 chances, they're going to take advantage of it.''
After Peter Bondra cut the lead to 3-2, Gagne scored his third goal with less than 5 minutes left, beating Dunham while lying on the ice. Serge Aubin made it a 4-3 game 52 seconds later, beating Esche on the short side.
Notes: Philadelphia has won three straight and four of its last five, and improves to 6-1 at home on the season. ... Peter Forsberg has four goals and eight assists in his last four games. ... Flyers defenseman Eric Desjardins, a 17-year veteran, missed his first game after sustaining a concussion Thursday vs. Washington. He is out indefinitely. ... The Flyers have 11 power-play goals in their last five games after getting eight in the first seven, and have scored a goal on the man-advantage in nine straight. ... Thrashers left wing Vyacheslav Kozlov assisted on Hossa's goal, extending his points streak to six games.
|PPG - Simon Gagne (13) Tip-in - ASST: Peter Forsberg (20), Mike Knuble (6)|
1 - 0 PHI
|Peter Forsberg (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Simon Gagne (8), Kim Johnsson (6)|
2 - 0 PHI
|PPG - Marian Hossa (6) Wrist shot - ASST: Vyacheslav Kozlov (7), Greg De Vries (8)|
2 - 1 PHI
|PPG - Simon Gagne (14) Wrist shot - ASST: Mike Knuble (7), Mike Richards (8)|
3 - 1 PHI
|PPG - Peter Bondra (7) Wrist shot - ASST: Vyacheslav Kozlov (8), Greg De Vries (9)|
3 - 2 PHI
|Simon Gagne (15) Wrist shot - ASST: Joni Pitkanen (10), Peter Forsberg (21)|
4 - 2 PHI
|Serge Aubin (2) Backhand shot - ASST: Ronald Petrovicky (3), Greg De Vries (10)|
4 - 3 PHI
|Garnet Exelby Hi-sticking against Chris Therien|
|Marc Savard Hooking against Peter Forsberg|
|Brian Savage Hooking against Ronald Petrovicky|
|Eric Boulton Hi-sticking against Jon Sim|
|Bobby Holik Interference on goalkeeper against Robert Esche|
|Joni Pitkanen Roughing against Andy Sutton|
|Jaroslav Modry Interference against Jon Sim|
|Patrick Sharp Hooking against Peter Bondra|
|R.J. Umberger Interference against Shane Hnidy|
|Mike Knuble Slashing against Niclas Havelid|
|Ronald Petrovicky Hooking against Jeff Carter|
|Niclas Havelid Hi-sticking against Mike Knuble|
|Joni Pitkanen Hi-sticking against Bobby Holik|
|Donald Brashear Tripping against Greg De Vries|
|Mike Knuble Hooking against Ronald Petrovicky|