Stellar performance in net brings Flyers third straight win
Stevens, Niittymaki and Hatcher talk about the win:FlyersTV
(Sunrise, FL) – Antero Niittymaki stopped all 38 shots he saw, including a penalty shot in the first period, while Derian Hatcher scored the game’s only goal to lead the Flyers to a 1-0 win over the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center on Sunday evening.
With the win, the Flyers close out the 2007 calendar year on a three-game winning streak and improve their mark to 19-4-4 for 42 points, putting them in a tie for third place in the Atlantic Division.
“I thought we utilized four lines a little more tonight and tried to keep the shifts short just so we’d have energy throughout, but that team [Florida] had good jump tonight, they were rested and I think it showed early on,” said Flyers Head Coach John Stevens.
After nearly 50 minutes of scoreless play, the Flyers found their offense as Stefan Ruzicka, who had been called up from club’s AHL Affiliate, the Phantoms a few days ago, came down the wing and fired a shot on Tomas Vokoun.
Following the play was Hatcher who found the rebound and slid the puck under the diving Vokoun to give the Flyers the advantage.
Derian Hatcher battles along the boards with Panthers forward Richard Zednik (Getty Images)
“It’s always nice to score,” said Hatcher of his second goal of the year. “Their d-man was holding the line and I originally thought it might be a two-on-one to be honest. I think their third man came up high and it turned out to be a two-on-two and [Ruzicka] saw that and really made a good play just to try and get it through to the net and it just pretty much bounced on my stick.”
Niittymaki closed out the game with 12 saves in the third period, which included a flurry of shots towards the end of the game as the Panthers were playing with the man advantage from pulling the goaltender with over a minute left in regulation.
“Halfway through the game I think we started playing a lot better,” commented Niittymaki. “It’s not going to be easy, with the game yesterday there in Tampa and today, but we battled through it and got a couple good bounces at the end of the game there, so it helped.”
Making his sixth start on the road this season, Niittymaki looked sharp right from the start of the game, stopping several point-blank shots early in the first period, including a mini-breakaway from Radek Dvorek.
Dvorek would soon get another chance on Niittymaki as he was awarded a penalty shot with 1:08 left in the first period when Rory Fitzpatrick interfered with him as he broke free of the Flyers defense.
Facing his second penalty shot of his career, Niittymaki denied Dvorek as he attempted to go to the backhand to lift it over a spread out Niittymaki, who ended the period stopping a total of 14 shots from the Panthers, compared to just three shots the Flyers put on Vokoun.
“The right-handed guys, you always have to think five-hole. I was thinking he was looking towards my five-hole a lot,” added Niittymaki. “I was guessing a little and then he made his move and I just got my blocker there at the last second.”
The attempt marked the third time this season the Flyers have faced a penalty shot. They have stopped all three attempts. Philadelphia has now stopped their last eight penalty shots they have faced, dating back to January of 2004.
The Flyers have swept the first two games of their current six-game road trip and in the process avenged their losses from earlier in the season against Tampa Bay and Florida in October.
The Flyers have a break in the schedule for the next four days and will kick off the new year on the road with back-to-back games on Jan. 4 against New Jersey and Jan. 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Niittymaki’s last shutout came on Jan. 2, 2006 against Boston… After missing tonight’s game, Jason Smith’s iron-man streak of 141 regular season games played comes to an end… The last game he missed was Mar. 1, 2006 against St. Louis… The Flyers streak of 10-straight games with a power-play goal came to an end… The Flyers have seven of their 19 wins against the Southeast Division, going 7-2-2 thus far… Joffrey Lupul’s four-games scoring streak came to an end… Lupul now has 18 points (10G,8A) in his last 10 games.
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