NHL Game Summary - Philadelphia at Atlanta
(Tuesday, February 5th)
Final Score: Philadelphia 3, Atlanta 2
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Steve Downie's goal late in the third period was the difference, as the Philadelphia Flyers topped the Atlanta Thrashers, 3-2, at Philips Arena.
Mike Richards posted a goal and one assist for the Flyers, winners in four of their last five overall as well as in their last six road contests.
In addition, the Flyers improved to 12-0-1 against the Thrashers since a 4-1 loss in Atlanta on December 21, 2003, having won nine straight meetings. Their only loss in that span was a 6-5 overtime defeat in Philadelphia on November 18, 2005.
Antero Niittymaki made 23 saves for his 10th win of the year, as the Flyers vaulted over idle New Jersey and the New York Rangers, who fell to Los Angeles also Tuesday, to regain sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division with 65 points.
Eric Boulton scored for the Thrashers, whose three-game win streak came to an end despite the return of Ilya Kovalchuk after missing two games with a right knee injury.
Kovalchuk also tallied while Kari Lehtonen allowed all three goals on 36 shots in defeat.
Downie notched the game-winner when a bouncing puck off a deflected Scott Hartnell feed came into the right circle, and the gritty winger swung through on a bounce and drilled the puck past Lehtonen with 4:29 left in regulation.
Lehtonen went to the bench for an extra attacker with 1:09 to play, and Niittymaki made a spectacular sliding save to preserve the win, getting his pad flush against the far post when Marian Hossa tried to poke a loose puck home with five seconds to go.
"I don't really think about playing against Lehtonen," said Niittymaki. "It's just something about this building. I like to play here. It's one of those things where you just feel comfortable, and you get good bounces too. It's always nice to play against another Finnish goalie. Maybe it gives you a little extra boost. You never want to lose to your countryman, but still, it's just one game and you try to win it."
Knuble picked up his 20th goal of the season, and fourth consecutive score just 1:39 into the contest, as he tipped in Richards' point shot for a power- play goal. Knuble had scored all three Flyer goals in Saturday's win over defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim.
Kovalchuk then notched his 39th of the season, as he slipped through a seam between three defenders on a breakaway and beat Niittymaki with a forehander to the glove side 8:56 into the second.
Richards, though, let fly from just below the right circle 29 seconds later for a 2-1 Flyers lead. After Thrashers defenseman Niclas Havelid was sent off for interference, it took only four seconds for Danny Briere to set up the chance, winning a draw back to the young forward for the blast.
However, Boulton tied the game with 1:22 left when he circled behind the net from the left to the right side, wheeled around in the right circle, and spun a wrister inside the left post.
"When you don't play well enough, you make mistakes," said Atlanta forward Bobby Holik. "You're out of position, and you take penalties, and that's what happened. The game is 60 minutes. You don't win a hockey game on a spurt of desperation. We need to win hockey games, and they were better tonight than we were."
Niittymaki improved to 8-0-0 in eight lifetime starts against the Thrashers, and has not lost a game against Lehtonen since his younger years in Finland...The Flyers' last road loss was a 3-0 setback to New Jersey on January 4...The teams meet one more time this season, March 18 in Philadelphia...Flyers forward Simon Gagne picked up an assist on Knuble's goal, giving him nine points in 12 games since his return from a concussion.
02/05 22:22:51 ET