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Flyers' streak vs. Isles powered by special-teams play

by John Kreiser
No non-expansion team has been dominated the way the New York Islanders have been dominated by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Tuesday's 3-2 loss in Philadelphia marked the Isles' 15th-consecutive loss to the Flyers (and their 10th in a row at the Wachovia Center). That's the longest active streak in the NHL -- and the longest since Boston won its first 17 games against the expansion Ottawa Senators from 1992-95 (counting ties, the Bruins went 20-0-2 against Ottawa before losing Jan. 1, 1997.

Even that dominance, however, pales before the Montreal Canadiens' total command of the early Washington Capitals. The Caps, who entered the NHL in 1974, lost their first 23 meetings with the Canadiens and were 0-31-3 against them before finally winning, 3-1, Feb. 19, 1980.

The Flyers' 15 consecutive wins against the Isles is one more than the Flyers' streak against Atlanta from 2005-09. Philadelphia won 14 consecutive games against the Thrashers -- the last two in 2005-06, and all four in the next three seasons -- before dropping both meetings this season.

The 15 consecutive losses represent the Islanders' longest losing streak against any opponent, but not its longest winless streak. The Isles went 22 games (0-19-3) against Washington from April 12, 1997, through April 6, 2002. Maybe that was payback for the Isles' early dominance of Washington -- they won the first nine meetings, tied three in a row, and then won seven straight for a 16-0-3 run before Washington's 6-4 home win April 1, 1979.

Not very special -- One reason for the Isles' problems against Philadelphia is their failings on special teams.

In five meetings this season, the Flyers have scored seven times on just 18 power plays (38.9 percent) while allowing the Isles just three extra-man goals in 20 tries (15 percent). While going 6-0 against the Isles last season, they were 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) on the power play while surrendering just two goals on the Isles' 23 advantages (8.7 percent). Philadelphia also went 9-for-14 (64.3 percent) while winning the last four meetings in March 2008, while the Isles were 2-for-19 (10.5 percent).

All told, the Flyers are 20-for-49 (40.8 percent) on the power play against the Isles during the streak, while New York is just 7-for-62 (11.3 percent).

Their failings against the Flyers on the penalty kill aren't unique. The Isles are 29th in the NHL this season after finishing 22nd last season and 19th in 2007-08. New York hasn't finished higher than 18th on the penalty kill since coming in fifth in 2003-04.

Rolling 11s --
Before this week, there hadn't been a game all season in which a team had fewer than 12 shots on goal -- and then it happened twice in two days. Columbus managed only 11 shots in a 6-0 shutout at Los Angeles on Monday, and Minnesota matched that mark Tuesday by managing only 11 in a 3-2 home shootout loss to Florida.

The only reason the Wild had as many as 11 shots was that they took the only two in overtime. The Wild's nine shots during regulation were the fewest since play resumed after the 2004-05 work stoppage.

Ready, aim, fire -- On the same night the Blue Jackets managed only 11 shots as a team, Alex Ovechkin had 10 by himself. Ovi hit double figures for the fourth time this season and scored twice in Washington's 4-3 shootout loss to Dallas. Toronto's Phil Kessel is the only other player to have 10 or more shots in a game more than once this season. Ovechkin's 13 shots against San Jose on Oct. 15 are the most by any player in a game this season.

Since entering the NHL in 2005, Ovechkin has 33 regular-season games in which he's reached double figures in shots -- by far the most in the NHL. Carolina's Eric Staal is second with seven, including one this season.

In contrast Sidney Crosby, who shares the goal-scoring lead with Ovechkin (44) entering the weekend, not only hasn't hit double figures in shots in a game this season (his high is nine, Jan. 3 against Florida and Oct. 28 against Montreal), and he's never had as many as 10 shots on goal in a game in his career.

Who knew? --
Adrian Aucoin never had made a shootout attempt before this season -- not surprising for a defenseman in an event that sees the vast majority of tries taken by forwards. But maybe the Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames should have tried him out before he came to Phoenix last summer.

Aucoin won a shootout competition at a late January practice, so coach Dave Tippett gave him a chance Feb. 2 -- and he came through with the winner in the 10th round to give the Coyotes a 1-0 win at Nashville. Three nights later, he did it again -- scoring in the third round to give the Coyotes a 2-1 victory.

Phoenix didn't play another shootout until Wednesday -- and sure enough, Aucoin came through again, scoring in the sixth round to give the Coyotes a 4-3 win.

Aucoin is one of two players (along with Nashville's Michael Santorelli) to take as many as three shootout attempts and score on all of them. He's the only player who's 3-for-3 with three game-deciding goals. Aucoin is one of five players with three GDGs this season -- the other four players have taken at least eight attempts.

Kind of unbeatable -- Jose Theodore is making his argument to be Washington's playoff goaltender in the simplest way possible -- not losing games. Theodore got the win Wednesday when Washington beat Carolina 4-3 in overtime, extending his streak of games in which he's gotten his team at least one point to 15 (13-0-2), the longest in the NHL this season.

The 15-game streak matches one by Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin last season, the second-longest behind a 16-gamer by Detroit's Chris Osgood.
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