Philly Ends All-Too-Brief Winning Streak

Thursday, November 30th 2006, 7:55 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Mike Rathje lost the puck, lost a game and ended Philadelphia's all-too brief winning streak. Paul Kariya's kept Nashville's streak alive with the clutch steal that set-up the winning goal. With a play like that, it's no wonder the Flyers sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and the Predators lead the Central.

Rathje whiffed trying to make a pass out of Philadelphia's defensive zone, and Kariya fed Martin Erat off the turnover for the winner with 5:09 left to help the Predators win their third straight game, 3-2 over the Flyers on Wednesday night.

``It was just a bad turnover and Paul just gave me the puck in the circles and I shot it and it went in,'' Erat said. ``We've actually been playing really good in the road. In this game we made too many turnovers.''

But the Flyers made the crucial one that hurt the most.

``They're a good team because they find ways to win in those situations,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said.

Steve Sullivan and Alexander Radulov also scored, and Chris Mason stopped 24 shots for the Central Division-leading Predators. Mason has been strong in goal since replacing the injured Tomas Vokoun (thumb), improving to 5-1-1 this season.

In only other NHL games Wednesday night, Chicago beat Dallas 2-1, and San Jose edged Minnesota, also 2-1.

About 90 seconds after the last-place Flyers showed some surprising spirit to tie it at 2 on R.J. Umberger's seventh goal of the season, the Predators caught a break when Rathje tried to pass to the high slot. Instead, Kariya was all over the puck, never giving the Flyers a chance to recover, quickly dishing the puck to Erat in the low slot for his sixth goal of the season.

``You make a play like that, you lose a game and there's nothing you can do about it,'' Rathje said. ``That's the way the hockey is. You make a mistake like that and people are going to be upset about it.''

Not surprisingly, the crowd erupted in boos and the Flyers failed in their bid to win three straight games for the first time this season. Antero Niittymaki had 26 saves and Mike Knuble scored his eighth goal for the Flyers.

Knuble, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier in the day, gave the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. Peter Forsberg's shot deflected off Mason, allowing the streaking Knuble to knock the puck in from the right side.

For the rest of the game, though, Nashville controlled the play, outshooting the Flyers in each of the first two periods and holding a 29-26 edge overall.

Mason was unflappable in goal, even recording an assist on Radulov's goal.

``I believe I can play, it's just hard to get an opportunity,'' Mason said. ``Once you get into the NHL, you're behind a lot of good goalies. I happen to be behind one of the best in the league and that makes it even tougher to get ice time.''

Sullivan tied it midway through the first, and the Predators went ahead 2-1 on Radulov's fifth goal of the season early in the second period. No surprise there for Nashville, which has outscored opponents 33-11 in the second this season, and outshot the Flyers 8-5 in the period.

Radulov scored a goal for the third straight game.

Mired in last place for almost the entire season, the Flyers got a late spark from Umberger. His backhander from the slot with 6:31 left tied it and gave hope the Flyers might be able to continue their slow climb out of the cellar.

Instead, it was more of the same for each team and the Predators improved to 4-0-0 against Eastern Conference opponents this season.

Blackhawks 2, Stars 1

Tuomu Ruutu scored with 1:48 left to lift host Chicago in Denis Savard's first game as the Blackhawks' head coach.

The goal, Ruutu's fifth of the season and fourth in five games, gave the Blackhawks their fourth victory in 16 games and their first over Dallas since Jan. 20, 2002.

Savard took over the team Monday after Trent Yawney was fired.

Jere Lehtinen had a first-period goal for Dallas, and Chicago's Tony Salmelainen tied it at 1 with 8:17 left in the third.Sharks 2, Wild 1

At St. Paul, Minn., rookie Joe Pavelski and Steve Bernier scored goals and Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves for San Jose in its fourth straight victory.

Pavelski, a star on Wisconsin's NCAA championship team last season, has scored in consecutive games and has three goals in four NHL games.

Mattias Weinhandl scored for Minnesota.