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Power-play goals leads Flyers past Penguins

by Brian Compton
The Philadelphia Flyers moved one day closer to landing the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference on Sunday afternoon.

Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell both scored on the power play, handing the Pittsburgh Penguins their first regulation loss in a month in a 3-1 decision at Mellon Arena. It was a huge win for the Flyers, who moved two points ahead of Pittsburgh in the conference standings. Philadelphia also has three games in hand on the Pens, who handed the Flyers seven power plays.

''They clicked on the power play, they won the power play and the special teams part of the game, which is a big factor,'' Pittsburgh interim coach Dan Bylsma said.

Philadelphia ranks in the top six of the League in both power-play and penalty-kill percentage and also leads the NHL in shorthanded goals. The Flyers haven't allowed a shorthanded goal all season. Martin Biron made 27 saves for Philadelphia, which has 88 points with 11 games to go.

''Obviously, (the power play) was big tonight,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said. ''It gives us an early lead, which I thought was important. The penalty kill (also) did an outstanding job.''

The Flyers' first power-play goal of the day came just 5:19 into the game, when Gagne notched his 29th tally of the season. After Bill Guerin was whistled for hooking, Gagne collected a loose puck near the left faceoff circle and ripped a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 17 of 19 shots.

Hartnell put Philadelphia up by a pair when he scored a power-play goal of his own at 2:54 of the second period. With defenseman Hal Gill in the box for tripping, Hartnell redirected Jeff Carter's shot from the right circle past Fleury for his 27th goal of the season.

The goal was briefly reviewed to make sure Hartnell did not kick the puck over the goal line.

''(Daniel Briere) made a good play going wide, fed (Carter), and I don't know if he tried to shoot it or if he knew I was backdoor and had my stick and my skates kind of angled toward the net and was able to find my skate and go in,'' Hartnell said. ''I definitely didn't kick it, so it was a big relief when (the referee) pointed to center ice.''

Kris Letang gave the Penguins life when he scored on the power play midway through the third period. After Briere was nailed for slashing, Letang took a pass from Sidney Crosby and beat Biron for his eighth goal of the season with 9:58 remaining. Pittsburgh went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

Crosby extended his personal point streak to 13 games with his NHL-high 32nd power play assist. Evgeni Malkin, who also had an assist on Letang's goal, has eight points in his last three games and 105 this season. However, the Flyers managed to hold both star forwards without a shot on goal. Pittsburgh was held to just seven shots in the third after recording 21 through the first two periods.

''I thought we did a pretty good job carrying the play for most of the game,'' Crosby said. ''Unfortunately we couldn't execute, but that happens sometimes against a good team. We'll just move on.''

Hartnell was proud of his team's defensive efforts against Crosby and Malkin, who have combined for 199 points this season.

''That's pretty good, you know, to face the top two scorers in the league and keep them to the outside, keep them from shooting the puck,'' Hartnell said.

Regardless of who finishes fourth in the East, Sunday's match could very well be a first-round playoff preview. Pittsburgh, which was 8-1-1 in its previous 10 home games, won four of six meetings against Philadelphia this season.

 
 
Counting last year's Eastern Conference final, the Pens had won eight straight against the Flyers in the Steel City.

''It's the regular season; the playoffs are a different beast,'' Biron said. ''We were tight in the standings, so this was a big game.''

Material from wire services was used in this report.



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