Knuble, Gagne, Lupul lead surging Flyers to rout of Thrashers

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By Phil Foley

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- A trio of Flyers helped Antero Niittymaki do

what he always does against the woeful Atlanta Thrashers - win.

Niittymaki stopped 24 shots and Simon Gagne scored two goals and

set up two more to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 7-0 rout

over listless Atlanta on Tuesday.

Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul each scored a pair of goals and

Mike Richards added a pair of assists for the Flyers (3-3-3),

who won their 11th consecutive game against the Thrashers and

third straight overall.

"I was a little worried about this game," Flyers coach John

Stevens admitted. "But I thought we did a really good job."

Stevens had no need to worry with Niittymaki between the pipes

against Atlanta.

The 28-year-old Finn has made a habit of dominating the

low-flying Atlanta franchise, now boasting a 10-0 record with a

1.50 goals-against average lifetime against the team from the

Peach State.

"That's a great stat," former Thrasher Glen Metropolit said when

told of his goaltender's record. "Like Cy Young."

Niittymaki was rarely challenged by the weak Thrashers offense

in this one, setting aside six shots in the first, nine in the

second and nine in the third en route to his fourth career

shutout.

"That's always nice," Niittymaki said. "You don't think about

that much, but when you're up 6-0 with two minutes left, you

have to think about it."

Once again Niittymaki got the best of countryman Kari Lehtonen,

defeating him for the ninth consecutive game. Lehtonen, who is

four years younger than Niittymaki has never defeated him in

professional play.

"Niittymaki has always played well against (Atlanta)," Gagne

said. "Every time he's playing against them. I don't know the

last time he's lost here. That definitely helps a lot."

Any hope of the Thrashers winning this one was gone in 80

seconds.

Lupul took advantage of a turnover by Atlanta blueliner Tobias

Enstrom in the game's second minute, blasting the puck past

Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

Knuble scored his first goal in the second period, banging in

Metropolit's rebound from the doorstep at 3:13 to double the

Philadelphia lead. It was the third goal of the season and third

in as many games for Knuble, who also added a power play goal in

the final period.

The Flyers extended the lead to 3-0 with a shorthanded tally

with 15 seconds remaining in the third period. Richards stole a

cross-ice pass from Atlanta star Ilya Kovalchuk at the

Philadelphia blue line and rushed down the ice on the 2-on-1

break with Gagne.

The Flyers captain dished the pass between the circles to Gagne,

who buried the puck in the top shelf.

"Every time you score a goal, it's fun," Gagne said.

"Especially on a 2-on-1 like that. That was a big goal. It

gave us big confidence."

A frustrated Kovalchuk tossed his stick at the boards, drawing

an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and doubled his time in the

box after arguing with the referees while skating off the ice

during the intermission.

That sealed the Thrashers' fate.

"We weren't ready, and from the start, we didn't have the effort

we wanted," right wing Colby Armstrong said. "There were a

couple good bounces for them, but at the same time, the game was

there for us. After they got up a few (goals) we just kind of

folded tent."

Knuble and Lupul added power play tallies 37 seconds apart in

the third period to put the game away. Gagne added to the lead

by banging a rebound past Lehtonen at 7:56 of the third period

before Metropolit capped the scoring with a tally with 2:40

remaining.

"It's one of those places where we always do well," Knuble said.

"We got great results today. We scored every kind of which way.

It was good. It was a lot of fun today."

The Thrashers sure didn't make this one much fun for the

announced crowd of 13,207, who lustily booed not the Thrashers

after the second and third periods, but also booed the team's

mascot - Thrash - after an ill-advised dance routine to "The

Right Stuff" from the 1980's boy band "New Kids on the Block."

Atlanta (2-4-2), losers of three straight, is still looking for

the right stuff this season.

"We didn't play well from the start," Thrashers blueliner Niclas

Havelid said. "And from the first goal, things just fell apart

for us. It was a bad night, unacceptable. We've got to move

on."

Lehtonen stopped 24 shots for the Thrashers, who last defeated

the Flyers at home on December 21, 2003.

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