Flyers 3, Islanders 2

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) – Mike Knuble had a goal and an assist, and the suddenly surging Philadelphia Flyers held off the hard-charging New York Islanders 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Robert Esche stopped 40 shots, but nearly lost a 3-0 lead when Jason Blake and Mike Sillinger scored 33 seconds apart in the final three minutes.

That was the most offense the Islanders had mustered in a week. New York had been shut out twice in the previous 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 Ottawa on Monday and then saved them from another shutout when he scored with 2:57 left. Sillinger scored at 17:36 to make it 3-2, answering third-period goals by Kyle Calder and Ryan Potulny that gave Philadelphia what appeared to be a comfortable lead.

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.

Esche has been in goal for each of Philadelphia’s wins in the streak – making at least 40 saves in all of them. 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 oft-injured captain Peter Forsberg, who didn’t play after the first period because of a right groin strain.

New York again got good goaltending, but 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. … Former Islanders D Alexei Zhitnik and C Mike York, traded to Philadelphia in separate deals four days apart in December, each heard boos when they touched the puck. York assisted on Knuble’s goal for his first point in six games with the Flyers.

AP-ES-01-02-07 2230EST

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