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Isles end 15-game losing streak to Philadelphia

by John Kreiser
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders combined a few fortunate bounces and some solid hockey to do something they hadn't done in more than two years -- beat the Philadelphia Flyers.

Blake Comeau scored twice in New York's three-goal first period, both on pucks that went into the net off Flyers, and the Islanders beat Philadelphia 6-4 on Thursday night to end the NHL's longest active winning streak by one team against another. New York was 0-5-0 against the Flyers this season and 0-12-3 since beating Philadelphia 4-3 at the Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 12, 2008.

"It's nice not to have to talk about it anymore," said Isles rookie John Tavares, who assisted on both of Comeau's goals. "We want to move on from it and build our own streak."

The relief on the Islanders' side of the dressing room hallway was palpable.

"One-and-oh," joked coach Scott Gordon, who had lost 11 in a row to the Flyers without a win. "How long has it been since they beat us."

The Flyers have to move on from their sixth loss in seven games -- they host Montreal on Friday in a meeting of two of the three teams tied for the last three playoff berths in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia, Montreal and Boston all have 82 points, two more than Atlanta and four more than the New York Rangers.

The six goals were the most scored by the Islanders against Philadelphia in regulation since a 6-1 win at the Coliseum on Jan. 28, 1998.

The Islanders also went toe-to-toe with the bigger Flyers, who have used their size to dominate New York during the streak. Trevor Gillies cleanly won a fight with the Flyers' Riley Cote, and the Isles more than held their own in terms of banging bodies.

Martin Biron, who won nine of the 15 games during the streak while playing for the Flyers before signing with the Isles last summer, did his part with 31 saves. His best came early in the third period when he stoned Claude Giroux on a breakaway.

Biron was delighted to be able to throw a monkey wrench into his former team's playoff plans.

"It's not so much the streak, it's what we can accomplish -- how we can try to scramble things for teams," he said. "Look at what we did when Calgary was here (a 3-2 win last Thursday) and what we did tonight against teams that are desperate and looking to get points and move up in the standings.

"We have to learn to win, and win big," he added. "We have to be able to put teams away and not let them crawl back into the game. For the most part, we did that."

The Islanders gave a hint of how the night would turn out when they scored 2:11 into the opening period on the first shot of the game. Tavares won an offensive-zone draw to Comeau, who threw the puck toward the net, where Tavares and Flyers center Danny Briere were battling for position. Tavares waved at the shot and missed, but the puck appeared to hit Briere's stick and deflected past goaltender Brian Boucher. Comeau's career-high 15th goal stood after a lengthy video review.

Comeau made it 2-0 at 7:17 on another odd bounce. Tavares picked up a dump-in and dropped it off for Comeau along the right wall. Comeau raced behind the net, came out to Boucher's right and banked the puck into the net off the skate of defenseman Lukas Krajicek for back-to-back two-goal games.

"One off of our stick, another off of our skate and we're down 2-0," Laviolette said. "We lost our steam a little bit in the first period. I don't want to make excuses -- we needed to put it behind us and move forward, and we didn't do that until the second and third period."

New York added to the lead just 28 seconds later with a more conventional goal. On a 3-on-2 rush, Jon Sim's pass from the left wing caught Frans Nielsen racing up the middle, and Nielsen deflected the puck over Boucher's shoulder.

"They got a couple of lucky bounces, but as a team we can't let that affect the last 55 minutes," Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "Our desperation level has to be higher than it was today. They got lucky with a couple of bounces, but that shouldn't matter. If you've got that desperation for the rest of the game, who knows what can happen."

The Isles went back to playing pinball hockey in the second period, with continued success. Mark Streit's heave at the net from the left circle was stopped easily by Boucher, but Sean Bergenheim banked the rebound off him and into the net at 3:06.

Philadelphia began to use its size to force the action, but couldn't beat Biron until 12:26, when ex-Islander Arron Asham took a pass from Scott Hartnell and fired home a wrister from the slot. But the Flyers were lucky to escape the period still down only three goals -- Matt Moulson's wrister from the slot beat Boucher cleanly with just under a minute to play but rang off the crossbar.

The Flyers' hopes of a comeback against the NHL's worst third-period team took a big hit 2:30 into the final period when they turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Nielsen fed Trent Hunter racing down the right side. Hunter whipped a stoppable wrister that Boucher didn't stop, giving New York a 5-1 lead and Boucher the rest of the night off -- he was replaced by Jeremy Duchesne, who made his NHL debut.

"We win as a team, we lose as a team," Timonen said when asked about Boucher's performance. "I'm sure he can play better, but we can be better."

James van Riemsdyk made it a three-goal game again by scoring a power-play goal at 4:22 -- his first goal in 18 games -- and the Flyers spent the next few minutes crashing the net and dominating play with their size and skill. But the Isles iced the win with 8:08 left when Sim finished off a 3-on-2 by beating Duchesne from well inside the left circle.

Briere slid a rebound past Biron with 5:07 left, and Biron misplayed a long shot by Darroll Powe with 1:09 left to make the final score look closer than the game was.

Laviolette wouldn't say who his starter would be for Friday's showdown with the Canadiens -- but did say his team has to be a lot better than it was against the Isles.

"We needed better goaltending. We needed better defense in front of (Boucher)," he said. "It's a team sport; everybody can do better.

"Regardless of what happened here, we've got to be digging in. It's the biggest game of the year, a must-win."

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