PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The Ottawa Senators beat the Philadelphia Flyers with a
flurry of goals, not fists.
Zdeno Chara had a goal and an assist, and Martin Prusek made 39 saves to
lead the surging Senators to a 3-1 victory over the Flyers on Friday night.
Despite a number of big hits, the much-anticipated game was less combative
than the previous meeting.
In the Flyers' 5-3 victory on March 5, the teams combined for an NHL-record
419 penalty minutes. The feud continued off-ice following the game, with each
squad blaming the other for instigating the fighting.
The rematch produced only six minor penalties totaling 12 minutes. The only
fight occurred in the stands between a fan wearing a Senators jersey and one
member favoring the home team.
``Everybody was really talking about this game and had different thoughts on
what kind of game it would be,'' Chara said. ``But both teams were really
focusing on the two points. We weren't going to risk that by fighting.''
Antoine Vermette and Peter Bondra also scored for the Senators, 4-0-1 in
their last five. Ottawa pulled into a tie with Boston for the Northeast
Division lead and the second spot in the Eastern Conference.
Ottawa, which faces Toronto on Saturday, holds the tiebreaker with three
more victories, but the Bruins have two games left to the Senators' one.
``We have to keep playing smart and not try to do too much,'' Bondra said.
``Just play our game and hopefully everything will take care of itself.''
Michal Handzus scored the lone goal for the Flyers, who lead New Jersey by
two points in the race for the Atlantic Division title. New Jersey will play
Boston on Saturday and Sunday, and Philadelphia will close the regular season
at the New York Islanders on Sunday.
The Flyers lost for the third time in four games and got another shaky
performance from goalie Robert Esche.
Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock refused to name his playoff goaltender
after Sean Burke's shut out Montreal on Thursday, delaying his decision until
Monday. Esche didn't help his case with another poor outing.
``You create your own luck. I'm a believer in that,'' said Esche, expected
to start the regular-season finale. ``It could be just a snap of the fingers.''
In the days leading up to Friday's rematch, the Flyers and Senators stressed
the importance of playoff positioning over physical play. But 2:50 in, the
At the end of his first shift, Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov threw
his fist and the top of his stick into Branko Radivojevic's face. Radivojevic
laid on the ice for several minutes before skating back to the bench under his
own power. No penalty was called.
The Flyers responded with a series of checks from forwards Keith Primeau and
Mark Recchi. Philadelphia seized the momentum and generated several scoring
chances in the next few minutes until Esche misplayed a wrist shot by Vermette
that gave the Senators a 1-0 lead with 5:25 left in the opening period.
Esche, who has allowed 10 goals in losing his last three starts, deflected
the shot over his head with his blocker before the puck rolled softly into the
``It's not a great goal. It's not even a decent goal,'' Esche said. ``Right
now, that seems to be the way things are going for me.''
Philadelphia tied it 9:34 into the second on an attempted pass from Handzus
that deflected off Wade Redden's skate past Prusek.
But less than two minutes later, Chara fired a slap shot from the blue line
that Esche again deflected over his shoulder and into the net. Chara's 16th
goal of the season was also his career-high 40th point.
Chara added an assist on Bondra's 26th goal 9:42 into the third.
Prusek, who was pulled Wednesday night after allowing three goals on 18
shots at Florida, made several saves from point-blank range in the final two
periods to preserve this victory.
''(Prusek) was crucial tonight,'' Chara said. ``He made some huge saves and
made the difference when we needed him.''