PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Jim Vandermeer has the flu to thank for the first
two-goal game of his NHL career.
With fellow rookie defenseman Joni Pitkanen sidelined, Vandermeer stepped
into the Philadelphia Flyers' lineup and filled up the scoresheet.
He scored the tying goal in the second period and put the Flyers ahead in
the third of a 3-1 victory Saturday over the New York Islanders. Vandermeer
played in Pitkanen's absence Thursday, when Pitkanen was a healthy scratch.
"We both know that it's a numbers game," Vandermeer said. "We take it day
by day and we're not really sure who's in and who's not."
Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock was impressed by Vandermeer's play and resolve,
but it wouldn't have been enough to get into the game if Pitkanen was well.
"We have to make a decision on whether he is going to stay in the lineup
because he is emerging," Hitchcock said. "Every game he plays, he is getting
better and better."
Simon Gagne added a power-play goal for Philadelphia with 7:26 left and
Robert Esche made 18 saves in his return from injury.
Philadelphia snapped a season-worst, five-game winless streak (0-1-2-2). The
Flyers, the last team to lose at home, had dropped three straight there -- two
Alexei Yashin scored his sixth goal in eight games for the Islanders.
Vandermeer entered his 44th NHL game with only three goals and left with his
first multipoint game.
"It was definitely exciting. I didn't think I'd ever do that," Vandermeer
Jeremy Roenick carried the puck with speed and took it to the bottom of the
left circle in front of Islanders goalie Garth Snow. Roenick then curled back
and made a pass above the circle to Vandermeer, who sent a long shot through
traffic to make it 2-1 at 6:18 of the third.
"He makes $8 million, he should make plays like that," Snow said of
Roenick's assist gave him 635 in his career, snapping a tie Neal Broten and
moving him into fifth place on the career list of American-born players. He
also assisted on Gagne's first goal in 11 games.
The Flyers tied it with 3:08 left in the second period when Vandermeer took
a caromed pass off the left-side boards and sent a shot just inside the right
The Islanders dropped their second straight following a 4-0-0-1 stretch that
came on the heels of a seven-game losing streak. They looked better than in a
4-3 loss at the New York Rangers on Thursday, but not enough to win their first
road game since Nov. 19 at Florida (0-5-0-1).
"They played pretty damn well until Madison Square Garden, and I was
dismayed by that fluff," Islanders general manager Mike Milbury said before
the game. "We show up and play hard some nights, and then it seems like a
struggle to do it."
The disparity between how the Islanders play at home compared to the road is
striking. At Nassau Coliseum they are 11-6 but only 2-9-2-1 away.
"It seems like at home we play pretty hard," forward Arron Asham said.
"Then we come on the road and play hard for a period, period and a half, but
that's not enough to win."
Disparity on the power play is another problem. New York failed on its two
chances. The Islanders only allowed one power-play goal, but they were
short-handed six times.
"We need to grow up and be mature in our game and play 60 minutes,"
Islanders captain Michael Peca said.
Esche missed seven games after straining his groin in warmups before a Dec.
6 game at Boston. In his absence, Jeff Hackett went 1-3-3 and allowed 17 goals.
Esche is undefeated at home (8-0-1).
"I wasn't overly enthused the way I played," Esche said. "I was excited
to get back in."
The Flyers fell behind 1-0 for the 12th straight game when Yashin scored
1:56 into the second period.
Snow finished with 16 saves.