Peter Forsberg scored twice, including a spectacular goal in the third period, and Esche recorded his 10th career shutout in the Flyers’ 3-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night. “I think my practices the last week have been some of my best practices that I’ve had all season,” said Esche, who making his third start of season.
Esche stopped 26 shots in his first win. He was especially sharp in the second period when he made 15 saves and helped kill three Chicago power plays.
It was only the third win in 11 games for the Flyers (3-7-1), off to one of their poorest starts in franchise history. The Blackhawks have dropped five straight after winning three of four.
Esche was aided by defenceman Denis Gauthier, who made a diving stop of a shot by former Flyer Patrick Sharp in the front of the net midway through the third period.
“Our team was magnificent,” Esche said. “They played great. All of our defencemen … there was a lot of great play all over the place.”
Chicago’s Brian Boucher, a first-round draft pick of the Flyers in 1995, was almost as effective in stopping 32 of 34 shots. Boucher played for the third straight game, replacing Nikolai Khabibulin, who is expected to be sidelined up to two weeks because of a broken finger.
“It’s frustrating losing, but we’ve got to stay with it,” Boucher said. “We can’t get discouraged.”
Forsberg put the Flyers ahead 7:25 in with a backhander after taking a pass from Stefan Ruzicka. The Flyers captain made it 2-0 with a brilliant goal at 11:57 of the third. Forsberg stickhandled around Sharp and slid a backhander past Boucher.
“That’s why he’s a world class player,” Boucher said. “A couple of breakdowns there and he made us pay. That’s what good players do.”
Forsberg preferred to talk about Philadelphia’s improved defence. The Flyers were beaten 8-2 against Pittsburgh on Saturday.
“We wanted to play much tighter defence than we did against Pittsburgh,” Forsberg said. “We didn’t give them two many chances, we kept them on the outside.”
Simon Gagne added an empty-net goal with 28 seconds left.
The Blackhawks missed an early scoring opportunity when Craig MacDonald hit the crossbar and right post with a shot.
An apparent goal by Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter at 2:58 of the third period, while the Flyers had a two-man advantage, was waved off because an official’s whistle blew before the puck went into the net.
“The (four) penalties in the third period kind of took away the momentum for us,” Chicago coach Trent Yawney said.
Notes: The Blackhawks have lost seven straight road games to the Flyers. Their last win in Philadelphia was Nov. 9, 1996. … Chicago RW Reed Low, D Danny Richmond, and C Jeffrey Hamilton were healthy scratches. … Philadelphia RW Mike Knuble is out for two weeks because of a broken finger, an injury sustained Saturday against Pittsburgh. He hadn’t missed a game since joining the Flyers, dressing for 92 regular-season games and six in the playoffs. … The Flyers outshot the Blackhawks 17-5 in the first period.