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Flyers 4, Islanders 1 @NHLdotcom

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) - With a win over one New York team, the Philadelphia Flyers got some momentum heading into a key matchup with another.

Robert Esche stopped 31 shots and four Philadelphia players scored in the Flyers' 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday.

Mike Knuble, R.J. Umberger, Jeff Carter and Sami Kapanen all scored for the Flyers, who are now two points behind the first-place New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division with eight regular-season games left for both teams.

The Flyers take on the Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

"We've played pretty well against them this year," Esche said. "At this time of the year, every game can go one way or the other."

Shawn Bates had the only goal for the Islanders, who have lost four straight and three in a row at home. New York goalie Rick DiPietro stopped 18 shots.

Knuble gave the Flyers the lead for good less than five minutes into the game when he backhanded in a rebound of Mike Rathje's shot. It was Knuble's career-high 31st goal of the season, besting the 30 he had in 2002-2003. His 60 points are also a career high, passing the 59 he had in the same season.

"I'm thrilled," Knuble said. "The stuff I've achieved since my 30th birthday saved my career. I'm really proud at 33 that I've been able to do my best. Ever since playing with some of the guys I played with in Boston, it's helped me confidence-wise to feel I can still contribute. It's a great feeling."

Umberger made a beautiful play for an unassisted goal at 9:40. He stripped defenseman Denis Grebeshkov of the puck at the Flyers' blue line, sidestepped defenseman John Erskine and beat DiPietro with a backhander over his glove.

Carter scored from the top of the right circle with a wrist shot over DiPietro's glove with 14.5 seconds left in the period, giving the Flyers had a commanding 3-0 lead.

The Islanders had chances in the first period, but an apparent goal by Robert Nilsson was disallowed 90 seconds in because the replay proved inconclusive as to whether Esche's glove was over the goal line when he grabbed Nilsson's backhander. Then Radek Martinek hit the crossbar with a shot midway through the period. Trent Hunter had a shot hit the crossbar and drop on the line, but not over, at 15:11.

"I think I got the first one before it crossed the line," Esche said. "The other one, it hit the crossbar and I fell over it. It was lucky, I guess."

The Islanders finally scored 76 seconds into the final period on a two-man power play. Bates one-timed a rebound past Esche from the left post. The goal was only the fourth on the power play for New York in their last 60 chances.

Kapanen scored a short-handed, empty-net goal with two minutes left to close the scoring.

As for the Islanders, forward Mike York said the team is playing for pride, even if the playoffs are out of reach.

"We want to win, whether it's checkers or hockey," York said.

Notes: New York has not scored an even-strength goal in the last 265 minutes, 37 seconds of play. Alexei Yashin scored the last one on March 25 with 5:37 left in the second period of a game against Atlanta. The Islanders have only managed three power-play goals since then. ... The Islanders practiced on Saturday without one key element: pucks. The punishment skate was due to their poor performance in a 4-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday night. ... New York forward Jason Blake missed Sunday's game with a groin injury. Also out with a groin problem was Flyers center Petr Nedved, who was injured during Saturday's 4-1 home loss to New Jersey.

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