(Uniondale, NY, January 2) – Mike Knuble, Kyle Calder and Ryan Potulny scored and Robert Esche made 40 saves as the Flyers held on to defeat the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night, 3-2.
The win, however, came at a price as Philadelphia lost captain Peter Forsberg after the first period. Forsberg suffered a right groin pull and could not return.
"It's the same problem as before, it's just coming back," said Forsberg, referring to his injury of a year ago.
Still, Philadelphia did not wilt and held on for its third straight victory.
"I was really happy that we showed composure when [Forsberg] went out," said John Stevens after the game. "I thought tonight the veteran guys really stepped up. They were very talkative on the bench."
Stevens was also happy with the play of Potulny, who played most of the rest of the game in Forsberg's regular place between Knuble and Simon Gagne.
"Sometimes it creates an opportunity for somebody else and I tonight a guy like Potulny stepped in and did a terrific job," he said.
"We kept going and kept plugging away," added Knuble. "If somebody goes out of our lineup it shouldn't matter. There's a chance for somebody to replace him and Ryan did that for the most part tonight and he did a great job."
Leading 1-0, the resurgent Calder tallied his fourth goal in five games when a great effort by the left winger gave the Flyers a two-goal cushion in the third period.
Calder created a turnover in the New York zone and fired a shot on net. It rebounded to Joni Pitkanen, who took a shot of his own, and the puck rattled around before Calder poked it in at 8:28 of the third period. Calder even drew a roughing call on New York's Brendan Witt after the goal, but Philadelphia did not convert on the ensuing power play.
"I'm just finding the puck and staying hungry for it," said Calder of the difference between his game now as compared with the beginning of the season.
Potulny scored later in what turned out to be a huge insurance goal at 16:36. On a two-on-none rush, Knuble fed the rookie with a pass through the slot at the last second to make it 3-0.
Just when it looked like Esche may secure his second shutout of the season the Islanders made a late charge. First Jason Blake scored on a partial breakaway at 17:03, and Mike Sillinger's slap shot from the point deflected in off of Derian Hatcher's skate just 34 seconds later.
Philadelphia held on after that, though, to pick up its first three-game winning streak of the season. Esche has won all three of those, with a combined 122 saves.
Forsberg did not put a timeframe on his return.
"It happens all the time and obviously I'm going to get the question 'does it come from the foot?' My guess is it kind of does, so we will do what we can do and try to figure it out. We are working and working and working."
He is, however, not positive that it is a result of his right foot that he had surgery on over the summer.
"Maybe it's just a regular groin pull, but we'll see. It's hard to say. I don't know how long I'm going to be out."
Philadelphia took the lead with the only goal through two periods. It came at 6:26 of the second on Knuble's 16th of the season. Randy Jones skated the puck to the slot, found Knuble to his right, and Knuble's shot from a tough angle beat goaltender Mike Dunham.
Former Islander Mike York picked up his first point as a Flyer on the goal.
There were a total of 29 shots in the first period, but it remained scoreless after 20 minutes. Esche stopped Blake's wrist shot from the faceoff circle midway through the period, and later made a glove save on Richard Park with 1:20 left in the period.
Dunham also did his part, stopping Knuble's wrist shot from the slot on a nice feed from Forsberg on an odd-man rush with about four minutes remaining.
Dunham was making his first start since December 5, as Rick DiPietro started the previous 11 games for New York. The Islanders lost their fourth straight game, and have scored a combined three goals over that span.
The Flyers face the New York Rangers on Thursday, January 4 at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).
FLYERS NOTES Jeff Carter played in his 100th game in the NHL, all as a Flyer. … Sami Kapanen (upper body) and Antero Niittymaki (left hip strain) remained out of the lineup for Philadelphia due to injury. … Former Flyers defenseman Freddy Meyer, traded in December for Alexei Zhitnik, has yet to play a game for the Islanders due to a sore back. … Knuble reached 300 points in the NHL with his two-point effort. … The Flyers were 0-for-6 on the power play but killed off all five New York advantages.