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(Uniondale, NY) – For the second time in as many nights the Flyers mounted a late comeback to force a shootout, but unlike Friday in New Jersey, this time Philadelphia came out on the winning end.
Antero Niittymaki stopped all three shooters he faced and Danny Briere scored the lone goal in the shootout to lift the Flyers to a 4-3 victory against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night.
“I felt pretty good about myself,” said Niittymaki of the shootout. “I felt pretty confident and at the same time we’ve been scoring some goals in the shootout lately, so that always give you a confidence boost too.”
With the victory, Philadelphia improves its record to 40-28-11 for 91 points and remains in the seventh slot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins.
The Flyers are also one point behind the Ottawa Senators for the fifth seed and have the same number of points as the New York Rangers, who own the sixth spot.
With the Islanders failing on all three attempts the stage was set for Briere, who faked out and poked a back hand shot past New York goaltender Wade Dubielewicz to earn the shootout victory and a critical two points in the standings.
“It might be the gutsiest effort of the year,” said Flyers Head Coach John Stevens of how the team rallied. “We’ve had a lot of games where we showed a lot of resilience and we had all kinds of pressure on them, but they make it 2-0, so you think we’re going to go away, but we don’t.”
Mike Richards put forth another great effort for the Flyers with an assist as well as scoring the game-tying goal with under five minutes left to play in regulation to force overtime.
“It’s big for us,” said Richards of the team’s confidence lately. “It’s a big momentum turner to know that you can come back at the end of games. You run into a hot goaltender and sometimes that’s the difference, but our goaltender answered the bell.”
Niittymaki turned aside 27 of the Islanders’ 30 shots, however the real work came in overtime when the Islanders had two power plays and kept pressure on the Flyers the entire time, firing a total of five shots on net.
“It was kind of fun,” smiled Niittymaki when asked about the two penalty kills in overtime. “It’s not the situation you want to be in, but at the same time, you already have a point, so the pressure isn’t as big as it would be in regulation, but that makes it fun this time of year.”
The Flyers faced a 2-0 deficit after an unlikely bounce found Islanders’ forward Richard Park all alone with a wide open net and a nice tic-tac-toe passing play resulted in a Blake Comeau goal at 12:17 of the second period.
Briere kicked off the Flyers’ comeback with his 31st goal of the year, but admits that it was a total team effort that allowed Philadelphia to throw a season-high 54 shots at Dubielewicz, including 23 shots in the second period alone (two shy of the franchise record of 25).
“We are seeing the guys that are putting the points up on the scoreboard, but there are a lot of guys that have stepped up their play,” said Briere. “I just like the character of this team. I know it has been questioned a lot this year, but when everything is on the line this team has been showing up, so it’s exciting to see.”
Joffrey Lupul added a goal in the contest, ending a nine-game goal-scoring drought, while Patrick Thoresen posted two assists on the night to record his first multi-point game as a Flyer.
The Flyers closed out their season series with the Islanders with a 7-1-0 record, after going 2-5-1 in 2006-07.
Up next, the Flyers play their final game on the road this season when they take on the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 2 (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Philadelphia owns the season series over the Penguins (4-2-0), but has dropped their last two meetings.
Vaclav Prospal missed his first game since coming over from Tampa Bay due to the flu… The Flyers have scored nine power-play goals in the last four games against the Islanders… Flyers improved their mark to 9-18-5 when trailing after the first period… Briere extended his point-streak to six games (5G,3A) and has posted at least a point in 12 of his last 13 games… Richards has a six-game scoring streak (4G,3A) and has recorded at least a point in seven of his last eight games.
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