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Flyers 4, Senators 3 @NHLdotcom

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Simon Gagne's return to the lineup helped Philadelphia beat Ottawa for the second time this season.

Gagne, who missed five games with a strained groin, had a goal and an assist to help the Flyers beat the Senators 4-3 on Thursday night.

``You always want to do something special when you're coming back,'' Gagne said.

He converted on a power play off a give-and-go with Peter Forsberg to give the Flyers a 4-0 lead at 9:08 of the second period.

``You want to play a good game. In the first period I felt a bit tired. A couple of times I had a couple of long shifts, but overall it was pretty good, especially when you play a good team like Ottawa.''

Mike Knuble, Sami Kapanen, and R.J. Umberger also scored for the Flyers, who have beaten the Senators twice in a season for the first time since going 4-0 in 1997-98.

``It's special when you face them (Ottawa) and we try to send a message,'' Gagne explained. ``Both teams know if you want to win the Stanley Cup, we're going to have to face each other. So every time you face them we know that game's going to be special.''

Philadelphia won the first meeting this season at Ottawa on Oct. 30.

Zdeno Chara, Antoine Vermette, and Mike Fisher scored goals for the Senators, who have dropped three of their last four games.

Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki stopped 25 shots, including a pair of diving, sprawling saves on close-in shots by Peter Schaefer and Bryan Smolinski in the first period, and a pair of back-to-back shots on a breakaway by Schaefer early in the third period.

``I just snuck behind the defense,'' Schaefer explained about his breakaway attempts. ``I tried to go 5-hole, but he just made a great save.''

Niittymaki said that he enjoys the challenge of playing teams like the Senators.

``It's always fun to play against Ottawa, the two best teams in the league,'' Niittymaki explained. ``I think it's a good sign when you play good against good teams. Both games (this year) we played really well against them.''

Philadelphia took a 3-0 lead in the first period.

Knuble scored on a one-timer from the right circle after taking a pass from Gagne behind the net on a power play at 6:52.

Kapanen deflected a shot by Dennis Seidenberg into the goal at 15:04.

Umberger, left unguarded in front of the net, poked a shot past Ottawa goaltender Dominik Hasek at 18:29.

``We know that the Flyers always come out hard in this building,'' Hasek said. ``We made too many mistakes.''

After Gagne's goal, Ottawa then came back with a pair of goals within a span of 1:20.

Chara scored a power play goal on a slapshot at 12:56. Then Vermette put in a rebound after Niittymaki failed to clear s shot by Vaclav Varada.

Fisher's one-timer at 11:51 of the third period pulled the Senators within 4-3 after the Flyers had fought off three straight power plays, including a two-man Ottawa advantage for 1:07.

``It was great for us to come out and play the way we did today,'' said Forsberg, who had two assists. ``Right off the bat, getting the puck deep, hustling, and getting a lot of goals, we came out hard and showed we have a lot of healthy guys. We're a good team.''

Smolinski and Philadelphia's Donald Brashear both hit posts with shots in the first period.

Notes: Philadelphia's Ken Hitchcock coached in his 700th NHL game. ... Flyers C Mike Richards was back after missing two games with a head injury. ... Ottawa D Chris Phillips returned after missing one game with the flu. ... Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson was blanked after scoring five points in his previous two games.

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