PHILLY ROOKIES COME UP BIG
By Kerry Gwydir and Chris Botta
The Islanders were completely out-worked and out-played in the first ten minutes of the game by a depleted Flyers lineup, fell down 2-0 and never fully recovered in a 5-2 loss in Philadelphia this evening.
Coming into the game, Philadelphia used a patch-work lineup as they were missing Simon Gagne (flu), Peter Forsberg (groin), Mike Rathje (groin), Keith Primeau (concussion) and Kim Johnsson (concussion). It didn't look like they missed much of a beat in the early going as they pressured the Islanders, even though the visitors were awarded two early man-up chances. The Isles didn't give much of a test on those early chances to Philly goaltender Robert Esche, and were soon victimized.
A mix-up between Brent Sopel and Joel Bouchard cost the Isles on the power play just 3:09 into the contest when Mike Richards was awarded a fluky goal. On the play, Bouchard over-skated the puck at the right faceoff dot to the right of Garth Snow with Richards battling for possession. The Flyer center eventually took possession from the two Islanders, went to the net and found Turner Stevenson cruising through the slot late. Stevenson's original shot was blocked in front. But with the Flyers crashing the net, it then pinged in front of Snow -- who was knocked down on the play. As that occurred, the loose puck hit Richards and rolled over the goal line. Video replay was used to confirm the tally.
The flat, early effort by the Islanders was masked by the splendid early play of Snow, who kept several prime opportunities off the board. One included a slapper from recently-recalled Stefan Ruzicka, who zipped a shot through a screen midway through the opening period that the Islander goaltender padded aside.
A goalie interference penalty to Alexei Yashin allowed the Flyers to grab a 2-0 lead with 6:39 left in the opener. Umberger slammed home the rebound of a tipped shot by rookie Jeff Carter for a power play goal that began with a point shot from Philly defenseman Freddy Meyer. The Isles wound up being out-shot, 15-6, in the opening period by the hosts.
Trent Hunter got one back for the Isles on the power play less than four minutes into the second period. A point shot by Sopel was the key play as it allowed Hunter to get two whacks at the loose puck in front before the Flyers could converge on the Islanders' winger. The goal was Hunter's 11th of the year.
Video replay didn't help the Isles soon after that as the Richards' line continued to control the play when it was on the ice. The Flyers' center one-timed a shot in front that appeared to be stopped by Snow on the doorstep. But video replay called down to confirm that Richards' shot had beaten Snow inside the left post following a pass from behind the net by Randy Ready.
The special teams' play continued with 7:14 left in the period as Miro Satan swatted home his 24th of the season and 7th in as many games with Philly's Petr Nedved in the box. Chris Campoli gained the primary assist as he flicked the puck towards the net, where Satan managed to chip a what-look-like bouncing puck over Esche.
The Isles had the opportunity to even the game on the next shift when Philly's Mike Knuble took down Oleg Kvasha. However, the Islanders' lone scoring threat, a pointblank wrister from Kvasha just as the powerplay ended, was foiled by Esche.
As that ended, the Flyers gained another power play and managed to convert when John Erskine was tagged for delay of the game. Flyer rookie Jeff Carter scored the goal as he hooked up with Umberger to snap home a point-blank chance over Snow's shoulder. Philly goaltender Esche started the sequence by finding Umberger cruising in full-stride through center ice.
The Flyers effectively shut down the Islanders in the third period, playing defense-first. Mike Richards' empty-net goal with 49 seconds left in the game gave him the hat and sealed the win. Philadelphia out-shot the Islanders in the third period, 11-5. For the game, Trent Hunter led the Islanders with four shots on goal while John Erskine led with three hits
ISLES ICE CHIPS:
Eric Godard (viral infection), Alexei Zhitnik (knee) and Tomi Pettinen were the Islanders' scratches...
Robert Nilsson was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Wednesday. The 2003 first rounder had two goals, four assists, six points and ten penalty minutes in 25 NHL games with the Islanders, as well as seven goals, 15 assists, 22 points and 12 penalty minutes in 23 AHL games with the Sound Tigers this season.
(12) Oleg Kvasha-(79) Alexei Yashin-(21) Robert Nilsson
(81) Miroslav Satan-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(55) Jason Blake-(17) Shawn Bates-(37) Mark Parrish
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(28) Wyatt Smith-(45) Arron Asham
(44) John Erskine-(3) Brent Sopel
(6) Joel Bouchard-(25) Brad Lukowich
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(30) Garth Snow
(39) Rick DiPietro
(49) Brian Savage-(93) Petr Nedved-(22) Mike Knuble
(20) RJ Umberger-(26) Michal Handzus-(24) Sami Kapanen
(87) Don Brashear-(18) Mike Richards-(40) Stefan Ruzicka
(14) Randy Ready-(17) Jeff Carter-(27) Turner Stevenson
(2) Derian Hatcher-(34) Feddy Meyer
(44) Joni Pitkanen-(37) Eric Desjardins
(41) Alex Picard-(29) Randy Jones
(42) Robert Esche
(30) Antero Nittymaki