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Florida Beats Flyers, 3-1

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
(Sunrise, FL, December 27) – The Florida Panthers scored a goal in each of the three periods and defeated the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bank Atlantic Center on Tuesday night, 3-1.

Florida led 2-0 when the Flyers got on the board with a power play goal in the second period.

Philadelphia began with 1:44 of time on a two-man advantage. Just when it appeared that the Panthers would kill it off following a couple of Ed Belfour saves on Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne on pretty set-ups by Peter Forsberg, Kyle Calder tipped the puck in front of the net and it deflected in off of the skate of Belfour and across the line.

Calder's second goal in as many games came at 7:38 to make it a 2-1 game at the intermission.

The Flyers had a great chance to tie the game in the third period. Ben Eager leveled Florida's Ville Peltonen with a clean shoulder and was jumped by Steve Montador who picked up a 10-minute misconduct as well as an instigator penalty. Alexandre Picard hit the post with a wrist shot, but Philadelphia was unable to convert.

Florida regained its two-goal cushion shortly after, when Mike Van Ryn's slap shot from the top of the circle after an offensive zone face off win made it a 3-1 game with 11:01 left in regulation.

Van Ryn beat goaltender Robert Esche with the shot, as Esche replaced Antero Niittymaki to start the third period. Esche saw action in his first game since November 29, as he missed the last 11 games while recovering from surgery to his adductor muscle.

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren updated Niittymaki's injury and status following the game.

"It's a slight hip strain. He'll stay with the team for now and we'll see how he is in the morning. Right now I would say it's unlikely that he would be available for [Thursday in Tampa Bay]," said Holmgren.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," said Niittymaki. "We'll see how it goes tomorrow. I felt it at the end of the second period and didn't feel comfortable going back in."

The Flyers got their second two-man advantage for just over a minute with 3:22 left in the game, but Belfour stopped Gagne's rebound attempt at the side of the net on Philadelphia's best scoring chance during the power play

It was Philadelphia's 10th consecutive loss.

Forsberg made his return to the lineup for the first time since suffering a concussion on December 16 in Washington.

"I actually thought that line was really good at times," said John Stevens of Forsberg, Gagne and Knuble. "It didn't have the desired effect of winning us the hockey game, but I thought that line showed some really good leadership in terms of work ethic and creating some good things."

Florida jumped ahead just 30 seconds into the game. Alexei Zhitnik was stripped of the puck by Rostislav Olesz, who went in alone on Niittymaki to tally his fifth goal of the season.

The Panthers had other chances to score in the period as they outshot the Flyers 11-6. Van Ryn hit the post on a Florida power play, while Niittymaki made a nice pad save on Joel Kwiatkowski seconds later.

Niittymaki also made a sprawling pad save on Gregory Campbell on a two-on-one with less than eight minutes left in the frame.

There was nothing the Flyers' goaltender could do on Florida's second goal, however, when Jozef Stumpel tipped a slap shot by Martin Gelinas out of mid-air at 3:40 to make it a 2-0 game for the home team. That goal turned out to be the game-winner.

Philadelphia continues its season-high eight game road trip on Thursday night in Tampa Bay against the Lightning (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).

Jussi Timonen was scratched from the lineup, while rookie David Printz took his place on the blue line. Eric Meloche and Darren Reid were the Flyers' other scratches. … Todd Fedoruk did not wear a cage for the first time since he was re-acquired by the Flyers. Fedoruk is recovering from facial injuries. … Calder and Jeff Carter each extended their point-scoring streaks to three games. Carter assisted on Calder's goal. … The Flyers were 1-for-8 on the power play and killed off all six Florida advantages.
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