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Flyers spoil Hitchcock's return to Philadelphia

Nov 24, 2006 - 9:02 PM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Ken Hitchcock lost yet another game in Philadelphia. This time it was to the Flyers, not with them.

Making his return to Philadelphia one month after the team fired him as coach, Hitchcock did not make an immediate difference as the Flyers posted a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mike Richards scored his first goal of the season just 2:02 into the third period as the Flyers snapped a three-game losing streak while sending the Blue Jackets to their club record-tying eighth straight setback.

Fired by the Flyers last month, Hitchcock admitted to some emotions before the start of the game but business as usual once the puck dropped - at least for the most part.

"It felt weird before, but once you got behind the bench, it felt like a normal hockey game," he said. "I had a card in my hand and I could barely get the names out on my own guys. I got a couple of wrong names and stuff like that. I didn't look much at the Flyers only for the reason that when you start, you can barely hold on to your own five guys on the ice."

Richards' first goal of the season could not have come at a better time for the struggling Flyers. Already mired in last place in the Atlantic Division, a loss to their former coach was the last thing they needed.

"Any win right now is a much-needed win for our hockey team," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I thought we got off to a good start in the first period but it wasn't the second period that we wanted. We did regroup in the third. I thought we were a better team in the third but we'd like to wipe out the second period."

Peter Forsberg opened the scoring in the first period and Freddy Meyer scored with just under two minutes left in the middle session for the Flyers, who snapped a club-record six-game home losing streak.

"We had to focus on our game. It was a bigger game with him coming back and it would've been real tough if we had lost," Forsberg said. "It would've been tough on John (Stevens), too. We didn't play our best game but we got the win and that's all that counts."

Goaltender Antero Niittymaki was a major reason the Flyers were able to come out with a victory against their former coach as he made 39 saves.

Hitchcock, 54, guided the Dallas Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup and Philadelphia to the 2004 Eastern Conference finals. In his eight full seasons, he has won six division titles and never finished lower than second.

After receiving a contract extension from the Flyers in training camp, he was fired October 22 after the team got off to a 1-6-1 start. He was hired Wednesday as a long-term replacement for the fired Gerard Gallant.

Jason Chimera and Rick Nash had second-period tallies for Columbus, which outshot Philadelphia, 41-22, including a 30-11 edge over the final two periods.

"That's the best that I've seen the team play as a whole, play as a one-man unit," Columbus defenseman Adam Foote said. "That's something to build on. We didn't panic when we got down. We stuck to our system and we created a lot of chances.'

Despite the fact that the Blue Jackets have a league-low five wins and are mired in a record skid, Hitchcock sees plenty of potential.

"Only because of Foote, (Sergei) Fedorov and (Fredrik) Modin," he said. "That's one of the major reasons that I came here. I know that those guys know me and I know them. I'm going to use other players that have had leadership positions to help the team get through this stuff.

"I see potential with the younger players, but we have got a good core group of leaders in that locker. I think that we can build this thing pretty quick."

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