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Four-goal first sparks Flyers win over Senators

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Flyers are getting healthy and streaky
at the right time.

It's a combination that's led them to the top of Atlantic
Division and has them again looking like a Stanley Cup contender.

The Flyers scored four goals in the first period and Antero
Niittymaki made the early spurt stand up with 33 saves to lead
Philadelphia to a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday
night.

The Rangers lost 4-3 in a shootout to Tampa Bay on Saturday,
giving New York and Philadelphia 90 points and the Atlantic
Division lead. The Flyers have one more win.

"The only way we're going to finish first and catch up to the
Rangers is to put a streak together," center Petr Nedved said.
"That's what we're doing right now and we're giving ourselves a
chance to win. It looks like we're peaking at the right time and
hopefully we can finish strong and take it over to the playoffs."

Nedved, Niko Dimitrakos, Jeff Carter and Michal Handzus each
scored in the first period to chase goalie Ray Emery and carry the
Flyers to their fourth straight victory.

"If you don't get all over them quick, they're going to use
their speed and skill to hurt you," Carter said. "I think we had
to play a real physical, tight-checking game and that's what we
did."

While catching the Eastern Conference-leading Senators in the
standings seems out of reach, Philadelphia has helped its playoff
push with wins over New Jersey and the Rangers this week.

Riddled with injuries most of the season, the Flyers are only
now starting to get back to full strength.

"Now people are starting to see what we look like as a team,"
coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Hopefully we can stay healthy. We've
been chasing it all year."

Ottawa, which snapped a four-game winning streak, might hope to
avoid the Flyers in the postseason. The Flyers finished 3-1 this
season against the Senators, the first time since 1997-98 they won
three games against Ottawa.

Peter Forsberg added a power-play goal, and Donald Brashear
scored his fourth of the season in the third period for the Flyers,
who have won five of six.

Emery had been sharp for the Senators since taking over the
starting duties in place of Dominik Hasek, who is nursing a groin
injury sustained during the Olympics. Emery was stunned early by a
Flyers team that also scored six Wednesday against the Rangers.

Nedved netted his sixth of the season only 35 seconds after the
opening faceoff, and Dimitrakos quickly followed with his seventh 2
minutes in for the Flyers.

Carter swiped the puck away from Brian Pothier near the net and
scored his 19th goal. After Handzus sneaked around the back of the
net and knocked one in from the left side, it was 4-0 and that was
all for Emery.

Emery allowed four goals on 14 shots in only 8½ minutes. Michael
Morrison was solid from there, stopping 29 shots. Forsberg beat
Morrison early in the third with his 19th goal to make it 5-1.

"I'm assuming they haven't played every period like that this
year," Emery said. "They were flying. They definitely sent a
message."

Pothier's slap shot from the right circle midway through the
second period for a power-play goal was all the Senators got until
the third when Dany Heatley's 40th goal and Antoine Vermette's 20th
made it 6-3.

"They were trying to prove something, and tonight we didn't
show up," Vermette said.

Niittymaki continued to make his case that he should be the
Flyers postseason goalie. Hitchcock hasn't decided if he'll start
the rookie Niittymaki or Robert Esche in the playoffs.

Niittymaki, only the fifth first-year goalie in team history to
reach 20 wins, has been outstanding lately. He's won three of four
on this winning streak.

Game notes
The Flyers (40-21-10) reached the 40-win mark for the sixth
straight season and ninth time in 10 seasons. ... The Senators are
11-2-1 in March. ... Forsberg has a point in 40 of 54 games this
season. ... The Flyers have won six of eight at home. ... The
Senators start a four-game homestand Tuesday against New Jersey.