Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sharks victory helps send Flyers into Atlantic Division basement

by Bob Herpen
The Phanatic Magazine

Milan Michalek and Douglas Murray's third-period tallies were the difference, as San Jose sent Philadelphia to its ninth consecutive loss, 3-1, at the Wachovia Center.

Jonathan Cheechoo also scored and Joe Thornton registered a pair of assists for the Sharks, who put the brakes on a five-game losing streak.

Evgeni Nabokov made 26 stops to record his 32nd win of the season.

Mike Knuble picked up his 22nd goal of the year for the Flyers, who last suffered a similar stretch of futility during a 10-game skid from December 2-27, 2006.

Coupled with the Islanders' 1-0 win over Tampa Bay, the Flyers have slipped into last place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind New York (67-66).

Martin Biron was solid in defeat with 37 saves.

This latest setback comes on the heels of the announcement prior to the game that forward Simon Gagne has decided to sit out the remainder of the schedule due to his recovery from multiple concussions.

Gagne has not played since absorbing a hit during a February 10 game in Pittsburgh, and after consulting with concussion expert Dr. James Kelly in Colorado on Wednesday, he decided that he should not return to the ice. The 27-year-old forward had only picked up seven goals and 18 points in 25 games this season, interrupted three times due to injury.

San Jose took the lead for good 3:35 into the third, as Michalek charged into the offensive zone, crossed from right to left, and dribbled a shot past Biron.

It was 3-1 for the visitors only 42 seconds later. Murray picked up an errant pass at the left point along the boards and fired toward the net. The puck caromed off Danny Briere in front, nicked the right post and rippled the net before Biron could adjust.

Any Flyer comeback hopes were squashed when Knuble was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking with 3:28 left in the contest. The Sharks completed the game with a two-man advantage but Biron kept San Jose from inflicting further damage.

Cheechoo put the Sharks on the board with a little more than four minutes to play in the first, burying a wrister off a dish from Thornton.

After killing off a penalty late in the second period, the Flyers tied the game with less than six seconds remaining as Knuble finished off a 3-on-1 by slamming home a feed by Mike Richards. Stefan Ruzicka began the rush in transition, dished over to Richards in the right circle, who then fired across to Knuble for a blazing one-timer.

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