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Flyers break it open against Hawks
Patrick Sharp couldn't have asked for a better situation.
The former Flyer found himself alone in the slot Wednesday night with the game on his stick and a chance to show his former team what it was missing.
But instead the puck wouldn't cooperate and just as quickly the opportunity was gone.
The Flyers had their chance minutes later and didn't squander it, which is why Philadelphia left the United Center with a 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks in a game they dominated despite being tied entering the last 10 minutes.
Mike Knuble's goal at 11:27 of the third snapped a 2-2 tie. Two minutes later, Mike Richards beat Craig Anderson to the short side on a shot Anderson could have stopped, and the Flyers added an empty-netter in the final minute for what turned into a ho-hum victory, the eighth in their last 10 games.
But it could have been very different.
"Goals are tough to come by lately," said Sharp, who is searching for his first goal in 17 games since joining the Hawks. "When you get a chance like that, you just react and make a play. That's just a lack of confidence, really. It's up to me to work through it."
Despite being outshot 31-14, the game was there for the taking for the Hawks. They either failed to get a shot in quality chances or were turned away by Philadelphia goalie Antero Niittymaki the few times he was called upon.
"What ended up costing us were turnovers and basically blown coverages," Hawks coach Trent Yawney said. "[The Flyers are] in first place for a reason and they showed it tonight."
The Hawks went into the third tied 2-2 on goals from Radim Vrbata and Andy Hilbert. Their two scores came on their first four shots. Vrbata's goal came at 5:29 of the first and it was the only shot the Hawks could manage until Jim Dowd's 59-footer at 18:19. After 40 minutes, they were outshot 22-9.
Knuble's game-winner came after a dump-in took a funny hop and eluded Anderson. The Hawks lost Knuble behind the net and he was alone when he came out in front to knock in a rebound of a Michal Handzus shot. Richards' goal came off a Jim Vandermeer turnover. Richards was able to beat Anderson despite having Vandermeer draped all over him.
"[Anderson] definitely has to play better, there's no question," Yawney said.
Since Nikolai Khabibulin went down with a groin injury Dec. 28, Anderson has allowed at least three goals in each of his six starts. Including the 20 minutes he relieved Khabibulin Dec. 28, Anderson has a goals-against average of 3.67 with an .846 save percentage.
Defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who already has missed 12 games this season with groin injuries, injured it again Wednesday. After taking eight shifts and playing 6:38 in the first period, Aucoin had just one shift in the second period that lasted six seconds and he wasn't on the bench in the third.
Wednesday was the 10th of 11 straight road games for the Flyers, who are 8-1-1 in that span with the final game Thursday in Detroit. . . . The Hawks had no power plays, the first time that has happened to them since Oct. 22, 1997, a span of 608 games. . . . Anton Babchuk and Mikhail Yakubov were scratched as was Curtis Brown, who has a strained knee.