SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)— The Philadelphia Flyers’ longest road trip of the season already is producing lengthier games.
Needing an overtime session to win at Pittsburgh last Friday, the Flyers stretched Monday night to a shootout before beating Florida 3-2 to improve to 2-0 on a franchise high 11-game road trip.
Michal Handzus converted in the fourth round of the shootout session as his backhander beat Florida goalie Robert Luongo.
“I don’t think about (pressure) because it’s part of the game,” Handzus said. “I didn’t really think anything and then the backhand opened up.”
Philadelphia goaltender Antero Niittymaki forced Josef Stumpel, Florida’s final shooter, wide and he didn’t get off a shot.
“I had a shot at the empty net but I couldn’t handle it,” Stumpel said. “We needed the two points.”
Philadelphia’s first three shooters, Mike Richards, Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne, were unable to get anything past Luongo, while Florida’s Joe Nieuwendyk, Nathan Horton and Olli Jokinen could not beat Niittymaki.
The Flyers had the best scoring opportunities in the overtime but Luongo stopped shots from Frederick Meyer at 2:46 and 4:33. Luongo also stopped Forsberg’s shot just outside the crease as the Flyers failed to convert on a 3-on-1 break with 7 seconds remaining.
“I thought we were a little lethargic during the first two periods with all the travel we’ve done,” Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock said.
“Our timing was better and our checking a lot better in the third period. We did a better job of getting ourselves into a scoring position later in the game.”
Chris Gratton put the Panthers ahead 2-1 with his third goal of the season at 4:31 of the third period. Olli Jokinen controlled the puck behind the Flyers goal and skated near the left post where his centering pass ended in the crease. Gratton put in the loose puck.
“The second one was just there for me in front of the net,” Eager said.
Eager scored his first NHL goal at 19:19 to tie the game 1-1.
“You want to score goals - it certainly helped a little bit,” Eager said. “It’s something of a surprise.”
Mike Van Ryn’s third goal of the season gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 5:16 of the second. Van Ryn took a shot outside the right circle, which deflected off Flyers defender Mike Rathje’s skate and into the net.
The goal occurred a second after the Flyers had killed Derian Hatcher’s penalty for holding.
“We were right there, we played well but we could have played a bit better,” Florida C Nathan Horton said.
Both teams had two-man advantages later in the period but couldn’t convert. Philadelphia’s 43-second opportunity up two men advantage lasted only 10 seconds after Mike Knuble was sent off for interference
“With a little bit of luck we could have won the game,” Panthers head coach Jacques Martin said. “A couple of mistakes cost us the game, but we showed a lot of character and determination and we got a point.”
Florida’s Martin Gelinas found a loose puck in the Flyers crease and managed to take a shot but Niittymaki laid on his back to stop the puck before it crossed the goal line … The Flyers snapped the Panthers’ three-game home winning streak and lead the season series 3-0.