SUNRISE, Fla. – A different approach to shootouts worked out well for Simon Gagne, Antero Niittymaki and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Gagne scored the only goal in the shootout, and Niittymaki stopped all three Florida shooters in the Flyers’ 3-2 victory Friday night.
Niittymaki ended the shootout when he blocked Nathan Horton’s wrist shot. Niittymaki also stopped Ville Peltonen and Michael Frolik in the tiebreaker.
“I’ve been playing too deep in a lot of those shootouts last couple of games,” Niittymaki said. “I tried to be more aggressive and I think it worked.”
Niittymaki came into the game with a 1-2 record in shootouts, giving up four goals in 10 attempts.
“It feels good,” Niittymaki said. “I haven’t really felt good in a shootout this year, especially the last couple of games when I lost in a shootout. But we’ve been practising a little bit and I kind of got my timing back.”
Gagne, who also scored in the first period, beat Tomas Vokoun after faking a shot and then deking to his backhand. Gagne scored on Philadelphia’s second attempt after Mike Richards was stopped.
Gagne came into the game 1-for-4 in shootout attempts.
“We practice those shootouts in practice and, I have to say, I’m not very good in practice,” Gagne said. “And I tried to find a different move. I think the big key, it’s having two options when you go against him. He came pretty high on me and he was not really back, he was pretty forward, and so I tried to fake it and he kind of went down on that.”
Jeff Carter also scored in regulation for the Flyers, who had lost their last two. It was Philadelphia s NHL-high 17th overtime game of the season. The Flyers are 8-4-5 in overtime, including 3-5 in shootouts.
The Panthers dropped to 2-5 in shootouts.
“We got a point,” Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. “Unfortunately, the shootouts are hurting us a little bit, we’re dropping some points. But if we play like that, we’re going to win a lot more than we re going to lose.”
Bryan McCabe and Jay Bouwmeester scored power-play goals for the Panthers, who had their three-game winning streak snapped.
Niittymaki made 32 saves in regulation and overtime while earning his first victory since Dec. 23. Vokoun, making his fourth straight start for Florida, stopped 24 shots.
“It was a good game for us, maybe not point-wise, but the way we came back was good,” Vokoun said.
The teams played a scoreless third period, although Florida’s David Booth hit the post on a rebound from close range with just over two minutes left.
The Flyers took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission despite being outshot 15-12 in the first period.
Carter gave Philadelphia the lead at 12:12 with his NHL-leading 30th goal. Braydon Coburn’s wrist shot from the high slot bounced off Vokoun’s chest, and Carter put home the rebound.
Gagne made it 2-0 at 14:08 with a power-play goal. He fired the puck from the side of the net and it went off Vokoun’s skate.
“I think he’d like that back, but I don’t think that’s why we lost the game,” DeBoer said. “We lost the game because their goalie was outstanding tonight.”
Florida tied it in the second period when it outshot the Flyers 13-3, thanks in large part to four power plays.
McCabe cut the lead in half at 14:47 of the second period with a wrist shot from the point. McCabe’s low shot went through defenseman Andrew Alberts and through the legs of Niittymaki.
A lucky bounce helped Bouwmeester tie it at 17:36. Cory Stillman’s pass from behind the net went off the skate of Gagne in the slot and Bouwmeester grabbed the loose puck before firing a quick shot over Niittymaki’s left shoulder.
Notes: Danny Briere played his second game for the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, on Friday night and said he felt 100 per cent as he returns from a groin strain. “The big test is when I wake up,” Briere said. “Hopefully it feels just as good.” Briere had two assists in the Phantom’s 5-4 win over Lowell. He finished a two-game minor-league conditioning stint, but may play for the Phantoms again Sunday. Briere left a Dec. 2 game against Tampa Bay with a groin injury and hasn’t played for the Flyers since that game. … Flyers D Kimmo Timonen, who left Thursday s game at Tampa Bay in the first period after being hit by a puck in the mouth, played with a facemask. … Peltonen was in the lineup for Florida, less than a week after breaking a bone in his right foot. … Booth’s career-high points streak was snapped at eight games.