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Flyers win despite losing captain Forsberg, 3-2 over Islanders

Maybe a month or even a week ago, the Flyers would've wilted. Not this time. The Flyers shook off yet another injury to Forsberg and then held off the hard-charging New York Islanders for a 3-2 victory Tuesday night that gave them a season-best third straight win.

When Kyle Calder and Ryan Potulny scored third-period goals to stretch the lead to 3-0, the Flyers seemed ready to cruise. They might've taken it too easy as Jason Blake and Mike Sillinger scored 33 seconds apart in the final three minutes to cut the Philadelphia lead to a goal.

But Robert Esche completed his third straight 40-save win for the suddenly surging Flyers.

"I don't think anybody likes the way we played the third period, but on the same hand in the last 2½ minutes when it was 3-2 it almost seemed like me had more composure than we had in the first 17½ minutes," said Esche, just back from injury. "We just knew that we weren't going to allow ourselves to lose. That is a step in the right direction."

Mike Knuble had a goal and assist as the Flyers mustered just enough offence to beat the slumping Islanders. New York had been shut out twice in three games and had only one goal overall.

Blake snapped the Islanders' team-record scoreless streak of 186 minutes 31 seconds late in a 3-1 loss at Buffalo on Monday and then saved them from another shutout when he scored with 2:57 left. Sillinger made it 3-2 at 17:36.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the Flyers have won a season-high three straight - all on the road - right after a franchise-worst 10-game losing streak. Even with this spurt, Philadelphia still owns an NHL-low 11 wins.

The Islanders have hit the skids, losing four straight for the first time this season.

"Last night, we played well in the third period. Tonight, we played well from the middle of the second period on," Blake said. "We need to start games like that. Our goalies are playing right from the start. We have to carry that over to ourselves."

Esche has been in goal for each of Philadelphia's wins in the streak. He has been sharp since his full-time return from an injury that forced him to miss 15 games.

He stopped eight of nine shots in relief of Antero Niittymaki last Wednesday in a loss at Florida. Esche then made 82 saves on 87 shots in wins at Tampa Bay and Carolina, the second and third games of the Flyers' eight-game road trip that is already a smashing success.

The Flyers' last win before their long losing streak also came on Long Island, where they have won four in a row.

They might have to go again without Forsberg, who didn't play after the first period because of a right groin strain. He missed 22 games last season, 21 because of groin-related injuries that are related to the problems with his foot.

"It's the same problem as before. It's coming back," Forsberg said of the sore groin. "It's just frustrating, it goes on and on and on, the same thing. I don't know what to do."

The Flyers usually are lost without him, too, going 0-9-3 when he's not in the lineup.

"The last time we lost Peter, we stepped off a cliff," coach John Stevens said. "Tonight, our veterans were talking a lot on the bench, encouraging everyone."

New York again got good goaltending, this time from backup Mike Dunham, who gave Rick DiPietro a night off following 11 straight starts. DiPietro allowed only five goals in the first three games of the losing streak.

Dunham made 32 saves and didn't look rusty despite playing for just the third time since Nov. 18. DiPietro spent the entire game at the end of the bench, hanging over the boards as if ready to pounce onto the ice to spark his struggling teammates.

Knuble beat Dunham with a surprise wrist shot from the right edge of the right circle, finding a spot to the right of Dunham's stick at 6:26 of the second period. Calder made it 2-0 with 11:32 left in the game, crashing the net to knock in a loose puck in front.

Both Knuble and Calder scored Sunday in the Flyers' 5-2 victory at Carolina.

Potulny made it 3-0 with 3:24 remaining.

Notes: Flyers RW Sami Kapanen, who sustained a concussion Sunday against Carolina, sat out. ... Dunham has made two of his last three starts against Philadelphia. He made 20 saves in a 3-2 loss to the Flyers on Nov. 30. ... Only 19 total goals have been scored in the Islanders' past six games. Four were decided by shutout.


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