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Niittymaki stops 38 as Flyers blank Panthers

Dec 31, 2007 - 1:48 AM SUNRISE, Florida (Ticker) -- Antero Niittymaki needed his best performance of the season to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to their third consecutive victory.

Niittymaki made 38 saves en route to his first shutout in almost two years and defenseman Derian Hatcher provided the offense as the Flyers edged the Florida Panthers, 1-0, on Sunday.

Niittymaki, making a rare start in place of Martin Biron, kept Philadelphia in the game until Hatcher broke a scoreless tie at 9:14 of the third period with his second goal of the season.

"You just have to stay mentally ready; you practice hard and when you get called in you hope it pays off," Niittymaki said. "I was able to see the puck pretty much all night and made the stops."

After Stefan Ruzicka's shot from the right circle hit a Panthers' defender, Hatcher picked up the loose puck and tucked a forehand shot under Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

"It found my stick and it was my job to do the rest," Hatcher said. "I was just trying to get near the net, and the next thing I know the puck is there and I was able to bang it home."

It was all the offense Niittymaki would need. He turned aside 14 shots in the first period, 12 in the second and another 12 in the third to record his third career shutout and first since January 2, 2006.

"I was glad I faced all those shots early because I had to be in the game right away," Niittymaki said. "When you're not in goal that much it's important to get some positive momentum going."

His toughest test came late in the opening session when Radek Dvorek was awarded a penalty shot. Niittymaki, however, was up to the challenge, stopping Dvorek's backhand attempt with 68 seconds left in the period.

"Maybe if I score there it's a different outcome," Dvorak said. "I threw one up on him and he was able to get a piece of it. I just didn't finish."

With an empty net on the other end of the rink, a late power play gave the Panthers a scoring chance in the final seconds but Niittymaki stopped Olli Jokinen's one-timer from the slot with just eight ticks left in the game to secure the win.

"We have different people stepping up at different times and finding ways to win hockey games," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "We've been able to turn it around, and hopefully things will get even better as we go along."

It was Niittymaki's first win since December 5, ending a personal two-game losing streak. His 38-save performance was his most since he stopped 40 on February 17.

The Flyers' goaltending has been a major factor in their current three-game surge, allowing just three goals over that stretch following a six-game losing skid.

"It's just a matter of building confidence," Stevens said. "I just think our team is finding ways to win right now."

Niittymaki's performance overshadowed a solid effort by Vokoun, who blocked 19 of the 20 shots he faced.

Florida has not been giving Vokoun much help, scoring just once in the last two contests.

Panthers coach Jacques Martin said it was a matter of facing a hot goaltender.

"We doubled them in shots and chances, and he (Niittymaki) shuts the door on us," Martin said. "It wasn't for lack of effort. We just can't get the puck in the net and they get a lucky break."

Flyers center Daniel Briere put the win in perspective.

"It wasn't pretty at all, but we got the W," Briere said. "We don't feel we played our best game at all but fortunately for us we found a way to get it done."

Florida, which also lost at home to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, hopes for a reversal of fortunes in its next two games away from the BankAtlantic Center.

"We let a couple slip away here, and now we just have to go back to work and try to get back on track on the road," Panthers right wing Stephen Weiss said.








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PHILADELPHIA 0 0 1 1
    FLORIDA 0 0 0 0 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: NONE
    3RD PRD: PHI - DERIAN HATCHER 2 (STEFAN RUZICKA, SAMI KAPANEN) 9:14
    POWER-PLAY CONVERSIONS: PHI - 0 OF 4, FLA - 0 OF 4.
    MISSED PENALTY SHOTS: FLA - RADEK DVORAK, 18:52 1ST.
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1S

    Dec 30 7:37 PM
  • 27
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    RUWTbot Added 17 roots (Close Finish)

    Flyers vs. PanthersDec 30 7:32 PM
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    millsythekiwi Added 5 roots

    Flyers vs. PanthersDec 30 7:12 PM


  • NHL
    PHILADELPHIA 1
    FLORIDA 0
    3RD PRD: PHI - DERIAN HATCHER 2 (STEFAN RUZICKA, SAMI KAPANEN) 9:14

    Flyers vs. PanthersDec 30 7:11 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PHILADELPHIA 0 0 0
    FLORIDA 0 0 0 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: NONE
    MISSED PENALTY SHOTS: FLA - RADEK DVORAK, 18:52 1ST.
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PHI 3 8 11
    FLA 14 12 26
    GOALIES: PHI -

    Dec 30 6:38 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PHILADELPHIA 0 0
    FLORIDA 0 0 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    MISSED PENALTY SHOTS: FLA - RADEK DVORAK, 18:52 1ST.
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    PHI 3 3
    FLA 14 14
    GOALIES: PHI - ANTERO NIITTYM

    Dec 30 5:45 PM
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    McTool Added 5 roots

    Flyers vs. PanthersDec 30 4:16 PM