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Straka Hat Trick Leads Rangers to 3-2 Win Over Flyers

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
(New York, NY, January 4) – Martin Straka scored all three goals for the New York Rangers, as they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, 3-2.

New York led 2-0 after two periods, but the Flyers cut the Rangers' lead in half in the third period thanks in large part to Joni Pitkanen. The Flyers' defenseman raced up the length of the ice and fired the puck towards the net, where it deflected off of the skate of Eric Meloche and across the goal line at 4:03. Meloche was credited with his first goal as a Flyer.

Pitkanen's turnover, however, gave New York its two-goal cushion back. It came when Philadelphia nearly tied it, as a shot by Dmitry Afanasenkov hit both posts before the puck bounded out to Pitkanen at the point. Rather than fire it on net, Pitkanen tried to send it across the ice where it was intercepted by Straka.

Straka's breakaway goal at 6:54 completed the hat trick.

Philadelphia came to within a goal with 21.4 seconds left in regulation with its goaltender pulled. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist attempted a shot on net, but the puck deflected off of Mike York who flipped it in for his first as a Flyer.

It was not enough, though, as the loss snapped Philadelphia's season high three-game winning streak. The Flyers are now 3-2-0 on their eight-game road swing.

"We came out flat," said Simon Gagne. "I don't know if it's because of the road trip, but we were flat the first 40 minutes. In the third we decided to play a little bit and put ourselves in the hockey game again."

Straka scored once in the first and added another in the second to give the Rangers their 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.

Early in the game, Straka got open in the slot and redirected a pass from the corner by Michael Nylander at 4:15.

His second of the night came at 5:29 of the second on an unfortunate bounce for Philadelphia. Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival threw the puck towards the net from the point, and it deflected off of the skate of Gagne right to the stick of Straka. The New York forward easily flipped it in the net past a diving Robert Esche.

"It's tough to get down 2-0 to a team like that," said Esche.

Philadelphia's best chance to get on the board in the second came after consecutive Rangers penalties. The Flyers had half a minute of time with a five-on-three, but Lundqvist stopped Mike Knuble alone in front of the net to keep it a 2-0 lead for the home team. The Rangers held a 19-9 shot advantage after two periods.

"Knuble had a good chance, but that sure was a key moment where we could have gotten it close," said Stevens. "We didn't play that well up to that point with nine shots on net through two periods. We just didn't have the tenacity in our game that is necessary, especially on the road.

"We get behind and then shake off all the nerves or whatever, and then we go out and play in the third period and it seems like we get up the ice with the puck."

Esche made 26 saves as his personal three-game winning streak was also snapped. Lundqvist recorded the win stopping 22 Flyers shots.

The game was the fourth of eight meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals. Philadelphia fell to 1-2-1 against New York, with the next game coming at the Wachovia Center on January 27.

The Flyers continue their road trip on Saturday afternoon against the Boston Bruins (1:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).

Flyers center Jeff Carter had a six-game point streak snapped (2g, 4a). … Sami Kapanen returned after missing the last two games with an upper body injury. … Antero Niittymaki returned to the lineup as the backup to Esche after missing the last three games with a mild left hip strain. Scott Munroe was reassigned to the Phantoms. … Flyers prospect Steve Downie has three goals and two assists for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. Canada will play in the gold medal game against Russia. Downie was Philadelphia's first round draft choice in 2005.
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