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Flyers beat Isles, overtake Rangers in regular-season finale

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Peter Forsberg and the Philadelphia Flyers ended up with a first-round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres when the Eastern Conference matchups finally sorted out Tuesday night.

"All the teams that get in the playoffs are tough," Forsberg said after the Flyers' 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders in the regular-season finale. "Buffalo is tough and so is New Jersey and everyone else. We just have to worry about ourselves."

Philadelphia rallied to beat the Islanders to earn the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, with Jeff Carter giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead when he beat Garth Snow on a breakaway with 7:22 left.

"It's tough to play teams that have nothing to play for, but they played really well the first two periods," Forsberg said. "We came out hard in the third."

The Flyers, rebounding from a 5-1 loss in New Jersey on Sunday, entered the night in a three-way race with the New York Rangers and New Jersey for the Atlantic Division title and the third, fifth and sixth spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Rangers, who began the night with a one-point lead over the Flyers and Devils for the division title and the No. 3 spot, lost 5-1 at home to Ottawa to drop into the No. 6 slot. About 40 minutes after the Flyers and Rangers finished, the Devils rallied to beat Montreal 4-3 to take the division title.

Philadelphia and New Jersey each finished with 101 points, with the Devils winning the division title based on victories -- 45 to 44. While the Flyers will face Buffalo in the first round, the Devils will open against the Rangers.

On the winning goal, Carter picked up the puck near the blue line, skated in alone on Snow and beat him with a backhander for his 23rd goal. Carter fired shots off the crossbar and post in the first period before scoring in the third.

"You just have to keep shooting," Carter said.

R.J. Umberger had a goal and an assist, Simon Gagne and Michal Handzus added empty-net goals, and Robert Esche made 31 saves for the Flyers, headed to playoffs for the 11th straight season. Gagne
finished the season with 47 goals.

Defenseman Bruno Gervais scored for the Islanders, out of
postseason play for the first time since 2000-01. New York finished
12th in the 15-team conference.

"Fifty minutes of good smart work goes down the drain on one
mistake," Shaw said. "I thought we outplayed them most of the
game. For the first 40 minutes, I thought we played the smartest
hockey I've seen in quite a while."

Forsberg returned to Philadelphia's lineup after missing five of
the last six games because of a groin injury. The Flyers finished
the regular season 35-16-9 with the star center in the lineup and
10-10-2 without him.

"It's OK. I'm ready for the playoffs," Forsberg said.

Gervais opened the scoring late in the first period, beating
Esche with a slap shot from the right faceoff circle. He scored
about 30 seconds after Carter hit the post on a partial breakaway.

After New York outshot Philadelphia 22-12 through two periods,
Umberger tied it a minute into the third on the Flyers' first shot
of the period. Umberger controlled the puck along the end boards,
easily made his way to edge of the crease and slipped a close-range
shot past Snow for his 20th goal.

Esche started for Philadelphia after missing the team's 4-1
victory over the Rangers on Saturday because of the flu and being
benched Sunday after giving up three goals in the loss at New
Jersey,

With the Islanders' loss, Shaw ended up 18-18-4 as interim coach
since taking over after Steve Stirling was fired Jan. 12. The
Islanders, 6-1 losers in Pittsburgh on Monday night, finished the
season 36-40-6.

Snow made 22 saves for New York.

Game notes
Islanders defenseman Cole Jarrett and left wing Masi
Marjamaki made their NHL debuts. They were recalled earlier Tuesday
from Bridgeport of the AHL. ... The Flyers won the season series
6-2.