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Flyers Get by New Jersey, 2-1

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia, PA – Mike Knuble and Patrick Sharp scored goals and Robert Esche made 30 saves as the Flyers defeated the New Jersey Devils at the Wachovia Center, 2-1.

After a scoreless opening period, special teams played a major role in the second as the Flyers took the lead. New Jersey failed to score on a two-man advantage that lasted over a minute, as the penalty-killing unit of Mike Rathje, Joni Pitkanen and Michal Handzus kept the Devils off of the board.

Just as Kim Johnsson stepped out of the box, however, Pitkanen was whistled for holding and New Jersey went right back on a five-on-three. After the Devils hit a couple of posts, including one on a blast by Sean Brown, a tripping call on Brian Gionta made it a four-on-four and the Flyers capitalized.

Knuble attempted a wrap around that was stopped by Martin Brodeur, but defenseman Dan McGillis inadvertently slid the puck past the goal line at 9:58.

Philadelphia increased its lead to 2-0 at 13:20 on a delayed penalty call, when Sharp took the puck from behind the net and backhanded it past Brodeur. Ben Eager recorded the primary assist on the goal for his first point in his NHL debut after being recalled from the Phantoms earlier in the day.

"It was a good dump and Branko (Radivojevic) made a nice play to start the play around the boards," said Eager. "I just got in front and Sharpie made a nice play out front there."

Sharp, who was on the back end of the upcoming penalty call after being run by McGillis, scored for the second straight night.

"I thought [McGillis] was going to let up, and he didn't let up at all," said Sharp. "It wasn't that bad at all though, it was close to the boards and I bounced right back up. The way our line plays is we just try to get the puck to the goal line and make plays from there. Eager made a great pass and I just banked one in."

A wrist shot by Brown was deflected by Tuomas Pihlman at 8:02 of the third period to make it 2-1, but that was all of the scoring that would occur.

Philadelphia improved to 2-1 with Peter Forsberg out of the lineup. Forsberg missed his third straight game with a groin strain.

"I think we were kind of in shock there when Peter went out and we didn't recover in the first game he was out," said Ken Hitchcock, who became the seventh coach in team history to record 100 wins. "We are recovered now. We are obviously having to play a little different right now, but I think our team is very comfortable playing this way right now. We have to work and we have to check. We were very effective tonight."

The Devils had a great chance to tie the game on a bench minor to the Flyers at 19:20 for too many men on the ice. With Brodeur pulled for an extra attacker to make it a six-on-four, however, New Jersey failed to get any quality scoring chances as Philadelphia killed its fifth Devils power play in as many opportunities to seal the win.

The Flyers ended their four-game home losing streak, as well as New Jersey's three-game winning streak. Esche won his second straight start in net.

Philadelphia travels to Nashville to face the Predators on Saturday night before returning home against Calgary on Tuesday, December 6.

Keith Primeau, Ryan Ready, Brian Savage, Turner Stevenson and Dennis Seidenberg all missed the game due to injury along with Forsberg. Chris Therien played in his 726th game as a Flyer, moving him past Gary Dornhoefer into seventh place in franchise's all-time list.  The Flyers improved to 3-2 in second of back-to-back games this season. Philadelphia won first meeting between the two teams, 5-2 on Oct. 7 at the Wachovia Center.
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