for this game

Niittymaki holds firm as Flyers edge Islanders

Dec 1, 2006 - 3:20 AM UNIONDALE, New York (Ticker) -- It might not be time to plan a parade just yet, but the Philadelphia Flyers are playing their best hockey of the season.

Antero Niittymaki made 39 saves and Randy Robitaille and Mike Knuble scored power-play goals as the Flyers posted their third win in four games, a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders.

Simon Gagne netted a shorthanded goal for Philadelphia, which still ranks last in the Eastern Conference with eight wins and 19 points. But Niittymaki and the Flyers at least have been competitive over their last five games, surrendering two tallies or fewer in each contest.

"There were a lot of shots from the outside and a lot missed the net," Niittymaki said. "We changed the system a little bit. We're not as aggressive as we were earlier in the year in the offensive zone. We are not giving up as many 2-on-1s and 3-on-1s. As a goalie, that is a huge difference."

Robitaille opened the scoring on a deflection midway through the first period and Gagne doubled the advantage with a sparkling individual effort in the final seconds of the session.

Gagne, who leads the Flyers with 14 goals, stole the puck in the defensive zone and outraced three Islanders up the ice. As he approached goaltender Mike Dunham, Gagne shifted to his backhand and slipped the puck around the fallen netminder.

"I didn't really know what to do," Gagne admitted. "Last night, I had a breakaway and I hit the post. I saw (Dunham) take away his right side. I didn't know whether I used one or two hands on the stick. Maybe it was a Peter Forsberg move."

Knuble, who signed a two-year contract extension Wednesday, made it 3-0 on a rebound with 99 seconds remaining in the second period. He has scored in three straight games and four of his last five.

Niittymaki held his ground until allowing a goal by tough guy Chris Simon with 31 seconds left in the middle session. Richard Park sliced the deficit to 3-2 with 9:40 to go, but Niittymaki made a big stop on Jason Blake with six minutes left to preserve the lead.

"(Niittymaki) looks like a confident guy right now," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "Anytime you go on the road and see the road team win, the goalie is usually one of the stars. He was tonight. He looks like he is bigger in the net."

Dunham made 20 saves for the Islanders, who outscored their opponents, 11-4, in winning their previous three home games.

"Niittymaki played real well today," Dunham said. "We peppered him with 41 shots. He made some nice saves. There wasn't a lack of scoring chances. I let in one too many goals."

New York coach Ted Nolan was not overly impressed by his team's late comeback.

"I thought we deserved what we got," he said. "You don't not work and compete in the early parts of the game and then turn it around in the last 20 minutes and try to get a victory. In the third period, we gave it everything we had, but the first two periods cost us a win."

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