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Flyers Score Four in First, Beat New York 5-1

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia, PA – Michal Handzus scored twice and Patrick Sharp, Kim Johnsson and Simon Gagne also added goals as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Islanders at the Wachovia Center, 5-1.

Philadelphia dominated from the outset, outscoring New York 4-1 in the first period. Handzus was the first to light the lamp on a beautiful play by rookie Mike Richards. Alone in the slot with the puck, Richards faked a shot, got goaltender Garth Snow to commit and calmly slid a pass to Handzus at the side of the net for an easy goal at 2:02.

After a goal by the Islanders' Mike York with a two-man advantage tied the score, Sharp tallied his first of the season on the power play when Keith Primeau found him from behind the net for a one-timer at 11:07.

The Flyers increased their lead to 3-1 after an offensive zone faceoff draw squired to Johnsson. His wrist shot from the point beat Snow, who was screened on the play, at the 14-minute mark.

Handzus' second of the period came when he got the tip of his stick on a pass towards the net from Richards and it trickled past the goal line at 16:43 to give Philadelphia its three-goal cushion at the intermission.

"He's really stepped up," said Head Coach Ken Hitchcock of Handzus. "We really asked Michal to take a bigger bite this weekend. He is a very unselfish athlete and I think that that line has tremendous chemistry. We were looking for a unit that could compliment Peter's (Forsberg) unit and I think so far over the weekend here we found something that's pretty good."

"I think we showed that if you play the system, I think we are a very good team and we can dominate the game," said Handzus. "If we stop, we are not as effective. We didn't talk about protecting lead, but we did talk about playing 60 minutes."

Robert Esche picked up the victory in net making 19 saves. His best stop of the night came early in the second period, when he got his right pad on an attempt by Jason Blake on a breakaway. Esche is now 1-2 on the season.

The Flyers outshot the Islanders 46-20, and were 2-for-12 on the power play. New York finished 1-for-9 with a man advantage.

Gagne, who entered the game leading the league in goals with six, got his seventh of the season at 11:53 of the second period, increasing the Flyers' lead to 5-1 when a pass from Eric Desjardins deflected off of his shin. Forsberg, who entered the game leading the league in assists, added his 10th helper of the season on the goal. Forsberg has assisted on all of Gagne's goals. Both Gagne and Forsberg were also tied for the league lead in points with nine entering the game.

"Yeah, it's fun. I saw that today," said Gagne of leading the league in goals. "It's surprising, but it's early in the season and hopefully the puck can go in every night. It's going to be tough to do that but it's fun right now to see."

Philadelphia won its second consecutive game and now stands at 3-2-0, while New York dropped to 2-3-0.

After playing four of the first five at home, the Flyers will now play four of the next five on the road beginning next Saturday in Toronto. The team leaves for a three-day team-building excursion to West Point, NY, on Monday after practice.

Turner Stevenson remained out of the lineup with a right hip strain, while Chris Therien missed his third straight game with back spasms. … Jeff Carter assisted on Sharp's goal for his first point in the NHL. … Donald Brashear and Eric Godard engaged in a lengthy fight with 16:06 left in the third period, with both players drawing blood. … The Flyers have now played all four of their home games in front of sellout crowds.
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