PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Antero Niittymaki has made a strong case for more playing time.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Niittymaki said. “It’s been fun.”
Simon Gagne and Danny Markov scored power-play goals, and Michal Handzus and Mark Recchi also scored for Philadelphia, which extended its lead to seven points over New Jersey in the Atlantic Division. The Stanley Cup champion Devils, though, have played three fewer games than the Flyers, who also lead the Eastern Conference.
Scott Niedermayer scored for New Jersey, which has lost two straight.
The Flyers have won three in a row and seven of nine.
“We played out of our system. We tried to do things that aren’t us,” Devils coach Pat Burns said. “Niittymaki was good early. He made some big saves.”
Niittymaki, 23, has allowed just three goals since taking over as the starter after Esche went down with a strained knee last week. The Flyers already were without Jeff Hackett (vertigo) when Esche went down. Hackett retired Monday.
If this was Niittymaki’s final start for a while, he certainly left an impression, outplaying eight-time All-Star Martin Brodeur.
“It’s always fun to play against great players, but I tried to focus on my own game,” Niittymaki said.
Niittymaki’s best save came midway through the second period when he stoned Jamie Langenbrunner on a breakaway, earning a long standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 19,714 at the Wachovia Center.
“What this is telling us and the world is that the future of goaltending is very good in Philadelphia,” Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Markov made it 2-0 early in the second period when he one-timed a pass from Marcus Ragnarsson past Brodeur’s glove.
Handzus scored his 14th goal 14 seconds into the third. His rising shot hit Devils center Scott Gomez and went between Brodeur’s legs.
Niedermayer scored a power-play goal less than three minutes later. Recchi’s 21st goal midway through the third period capped the scoring.
“We’ve got to get ourselves straight,” Langenbrunner said. “We’re not playing very well lately. We’ve been getting beat pretty bad. We’re a team that usually gives itself a chance to win every night, but we’re not doing that ^Notes: Roenick left the game with a left hamstring strain. He’s day to day. … The victory was Philadelphia’s first against the Devils in four games this season and second in the last nine meetings (2-5-2). … Brodeur has allowed eight goals in his last two games. … The Flyers’ two power-play goals were their first against New Jersey since the 2001-02 season, going 0-for-27 in that span. … New Jersey had allowed just 11 power-play goals in 85 chances, the best road percentage in the NHL, before the Flyers scored two in six opportunities. … Roenick’s assist on Gagne’s goal was his 642nd, moving him past Gary Suter for fourth place among American-born players. … Flyers C Claude Lapointe returned for the first time since entering a voluntarysubstance abuse program for treatment of depression in December.