Philadelphia, PA – Simon Gagne scored three goals to take over the league lead and Peter Forsberg added a goal and two assists in helping the Flyers to a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers at the Wachovia Center.
Gagne completed the hat trick, the second of his career, at 15:40 of the third period. On the play, Joni Pitkanen attempted a wrap around that went through the crease and bounced off of defenseman Jaroslav Modry's skate. Gagne was there to bang in the loose puck to make it a 4-2 game at the time.
"It was a great play by Joni on the wrap around, and it happened that the puck ended up right there with an empty net," said Gagne in describing the goal. "I just jumped on it and it ended up being the winning goal tonight."
Atlanta's Serge Aubin made it a 4-3 game with a goal at 16:32, but that was all that the Thrashers would get as the Flyers won their sixth consecutive home game.
Gagne now leads the NHL in goals with 15, moving ahead of the Rangers' Jaromir Jagr
. Forsberg added to his league-leading assist total and now has 21 on the season.
"Peter is a refined player. Simon has built a foundation of work to go along with his skill," said Ken Hitchcock. "He scores gritty goals, and has a great foundation of two-way hockey. He didn't panic when the puck was on the boards when the game was on the line, and those things to me are just as important as the goals he scores."
Philadelphia did not play its best game of the season, and was outshot 31-18 for the game. Fortunately, Robert Esche was strong between the pipes making 28 saves and recording his fourth consecutive victory.
"This was the very first game where we needed our goalie," said Hitchcock. "He came through, huge, for us. Whatever reason for the whole game, we didn't have the right attitude going."
"I've had some games that I've been really proud of," said Esche. "Obviously the last three games have probably have been the best of all of them, but for the most part the entire season I've actually surprised myself a little bit and felt really good."
The Flyers jumped in front with a couple of goals in the first period courtesy of Forsberg and Gagne.
First it was Gagne during a two-man advantage for Philadelphia. He tipped in a feed from Forsberg at 3:46 for his first goal of the night.
Forsberg's fourth of the season increased the lead late in the period. A penalty to Bobby Holik for interference on the goaltender had just expired when Forsberg took a pass from Gagne, skated towards the crease and attempted to whack the puck through goaltender Mike Dunham. Dunham made the original save, but it bounced right back to Forsberg and he deposited his own rebound at 18:28.
The game remained 2-0 until Marian Hossa, acquired in the offseason from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Dany Heatley, cut the lead in half. Hossa muscled his way from behind the net and made managed to slip the puck inside the far post at 12:40 on the power play.
Hossa, who leads Thrashers in points with 16, was robbed moments earlier by Esche on a sprawling glove save by the Flyers' goaltender.
Gagne's second goal of the game made it 3-1 and came during another two-man advantage when Mike Knuble found him in the slot for a one-timer at 1:12 of the second period.
The Flyers continue their five-game homestand on Tuesday when they host the Boston Bruins. On Friday, November 10, the New York Islanders will be in town while Florida will make its second visit of the season on Saturday, November 12.FLYERS NOTES
Kim Johnsson returned to action after missing Thursday's game with a left groin strain and assisted on Forsberg's goal. Atlanta was forced to play the game with just Dunham, as backup Steve Shields was injured during warm-ups. The Flyers sold out their sixth game of the season.