Atlanta, GA – Sami Kapanen tipped in a pass from Michal Handzus just 13 seconds into overtime as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena, 4-3.
Handzus controlled the puck along the boards just inside the blue line and spotted Kapanen charging towards the net. Kapanen managed to get the tip of his stick on the quick pass from Handzus to deflect it into the top corner as the Flyers improved to 3-0 on their current franchise record 11-game road swing.
"I think [Kapanen] made a great play, he just kept going and it kind of opened up everything," said Handzus, who finished the night with two assists. "If he stopped skating I would probably have just taken a shot, but he kept going."
"Kappy made three good plays with patience that created the scoring opportunity," said Ken Hitchcock. "There was some confusion on coverage because their guy was just coming out of the penalty box, and [Kapanen] was wide open."
It was Philadelphia's fourth straight win overall and fifth straight away from home.
"Obviously it's going to be tough playing that many games in a row on the road, but it helps to win the first three games," said Kapanen. "It gives us a little confidence and a boost as we're starting this long stretch. We try to just focus on one game at a time instead of how many we're going to play on the road in a row."
The Flyers had a chance to win the game in regulation when Atlanta defenseman Garnet Exelby was called for delay of the game with just 1:51 left in the third period, but Michael Garnett stopped a low shot by Simon Gagne from the faceoff circle and Mike Rathje's shot from between the circles sailed high in the closing seconds.
Gagne opened the scoring with his 26th goal of the season. On the play, he won a puck battle along the boards with Niclas Havelid and quickly turned around a fired a wrist shot through the legs of Garnett at 2:55.
It was the first goal allowed by Garnett in over 146 minutes, as the goaltender was coming off of back-to-back shutouts. The game featured a pair of hot goaltenders, as Garnett entered the game 6-0-2 in his last eight while Antero Niittymaki was 6-2-2 with a 2.21 goals against average and .922 save percentage in his last 10 games.
The Thrashers responded with two goals to take the lead. A Rathje turnover behind the Flyers' net led to a goal by Havelid on a wrist shot from the high slot at 10:59, and Eric Boulton had a loose puck deflect off of his skate and just past the goal line at 13:11 to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead.
Philadelphia tied the game with just under three minutes left in the first period when Brian Savage managed to put the puck past Garnett in front of the crease after Kapanen fired it from the boards for his second goal of the season.
The teams traded second period goals, as the score remained tied after 40 minutes. The Thrashers scored shorthanded when Andy Sutton faked a shot from the circle, got Kapanen to fall to the ice, and cut to the slot for a shot at 8:26. Philadelphia responded once again, when Handzus, playing in his 200th consecutive and career game for the Flyers, found Branko Radivojevic in front of the net with 6:22 left in the period.
"I thought the difference for us tonight was our workers were terrific," said Hitchcock, who coached in his 200th game with the Flyers. "They scored big goals for us and did a tremendous amount of board work.
"We were a little down after the second period because we had missed so many scoring chances. Sometimes when you miss that many they come back to haunt you, and then Atlanta gave us a big push in the third. It's a good feeling, though, when you're winning on the road like this."
Also in the second period, Mike Richards provided arguably the biggest hit of the season for the Flyers when he leveled Atlanta right wing Ronald Petrovicky with a clean shoulder hit at the Philadelphia blue line. Richards also engaged in a fight with Exelby immediately following Savage's first period goal, in which he registered an assist.
Philadelphia travels to Carolina to take on the Southeast Division leading Hurricanes on Thursday night (7:00 p.m., CSN).
FLYERS NOTES Jon Sim was a healthy scratch. … This was the third of four meetings between the Flyers and Thrashers this season. They split the first two games, both in Philadelphia, and the final meeting will take place on March 18 in Atlanta. … The Thrashers did not get a power play until Peter Forsberg was called for boarding at 3:17 of the third period. Atlanta's backup goaltender was the highly touted rookie prospect Kari Lehtonen, who was activated from the IR on December 26. Lehtonen was the goaltender for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL last season, who were swept in the Calder Cup Finals by Niittymaki and the Phantoms.