Under new coach, Flyers beat Thrashers in shootoutOct 27, 2006 - 2:19 AM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- The Philadelphia Flyers are off to a positive start under their new regime.
In the debut of coach John Stevens, the Flyers got goals from Simon Gagne and Peter Forsberg in the shootout en route to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
With the Flyers mired in a five-game losing streak, general manager Bobby Clarke resigned and coach Ken Hitchcock was fired Sunday. The Flyers had not played since the changes.
"It's great to get the first win because our hockey team needs something to build on," Stevens said. "We needed something to build the confidence of our team. I thought it was terrific the way it ended and it gives us something to build on moving forward."
In the shootout, Atlanta switched goaltenders from Johan Hedberg to Kari Lehtonen. Gagne started the shootout by beating Lehtonen with a backhander followed by Forsberg snapping a wrist shot high over his glove.
"I think that before, I was trying to (fake) too much and get too close to the goalie," Forsberg said. "I thought that this time, I was going to try to shoot it. I actually got off a good shot tonight. It doesn't happen that often and I was pretty happy that it went in."
Atlanta coach Bob Hartley made the switch because he thought Lehtonen could give the Thrashers an edge.
"Looking at our history from last year, we were in ten shootouts," Hartley said. "We won five with Kari (Lehtonen) and we lost five without him. It's like a baseball manager. You have Mariano Rivera sitting on the bench in the ninth inning and he (is) your closer.
"Kari is our number one and that's not to take away from (Hedberg). We just felt that the guy who could make a difference in a shootout was Kari."
Philadelphia goaltender Antero Niittymaki preserved the victory when he stopped Atlanta superstar Ilya Kovalchuk.
"I know he likes to go five-hole or high glove (side)," Niittymaki said. "I was counting on the high glove but he went to my blocker. I don't know if he missed the shot. In the shootout, players have a lot more time to think about what they want to do. I think sometimes they think way too much."
Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead 56 seconds into the third period when Forsberg banked the puck off Hedberg's leg. However, Atlanta battled back to tie the game.
Bobby Holik deflected defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski's slap shot from the point past Niittymaki at the 8:31 mark, tying the game, 2-2.
Kovalchuk extended his points streak to six games with a breakaway goal at 7:06 of the first period when he took a pass from Jon Sim, skated in and beat Niittymaki between the legs to even the score at 1-1.
After scoring 92 goals the past two seasons, Kovalchuk has seven in 11 games this season. He has six goals and seven assists during his streak.
Philadelphia started quickly, taking a 1-0 lead at 1:57 of the first period when Randy Robitaille took a pass from Mike Knuble on a 2-on-1 to beat Hedberg.
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