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Niittymaki making most of his chances

by Brian Compton
Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki took advantage of a rare start by making 38 saves in Philadelphia's 1-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday. 
Some random thoughts before I ask all of you to spell the last name of the New York Islanders’ backup goaltender without cheating:

Niitty Gritty -- He doesn’t get the starting nod probably as often as he would like, but Antero Niittymaki certainly made the most of his rare appearance Sunday.

In just his 10th appearance of the season, the Flyers’ No. 2 netminder stopped all 38 shots he faced -- including Radek Dvorak’s penalty shot late in the first period -- leading Philadelphia to a 1-0 win over the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center. It was Niittymaki’s first shutout of the season.

“It’s not too tough,” Niittymaki said when asked how difficult it is to stay focused as the backup goalie. “I’ve been doing it for a couple of months now. You kind of get used to it. You just have to work hard and try to be ready when you get the call.”

Another unlikely hero, Derian Hatcher, scored the lone goal in the contest midway through the third period. Hatcher entered the game with just one goal on the season and 79 in 1,021 games.

He certainly made No. 80 count.

”It's always nice to score. What more can I say?” Hatcher said.

And now, deep thoughts … by Jack Handy.

Just kidding, Derian.

Brendan Shanahan scored 66 seconds into overtime as the New York Rangers earned their third-straight win with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

Rally Nice Win -- Another game, another come-from-behind win for the Rangers.

The Blueshirts erased a late 3-2 deficit and beat the Montreal Canadiens on Brendan Shanahan’s overtime tally at Madison Square Garden Sunday night. It was New York’s third-straight win and its 20th of the 2007-08 season.

Congrats to Shanahan, whose tally was the 641st of his Hall-of-Fame career, as he passed Dave Andreychuk for 11th on the all-time list. It was a goal that also allowed the Rangers to pull to within a point of first-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.

"It builds a lot of confidence and character with the team," Shanahan said. "Not only to get the wins, but the way that we’re able to get them. The second period was kind of awful. For whatever reason, we really didn’t have any flow. As it turned out, we kind of, as a team, got off of our rhythm. We were able, in the third period, to come out and kind of get that feeling that you’re back involved in the game again."

Back In Business -- Looking to end 2007 with something to smile about, the Los Angeles Kings have followed up an eight-game losing streak with back-to-back road wins at Colorado and Chicago.

It took a rally to end the year on a winning note, but Dustin Brown and Kyle Calder erased a 2-0 deficit in the third period before Brown scored again in overtime to give the Kings a 3-2 win at the United Center.

”It feels real good,” Calder said. “It was a tough there for eight games and it's not what you want to go through, but the team stuck together.'”

It certainly will be interesting to see how the Kings perform as we head into 2008. Their first test will be on New Year’s Day, when they complete their two-game series with the Blackhawks at the STAPLES Center.

Speaking of Chicago, the Blackhawks dressed their first-round draft picks from each of the last five years, dating back to the selection of Brent Seabrook in 2003. How nice is it to see a team not only keep its first-round picks, but develop them?

Such a scenario has worked out for teams like Detroit and Ottawa, hasn’t it?


Stay Out Of The Box! -- Ryan Getzlaf was pretty cut and dry following Anaheim’s 2-1 loss at Vancouver: If the Ducks can find a way to stay out of the penalty box, they’ll have a much better chance of climbing up the Western Conference standings.

Back-to-back penalties to George Parros and Sean O’Donnell in the opening period Sunday night proved costly, as Daniel Sedin cashed in with a power play goal 10:28 into the game.

”We are taking a few too many penalties at times,” Getzlaf said. “Tonight it wasn't that we took too many, it was a matter of taking a couple at the wrong time, and they were able to score a goal.”

Nonetheless, the Ducks had chances to tie the game in the third period, but couldn’t get any closer after Getzlaf made it 2-1 with 10:17 to play. Roberto Luongo made 21 saves for the Canucks, who are 10-0-2 in their last 12 games at General Motors Place.

"When you've got a goalie playing like that, you've definitely got to get in front of him and get those second and third opportunities to get it past him,” Getzlaf said of Luongo. “We had two or three shots in a row and he was able to scramble around and find the puck."

Anybody else think Luongo hasn’t forgotten about what happened in the 2007 playoffs?

Brian Compton can be e-mailed at:

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