PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Jim Vandermeer has the flu to thank for the first two-goal game of his NHL career.
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.”
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 in overtime.
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 said.
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.
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 post.
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.
John LeClair became the 16th man to play 600 games for the Flyers. … Islanders D Radek Martinek escaped injury when his right skate jammed into the boards in the second period. He was helped off the ice, but returned for his next shift. … Yashin and linemates Mariusz Czerkawski have scored 28 of New York’s 85 goals and have 61 points together. … The Flyers signed C Mike Comrie to a one-year contract. He hopes to play during Philadelphia’s upcomingeight-game road trip.