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Stevens Gets First Win in 3-2 Flyers Victory Over Atlanta

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

(Philadelphia, PA, October 26, 2006) – Randy Robitaille and Peter Forsberg scored in regulation and Forsberg added another in the shootout, as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Atlanta Thrashers at the Wachovia Center on Thursday night, 3-2.

John Stevens picked up his first win as an NHL head coach in his first game.

"Obviously, it's great to get the first win. The hockey team needs something to build on and we need something to build the confidence of our team," said Stevens. "I thought that was terrific, the way it ended. It really gives us something to build on and move forward."

With the game tied 1-1 after two periods, Philadelphia took its second lead of the game on a power play goal. Lars Jonsson took the shot, which was tipped behind the net but Forsberg banked it in off of the back of goaltender Johan Hedberg less than a minute in for his third of the season. Jonsson, who it is hoped can help what was a struggling power play unit entering the game, picked up his first point in the NHL.

Atlanta tied the game when Bobby Holik tipped a slap shot by Vitaly Vishnevski in the slot out of mid air at 8:31.

In an odd move prior to the shootout, Thrashers Head Coach Bob Hartley switched his goaltender to Kari Lehtonen after Johan Hedberg had played the entire regulation and overtime between the pipes.

The move did not pay off, as Simon Gagne and Forsberg scored on their chances and Antero Niittymaki denied two of three including the final shooter, Ilya Kovalchuk, who hit the post to end the game.

"I think we played better as a whole team in the second and third. We were kind of all over them," said Forsberg. "I thought we played well, the whole team."

The game was the first since last Friday for the Flyers, and first since Stevens and interim General Manager Paul Holmgren took over.

"I think after what [went] on, everyone was looking forward to getting this thing going in the right direction," said Stevens. "I felt the energy in the room was great tonight and at the same time, a little bit nervous. We didn't know what quite to expect but we worked our way through it and have something to build on."

"Johnny brings in a new attitude and a new belief," said Robitaille. "It is kind of like a new beginning so it was nice to get the win for him."

Niittymaki made 28 saves to pick up his second victory of the season. Hedberg stopped 29 Flyers shots before getting pulled before the shootout.

Philadelphia ended its five-game losing streak.

Philadelphia took the early lead on a two-on-one rush, when Mike Knuble found Robitaille who lifted it in at 1:57 for his first of the season. The Thrashers responded, though, when Derian Hatcher attempted to throw a wrist shot on net but it was knocked down in the slot and Jon Sim sent it ahead to Kovalchuk for a breakaway goal at 7:06.

The score remained that way through the second period, although both teams had their chances to take the lead.

For the Flyers, R.J. Umberger hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway with four and a half minutes left in the first period. Then, in the second, Forsberg and Gagne skated in on a two-on-one, but when Gagne tried to give the puck back to Forsberg it was intercepted by Atlanta defenseman Andy Sutton and cleared from harms' way.

Niittymaki did his part to keep it a 1-1 game, and also got some help from the post. He smothered an attempt by Sim at the side of the net in the second period, and then was fortunate when Vyacheslov Koslov got iron on a rebound attempt with less than five minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Niittymaki was also strong while the game was tied 2-2, stopping a cutting Glen Metropolit and then making a diving chest save on Steve Rucchin with 6:27 left in regulation.

Philadelphia continues its homestand on Saturday when the Pittsburgh Penguins make their first of four visits this season (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).

The game marked the NHL debut for two Flyers: Jonsson and left wing Triston Grant. Freddy Meyer, Randy Jones and Geoff Sanderson were scratched for Philadelphia. Forsberg returned to the lineup after missing last Friday's game with a sprained left wrist. Hedberg was making his first start of the season, as Lehtonen had started all of the previous 10 games for Atlanta.
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