Game Recap

Flyers 3, Thrashers 2

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:52 AM

Associated Press

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Flyers 3, Thrashers 2
Philadelphia Flyers 3, Atlanta Thrashers 2

ATLANTA (AP) -A visit to Atlanta means it's Antero Niittymaki time for the Flyers.

Niittymaki stopped 23 shots to stay perfect in eight decisions against Atlanta and Steve Downie scored with 4:29 left in the third period to give Philadelphia a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night.

The Flyers' No. 1 goalie, Martin Biron, has a five-game winning streak, but Nittymaki's streak of success against the Thrashers earned him the start.

"Marty has played so well at home, but we just targeted this game for Nitty," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "He seems to play his best games against Atlanta. He really elevated his game. ... I thought he was terrific."

Nittymaki has allowed only 13 goals while going 8-0 against the Thrashers.

"It's just something about this building," Niittymaki said of Philips Arena. "I like to play here. It's one of those things where you feel comfortable playing some teams and you get good bounces, too."

One of those fortunate bounces for Nittymaki and the Flyers came only 30 seconds after Downie's go-ahead goal. A video review confirmed a shot by Atlanta's Marian Hossa hit the post to Niittymaki's left and did not cross into the net.

Niittymaki remained undefeated as a pro against Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen, another native of Finland.

"I don't really think about playing against Lehtonen," Niittymaki said. "It's always nice to play another Finnish goalie. Maybe it gives you a little extra boost. You never want to lose to your countryman but still it's just one game and you try to win."

Philadelphia moved two points ahead of New Jersey and Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division lead.

The Flyers have won nine straight against the Thrashers. They are 13-2-1 all-time at Atlanta and overall have won 24 of 30 games in the series, including three games this season.

The Flyers are 17-10 away from Philadelphia this season.

"We're playing good on the road," Downie said. "We want to keep it going."

Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell (right) takes a shot against Thrashers defenseman Steve McCarthy (5) during the second period. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

A 2-2 tie after the second period lasted through the first 15 minutes of the third period. Scott Hartnell passed to Downie from behind the net, and Downie scored on a slap shot from about 25 feet for the go-ahead goal.

Downie's goal was the only one of the night for the Flyers that did not come on a power play.

Michael Knuble and Mike Richards also scored for Philadelphia.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored early in the second period in his return after missing two games with a right knee injury suffered in a knee-on-knee hit from Pittsburgh left winger Jarkko Ruutu last Wednesday.

Despite wearing a brace on the knee, Kovalchuk said "I feel pretty good."

"I thought it was going to be worse than that," Kovalchuk said, adding the brace "didn't bother me at all."

Eric Boulton scored Atlanta's second goal.

The Flyers boast the league's second-best power play (24.7 percent), while the Thrashers are No. 27 with a 79.4 percent rate on the penalty kill. As the Thrashers' minors began to stack up, those stats become more important.

The Flyers took advantage of their first opportunity with a man advantage. Atlanta's Jim Slater drew a hooking penalty 1:04 into the game, and 35 seconds later Knuble deflected Richards' shot past Lehtonen for a 1-0 lead.

Knuble was coming off his first career hat trick in a 3-0 win over Anaheim on Saturday.

The Thrashers pulled even at 1-1 on Kovalchuk's goal 8:56 into the second. Kovalchuk showed no sign of a sore knee as he used his speed to skate past Randy Jones and Derian Hatcher before scoring his 39th goal.

The Flyers answered only 29 seconds later, again taking advantage of an Atlanta penalty.

Atlanta's Niclas Havelid was called for interference 9:21 into the second, and 4 seconds later Richards scored off the face-off.

The Flyers were 2-for-7 on the power play. The Thrashers were 0-for-3.

"We did take too many penalties, there's no doubt about it," Thrashers coach Don Waddell said. "We can't continue to take penalties like that, especially against good teams."

Boulton scored with only 1:22 left in the second. His shot through a crowd tied the game at 2-2.

scoring summary
1st Period
PPG - Mike Knuble (20) ASST: Mike Richards (37), Simon Gagne (10)
1 - 0 PHI
2nd Period
Ilya Kovalchuk (39) ASST: Todd White (22), Niclas Havelid (12)
1 - 1 Tie
PPG - Mike Richards (22) ASST: Daniel Briere (31)
2 - 1 PHI
Eric Boulton (4) ASST: Garnet Exelby (4), Chris Thorburn (6)
2 - 2 Tie
3rd Period
Steve Downie (4) ASST: Scott Hartnell (15)
3 - 2 PHI
Power Play Stats
Power Plays2/70/3
Power Play %15.6%14.3%
% on Road17.2%16.2%
% at Home14.3%12.1%
League Rank23rd27th
penalty summary
1st Period
Jim Slater  Hooking against  Steve Downie
Braydon Coburn  Cross checking against  Steve McCarthy
Bobby Holik  Hooking against  Mike Richards
Kimmo Timonen  Holding against  Marian Hossa
Marian Hossa  Holding against  Scott Hartnell
2nd Period
Bobby Holik  Slashing against  Scottie Upshall
Niclas Havelid  Interference against  Riley Cote
3rd Period
Alexei Zhitnik  Holding against  Jeff Carter
Derian Hatcher  Hi-sticking against  Pascal Dupuis
Ilya Kovalchuk  Hooking against  Simon Gagne
goalie stats
Antero Niittymaki
SA: 25TOI: 59:26
Saves: 23EV: 20 - 22
PIM: 0PP: 0 - 0
SV%: .920SH: 3 - 3
Kari Lehtonen
SA: 36TOI: 58:51
Saves: 33EV: 24 - 25
PIM: 0PP: 7 - 9
SV%: .917SH: 2 - 2