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Knuble's late heroics lead Flyers over Thrashers

PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Thrashers thought they

finally might solve Antero Niittymaki and the Philadelphia

Flyers. But then Mike Knuble took over.

Knuble scored twice in the second half of the third period as

the Flyers squandered a three-goal lead before posting a 5-3

victory over the Thrashers on Wednesday.

Scott Hartnell, Darroll Powe and defenseman Randy Jones also

tallied while All-Star Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne each notched

a pair of assists for Philadelphia, which extended its winning

streak against Atlanta to 13 games.

"It was big to come away with these two points," Jones said.

"It's a team that's below us in the standings, and those games

are always important."

Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves in improving his career record

vs. the Thrashers to 12-0-0.

"I don't know what it is," the Finn said. "It's just one of

those things that just happens. It's been close a couple times

this year. The last game, they tied it up in the third and we

were able to win it. You never know, but hopefully we can keep

winning these games. I'll enjoy it."

Eric Perrin, captain Ilya Kovalchuk and Chris Thorburn scored

for Atlanta, which had its three-game winning streak snapped.

"It's like deja vu," Thrashers coach John Anderson said. "It's

identical to the last game we played here, and it's unfortunate.

We hit three goalposts, missed on a round of breakaways. We

were creating chances. We just need to get a little tighter in

our own zone - it might have meant the difference."

Trailing, 3-0, after two periods, things were looking bleak for

the Thrashers, who entered with just on regulation win in 17

all-time visits to the City of Brotherly Love. But Perrin got

Atlanta on the scoreboard at 4:42 of the third, and Kovalchuk

and Thorburn scored 61 seconds apart midway through the session

to forge a 3-3 tie and silence the crowd at the Wachovia Center.

"We made a commitment to play our system and get pucks to the

net," Thorburn said. "You saw what we can do when everybody is

on the same page and we make simple plays. We were able to get

the pucks through."

"To see a three-goal lead evaporate like that going into (the

All-Star) break was the last thing we wanted to see,'

Philadelphia coach John Stevens said.

Determined not to suffer a heartbreaking loss in their last game

before the break, the Flyers reclaimed the lead with 7:48

remaining. After his first shot from the right faceoff circle

was denied by Kari Lehtonen, Knuble grabbed his own rebound and

beat the Finnish goaltender from the right side of the net for

his 17th goal of the season.

"It felt like a normal attack, but I think our guys read the

play differently, and Knuble was by himself," Lehtonen said. "I

was able to make the first save, but I didn't see where the puck

went. He saw the puck and was able to get it into the net."

"I'm thankful that we stepped up and came right back and scored

a goal," Stevens said.

Flyers captain Mike Richards was thrilled to see Knuble put his

team back in front, for a somewhat selfish reason.

"The first goal (by Atlanta) was my fault," Richards admitted.

"It kind of got the ball rolling the other way. It was my

fault. I turned the puck over."

Richards also was not shocked Philadelphia was able to overcome

the lapse.

"We've been in that situation before, where we've blown leads

and given up goals early in the game," he said. "It wasn't

surprising that we were able to come back."

After Niittymaki made several superb saves, Knuble completed his

fourth two-goal performance of the season by depositing the puck

into an empty net with 41 seconds to go.

"If bad things happen, you just go out and try to do something

positive and try and accomplish something," Knuble said. "We're

still in control of the game. We were playing well. We just

had some lackluster play there for 10 minutes in the third."

Hartnell opened the scoring at 9:54 of the first.

From along the left wing boards in his own zone, Todd White

attempted a pass that hit the skate of Carter. The puck went

right to Hartnell, who deked to his backhand before wrapping it

around the outstretched right leg of Lehtonen for his 17th of

the campaign.

Powe doubled the lead with 2:05 left in the session, putting a

backhander past Lehtonen from the low slot after receiving a

pass from above the left circle by Scottie Upshall.

"I thought that (fourth) line was terrific," Stevens said. "I

thought they gave us a lot of energy. They made a lot of quick

plays, created offense and had energy all the time. ... We need

them to step up and fill the void and look at it as an

opportunity, and I thought they did."

Jones made it 3-0 just 1:44 into the middle period, when he

lifted a backhander into the net from below the right circle for

his first tally of the season.

Perrin began Atlanta's comeback by grabbing a loose puck and

beating Niittymaki to the stick side.

"We've had a habit now of giving one up early in the third in

tight games," Knuble said. "It's because the break's coming up

and you're kind of looking past that third period and not taking

care of your play on the ice."

Kovalchuk scored on a wrist shot from the right circle, and

Thorburn converted a breakaway chance, firing a low shot to the

glove side of Niittymaki to knot the contest.

"I just happened to get in front of Jones' shot," Thorburn said

of creating the breakaway. "It popped out to the neutral zone

and I just skated. I didn't really think too much. I just shot

it and it went into the net."

Lehtonen turned aside 28 shots.



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