Mike York and Simon Gagne scored goals in a 57-second span early in the third period to help Philadelphia beat Atlanta 5-2 on Saturday night, extending the Flyers’ winning streak against the Thrashers to five games.
Antero Nittymaki stopped 32 shots, allowing only one goal, to move to 6-0 against Atlanta with his second win over the Thrashers in a week. Nittymaki led the Flyers to a 2-1 win in Atlanta last Sunday.
Atlanta led 2-1 entering the third period.
“We’ve lost two games out of the last four to the worst team in the National Hockey League,” said Atlanta’s Bobby Holik. “It’s not just the third period. We’ve got problems.”
One obvious problem is the Thrashers’ special teams.
The Thrashers were 0-for-4 on the power play, leaving them without a power-play goal in six of their last seven games.
Philadelphia is last in the NHL with 33 points.
Though they’ve only won two of their last 13 games—both in Atlanta—the Flyers say they’ve played better in the last six games, when they have only one loss in regulation.
“It’s a matter of how we play. We believe in what we’re doing out there,” said Flyers captain Peter Forsberg, who had an assist. “It’s just one game tonight, but especially in the last six games I really think we’re believing in what we’re doing. We know the system is working better and we know we can play with any team.”
Added Forsberg: “We’re playing like we did last year. We’re moving. We’re having fun. We’re confident.”
The Flyers appeared to gain confidence with Nittymaki in net.
“Things just go well for some reason,” Nittymaki said of his success against the Thrashers. “I don’t know why. I’d like to know. I haven’t figured that out yet. … I just felt really good out there against them.”
Nittymaki’s only complaint is he doesn’t have more opportunities against Atlanta.
“We play them only four times,” he said. “I’d like to play them eight times.”
York scored the go-ahead goal 2:24 into the third period, less than a minute after Gagne tied it off an assist from Forsberg.
York’s goal was the subject of a lengthy review while officials confirmed his stick wasn’t too high when he took an awkward bunt-like swing, hitting the puck off the shaft of his stick into the net.
Jeff Carter’s short-handed goal on a breakaway with about 6 minutes left pushed the lead to 4-2. With 1:04 left and Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen watching from the bench, Alexei Zhitnik added an empty-net goal.
Flyers coach John Stevens opened the game with Robert Esche in net, but Esche left with a stiff neck 6:59 into the game.
The Flyers took a 1-0 lead only 2:41 into the game when Dimitry Afanasenkov took advantage of the opening left when Lehtonen was slow returning after leaving the net. Afanasenkov took a pass from Todd Fedoruk and scored from the high slot—his second goal in two games.
Esche faced only five shots, allowing Ilya Kovalchuk’s breakaway goal 3:36 into the game, before he was lifted for Nittymaki 6:59 into the game with the score 1-1.
Jim Slater gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead 3:37 into the second period with his fifth goal.
“In the second period, that’s where we should have put the game away,” said Atlanta coach Bob Hartley.
Instead, Nittymaki shut out the Thrashers the rest of the way.
RW Darren Haydar, signed from AHL Chicago on Friday when J.P. Vigier was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury, saw his first playing time for Atlanta. Haydar was leading the AHL with 89 points. … Kovalchuk’s goal was his 30th of the season. … The Thrashers drew only one penalty, a hooking minor on Shane Hnidy 15:48 into the second period. … The game was Atlanta’s sixth sellout of the season.