The kids held their own against the New York Islanders, and Picard chipped in with his first two assists in Philadelphia’s 3-2 victory Thursday night. Among the rookies on defence, Picard had the most experience. Lars Jonsson, called up earlier in the day to help fill in for injured regulars Joni Pitkanen and Mike Rathje, has five NHL games on his resume. Jussi Timonen just six.
Derian Hatcher was the old man on the ice with 15 seasons and nearly 1,000 games under his belt.
“We didn’t have much experience back there other than Hatch,” said Picard, recently recovered from a concussion. “I thought we did pretty well with that.”
And when shots did get through, Antero Niittymaki was there to keep them out of the net. Niittymaki, 3-2-1 in six straight starts, made 39 saves to keep the hard-charging Islanders at bay in the third period.
Picard set up power-play goals by Randy Robitaille and Mike Knuble with long shots as the Flyers bounced back from a tough home loss to win for just the eighth time this season (8-15-3).
Simon Gagne scored a short-handed goal late in the second period as Philadelphia won a night after dropping a 3-2 decision to Nashville.
“We’re playing much better hockey now,” captain Peter Forsberg said. “We’ve just got to keep on building. We can see that we can win with this and we’ve got to make sure we keep on doing the right things.”
Chris Simon backhanded a shot past Niittymaki with 30.3 seconds left in the middle frame and Richard Park added a goal in the third, but it wasn’t enough offence for the Islanders in their second game without injured leading scorer Alexei Yashin.
New York had 14 shots in a lacklustre first period and 14 more in the second. The slow start was too much to overcome, despite 13 shots in the final frame.
The Islanders, 0-2 without Yashin after a 6-1-1 stretch, have scored four goals since the captain sprained his right knee. Backup goalie Mike Dunham stopped 20 shots in place of starter Rick DiPietro, expected to play back-to-back nights this weekend at Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers.
“Definitely the first period cost us,” forward Miroslav Satan said. “The last 20 minutes we dominated. I don’t even remember a shift in our zone.”
Islanders coach Ted Nolan juggled his lines after the opening period and double-shifted Satan for the first time this season.
“We deserved what we got,” Nolan said. “When you don’t work and you don’t compete in the early parts of the game, you can’t expect to try and turn it around in the last 20 minutes.”
Dunham couldn’t be faulted much on any of the Flyers’ goals.
Picard fired a shot from the point into traffic, and Robitaille tipped the puck past Dunham with 9:48 left in the first. Then, Philadelphia was protecting its one-goal lead in the closing seconds of the period when the advantage suddenly doubled.
Just moments after Niittymaki made a save with his mask, Park turned the puck over in the neutral zone to Gagne. The speedy winger raced up ice, eluded defenceman Sean Hill, made a backhanded deke around Dunham and pushed the puck in with only five seconds left in the period.
Gagne, who hit the post on a breakaway attempt Wednesday, has two of the Flyers’ three short-handed goals this season.
“After, I was thinking a little bit,” he said about his miss. “Tonight was a little bit different, the puck went in.”
Picard struck again with less than two minutes left in the second when his long drive hit Dunham and caromed to Knuble, who knocked in the rebound to make it 3-0.
But Simon answered with 30.3 seconds remaining, taking Viktor Kozlov’s pass in front and backhanding a shot past Niittymaki.
Park cut the deficit to 3-2 with 9:40 remaining when Miroslav Satan found him with a pass in front for his fourth goal.
Notes: The Islanders had 28 shots through 40 minutes. … Islanders LW Jason Blake assisted on Simon’s goal to stretch his point streak to seven games (five goals, five assists). … Pitkanen (hip flexor) is day-to-day, but Rathje (backside) is out indefinitely. … Rathje’s late turnover Wednesday led to Nashville’s winning goal. … Philadelphia LW Geoff Sanderson sat out with a groin injury. … Picard has two goals in the NHL.