Philly goalie Esche bests mentor Burke


PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Robert Esche credits much of his success to
Sean Burke. He returned the favor by beating his best friend Friday

Esche stopped 18 shots, leading the Philadelphia Flyers to their 11th
straight victory at home, 3-2 over the Phoenix Coyotes.

Esche, traded to Philadelphia before last season, learned a lot
from Burke when the two goaltenders played together in Phoenix.

"I was a real head case when I came up. I did a lot of dumb
things," Esche said. "He got on me, really taught me how to play
the game."

Esche's relationship with Burke actually began more than 10
years ago. Burke was playing an exhibition game with the New Jersey
Devils in Utica, N.Y., and Esche was just a young fan. Burke gave
Esche his stick that day, and the two later became close friends.

"I was real excited to play him," said Esche, who still has
that stick. "I took another step today because last year when I
played against him, I wasn't ready. Tonight, I was calm the whole

Jim Vandermeer, Tony Amonte and John LeClair scored for the NHL-leading
Flyers, who are 12-0-2 at the Wachovia Center this season -- the
only team unbeaten at home.

Branko Radivojevic and Andrei Nazarov scored for the Coyotes,
who were unbeaten in their last four games. Burke, a former Flyers
goalie, had 28 saves.

"Everyone knows what our record is at home so they're putting
forth their best effort," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Amonte gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead midway through the second
period with his ninth goal. Jeremy Roenick set it up with a crisp
cross-ice pass to Amonte, who slapped it past Burke.

Amonte and Roenick also are former Coyotes. Roenick signed with
the Flyers as a free agent in 2001. Amonte came over in a deal in

"J.R. loves that pass," Amonte said. "I just have to be ready
for it."

LeClair gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead on a power-play goal 1:18
into the third period. He redirected a pass from Michal Handzus
between Burke's legs.

But Nazarov cut it to 3-2 with his first goal just 16 seconds

"They are a tough team, a deep team," Coyotes coach Bob
Francis said. "They are big, strong and they come at you in

Esche kept it there with a nice save, smothering a shot by Chris Gratton, who also once played for the Flyers, with 27 seconds left.

The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead on Radivojevic's goal with 12 seconds left in the first period. Paul Mara took a pass from Brian Savage, held the puck, then slid a pass to Radivojevic, who one-timed it past Esche for his seventh goal.

Vandermeer tied it at 1-all just 2:59 into the second period with his first goal of the season. He one-timed a pass from Justin Williams just inside the left post.

"One mistake followed by another puts you in trouble," Coyotes
center Shane Doan said.

Game notes
Flyers LW Todd Fedoruk returned to the lineup for the first
time since he broke his orbital bone in a fight against the
Islanders on Nov. 11. ... It was Esche's 100th NHL game. ...
LeClair's goal gave him 602 points with the Flyers, putting him
seventh on the team's all-time list. ... Phoenix, in the midst of a
five-game road swing, began the trip 2-0-1. The Coyotes are 2-6-4
in their last 12 road games. ... The Flyers' 11-game home winning
streak matches the third-longest in team history. They won 20 in a
row at the Spectrum in 1976. ... Esche improved to 8-2-2.