PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Antero Niittymaki has made a strong case for more
The rookie goaltender stopped 35 shots for his third win in as many starts,
leading the Philadelphia Flyers over the New Jersey Devils 4-1 on Tuesday
But Niittymaki's playing time will decrease because Philadelphia acquired
veteran goalie Sean Burke from Phoenix on Monday to step in until Robert Esche
returns from a knee injury.
``I don't know what's going to happen,'' Niittymaki said. ``It's been fun.''
Simon Gagne and Danny Markov scored power-play goals, and Michal Handzus and
Mark Recchi also scored for Philadelphia, which extended its lead to seven
points over New Jersey in the Atlantic Division. The Stanley Cup champion
Devils, though, have played three fewer games than the Flyers, who also lead
the Eastern Conference.
Scott Niedermayer scored for New Jersey, which has lost two straight.
The Flyers have won three in a row and seven of nine.
``We played out of our system. We tried to do things that aren't us,''
Devils coach Pat Burns said. ``Niittymaki was good early. He made some big
Niittymaki, 23, has allowed just three goals since taking over as the
starter after Esche went down with a strained knee last week. The Flyers
already were without Jeff Hackett (vertigo) when Esche went down. Hackett
If this was Niittymaki's final start for a while, he certainly left an
impression, outplaying eight-time All-Star Martin Brodeur.
``It's always fun to play against great players, but I tried to focus on my
own game,'' Niittymaki said.
Niittymaki's best save came midway through the second period when he stoned
Jamie Langenbrunner on a breakaway, earning a long standing ovation from the
sellout crowd of 19,714 at the Wachovia Center.
``What this is telling us and the world is that the future of goaltending is
very good in Philadelphia,'' Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Gagne gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead on his 13th goal. Joni Pitkanen's shot from
the side of the net was stopped, but Jeremy Roenick trickled the rebound to
Gagne, who stuffed it into an open net.
Markov made it 2-0 early in the second period when he one-timed a pass from
Marcus Ragnarsson past Brodeur's glove.
Handzus scored his 14th goal 14 seconds into the third. His rising shot hit
Devils center Scott Gomez and went between Brodeur's legs.
Niedermayer scored a power-play goal less than three minutes later. Recchi's
21st goal midway through the third period capped the scoring.
``We've got to get ourselves straight,'' Langenbrunner said. ``We're not
playing very well lately. We've been getting beat pretty bad. We're a team that
usually gives itself a chance to win every night, but we're not doing that