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NHL Game Summary - Ottawa at Philadelphia

(Thursday, December 22nd)

Final Score: Philadelphia 4, Ottawa 3

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Simon Gagne recorded a goal and an assist in his return to the lineup to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators in a battle of Eastern Conference rivals at the Wachovia Center.

Mike Knuble, Sami Kapanen and R.J. Umberger also scored for the Flyers, who welcomed back Gagne after he missed the last five games with a groin injury. Gagne's goal was his 24th of the season, which places him in a tie for the overall goal scoring lead in the NHL with Carolina's Eric Staal.

Antero Niittymaki made 25 saves for the Flyers, who have won four of their last six games. Peter Forsberg added a pair of assists in the victory.

"We knew what was at stake here," said Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. "We need to win these games if we are going to improve."

Antoine Vermette, Zdeno Chara and Mike Fisher scored for Ottawa, which nearly came back from a four-goal deficit but lost for the second time in as many games to the Flyers this season. Philadelphia won 5-3 on October 30 in Ontario.

Dominik Hasek allowed four goals on 30 shots in the losing effort. The Senators, who entered the game as the top team in the East, lost in regulation for only the sixth time this season. However, they have won only twice in their last seven games (2-2-3).

These two teams are certainly not strangers. In both the 2002 and 2003 postseason, Ottawa knocked the Flyers out, leading to a benchmark game on March 5, 2004. In that contest, in Philadelphia, the teams combined for an NHL-record 419 penalty minutes, most of which came in the final two minutes when nearly every member of each side fought, including the goaltenders. The teams did not meet in that playoff season.

Philadelphia took control with three goals in the opening period.

A penalty on Ottawa led to the first Flyers' goal when the top line of Knuble-Forsberg-Gagne went to work down low in the offensive zone. Forsberg held control along the right half-wall and passed to Gagne along the goal line. Gagne then quickly fed out to Knuble along the rim of the right circle and Knuble's one-timer beat Hasek at 6:52.

With 4:56 remaining in the first, a nice deflection by Kapanen made it 2-0. Dennis Seidenberg fired a wrist shot from the left point and Kapanen, stationed near the base of the left circle, redirected the puck and it trickled past Hasek.

Several minutes later, the Flyers skated across the blue line 3-on-2 before Donald Brashear released a wrist shot from the slot. The save was made, but a scramble in front ensued and the puck squirted loose. Umberger followed up and punched home it home from a sharp angle near the left post at 18:29.

"That is probably one of the best periods of hockey we've played in this building," said Hitchcock.

Midway through the second stanza, Gagne gave Philly a four-goal cushion. With Ottawa's Chris Neil in the penalty box for hooking, Forsberg held control along the goal line to the right of the net and drifted in before a backhand pass to the slot, where Gagne lit the lamp at 9:08.

However, the Senators came storming back with a pair of goals within a 80- second span to cut their deficit in half.

Skating on the power play, the visitors set up in the zone and worked the puck around the perimeter. Chara ripped a blazing one-timer that beat Niittymaki, but the crossbar kept the puck out of the net. Moments later, though, Chara did not miss on a one-timer and his sixth goal from the centerpoint made it 4-1.

"They are never out of it because of their power play," said Hitchcock. "We knew that if they got the (power play) chances, they are going to be hard to play against."

Over a minute later, a miscue by Philadelphia rookie defenseman Freddy Meyer allowed the Sens to light the lamp again. Meyer attempted a dangerous pass in front of his own net to Derian Hatcher but turned the puck over. Vaclav Varada swept in and one-handed a weak shot before a scramble ensued. Vermette eventually poked it in with 5:44 to go before the second intermission.

In the early stages of the final session, Ottawa had a golden opportunity to make it a one-goal game when Peter Schaefer went in on a breakaway with 15:40 remaining. Niittymaki made the pad save.

Play became chippy as the third period moved along, leading to a pair of Philadelphia penalties and a two-man advantage for the visitors. Philly killed it off, but just moments after the second minor ended, Ottawa scored. Schaefer made up for his breakaway miss with a nice feed from behind the net for a one- timer by Fisher from the left circle that made it 4-3 with 8:09 to play.

"When we protect a lead, what we still have to learn to do better is checking for 60 minutes," added Hitchcock. "Sometimes we let up and we need to learn how to shut a game down."

The Senators had several quality scoring chances in the waning minutes, but the contest was sealed when Dany Heatley went to the penalty box for hooking with 50 seconds remaining and the Flyers held on for the win.

Game Notes

Ottawa forward Jason Spezza missed the game due to a chest injury he suffered in Tuesday's loss at Montreal...Knuble has five goals in his last four games...This marked the first time since November 25 that Forsberg and Gagne -- who have both missed time with groin injuries -- have played together...The Flyers, who improved to 13-5-3 at home, begin an 11-game road trip in Pittsburgh on Friday...Ottawa is now 10-3-3 on the road in 2005-06...The Flyers finished 2-for-4 on the power play, while the Sens went 1-for-7 with the extra skater...Attendance was 19,817.

12/23 02:00:01 ET

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