(Atlanta, GA) – Scott Hartnell had three points, Jeff Carter scored twice and Antero Niittymaki made 27 saves as the Flyers cruised to a 4-1 win over Atlanta at Philips Arena on Tuesday night.
With the victory, the Flyers improved to 4-1-0 on their six game road swing and have won five of their last six overall. The trip ends Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
Carter’s two second period goals broke the game open for Philadelphia.
With the game tied 1-1, Carter got open in the slot and scored on a nice backhanded feed from Hartnell at 13:42. Just 13 seconds later, and after the Flyers won the ensuing center ice faceoff, Carter fired in a wrist shot from the top of the circle past goaltender Johan Hedberg.
“The first goal, Hartnell made a great play. I was pretty much wide open in the slot and took the shot,” said Carter. “The second goal I just let ‘er rip and it found a hole.”
Steve Downie (center) celebrates his second period goal with Kimmo Timonen and Mike Richards. The goal tied the game at 1-1. (Getty Images)
Hartnell gave the Flyers a three-goal cushion late in the second when a shorthanded effort. He tipped in a perfect feed from Jim Dowd on a two-on-one break with less than a second remaining on the clock.
“I just went hard to the net and Jimmy Dowd made a great pass,” said Hartnell. “We both knew there wasn’t much time left and just went hard to the net.”
With the Flyers battling injury problems, coach John Stevens was thrilled to see both his veterans and young players take control of the game.
“Our veterans led the way and I thought our young guys played like pros,” he said. “It was a solid team performance, and as good of an all around effort as we’ve had in awhile.”
One of the young players to which Stevens is referring is rookie Steve Downie, who registered his second goal in as many nights to tie the game in the opening minute of the second, burying Hartnell’s pass from the slot. It was the second career goal for Downie, who was playing in his fifth career game.
Philadelphia had the majority of scoring chances in the first period, but Ilya Kovalchuk’s leading-leading 35th of the season gave Atlanta the lead. Kovalchuk got open in the high slot and ripped a laser past the glove hand of Niittymaki halfway through the frame.
The Flyers had several great chances shorthanded late in the period, but Mike Richards missed the net while speeding alone down the wing and Carter’s attempt cutting towards the net was poke checked away by Hedberg. Later, a three-on-one break did not result in a shot.
Still, the team was positive after the first horn.
“There was a good feeling in here we were going to win that [second] period,” said Hartnell.
The Flyers registered their eighth straight victory over the Thrashers. Philadelphia, which beat Atlanta 4-0 on October 16 at the Wachovia Center, is now 23-3-3-1 all-time against the defending Southeast Division champs.
Niittymaki also extended a personal streak winning his seventh game in seven tries over Atlanta. He was modest following the game; his second win in as many games between the pipes as he started back-to-back tilts for the first time this season.
“It’s never easy, but it was one of the easiest games this year I played,” said Niittymaki. “I don’t think Atlanta was that good, but at the same time I think we played a really good team game.”
Stevens gave Niittymaki a little more credit.
“The big key for me was he gave up a goal early and it didn’t faze him,” said the coach of his goaltender. “He was undeterred from that point forward, so that’s a real sign of his confidence.”
Hartnell’s goal was the 100th of his NHL career. … Carter’s two goals in the second period were the second fastest two goals by one player in franchise history. Ron Flockhart scored two goals just eight seconds apart against St. Louis on December 6, 1981. .. Kovalchuk now has 13 goals in 22 career games against the Flyers. … Still out for the Flyers due to injury were Simon Gagne, Scottie Upshall, Jason Smith, Sami Kapanen and Joffrey Lupul. Gagne is expected to return on Thursday in New York. … The Flyers are now just one win shy of their total from a year ago.