NEW YORK - Eric Lindros is still affecting the Philadelphia Flyers’ game plan, three seasons after the former captain was traded to the New York Rangers.
This time he did it by not playing.
Lindros, sick with the flu, was sent home just before the puck dropped Thursday night. Without having to face him, the Flyers switched their lines and beat the Rangers 4-2.
Keith Primeau was slated to center a checking line with Sami Kapanen and Donald Brashear to face Lindros. But without Lindros to worry about, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock was able to put Primeau with fast skaters Kapanen and Simon Gagne.
That line clicked again with Gagne and Kapanen each scoring goals set up by Primeau, chosen for the All-Star game earlier Thursday.
“Our guys made a real smooth adjustment,” Primeau said. “It would’ve been a much different game if Eric was there.”
Primeau was a surprise All-Star choice but he responded with his second multipoint game this season. That and the Flyers’ rediscovered power play led to Philadelphia’s third win in four games after an 0-4-1-1 slump.
“There are some areas we still have to clean up, but it didn’t hurt us tonight,” Primeau said.
Primeau set up Kapanen’s tying goal late in the first period and then assisted on Gagne’s score that gave Philadelphia a 3-2 lead. Mark Recchi and John LeClair added power-play goals for the Flyers, who entered 3-for-35 with the man-advantage in 10 games since tallying five times on the power play Dec. 30 in St. Louis.
“The power play can be real important in this league,” LeClair said. “For a while there that was the root of our success.”
That’s when the Flyers had the NHL’s top unit and built the league’s top record.
“I think we were really just trying to get back to the basics of defense first,” LeClair said. “We take care of that and the rest will take care of itself. That seems to be our winning formula.”
Anson Carter gave New York a short-lived lead in the first period, and Brian Leetch added a power-play goal to draw the Rangers even at 2 in the second.
It wasn’t enough as the slumping Rangers fell further away from a playoff spot by dropping their third straight and stretching their winless streak to five (0-3-2).
“We can’t afford to get down on ourselves,” said Rangers captain Mark Messier, also chosen as an All-Star. “There’s no point in hanging our heads. We have a tough fight ahead of us and we have to stand up and fight back.”
The Rangers, already missing several injured defensemen, then lost goalie Mike Dunham to a mild concussion. Dunham was run into by LeClair with 3:43 left in the second, drawing a New York power play that Leetch took advantage of.
But just 44 seconds after Leetch tied it, Gagne cleaned up a rebound of Kapanen’s shot and scored from the slot. Dunham was unable to fight off the effects of LeClair’s hit and the presence of Primeau in the crease as Gagne notched his 10th goal.
“I think Preems got pushed on the goalie,” Gagne said. “I just made my move and put the puck on the net.”
The Flyers needed only 34 seconds of the third period to make it 4-2 on their first shot against backup goalie Jussi Markkanen.
With 57 seconds left in the second period, Martin Rucinsky was given a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Primeau. In the opening minute of the third, Kim Johnsson’s shot was deflected in by LeClair.
New York took a 1-0 lead 6:34 in when Carter got a rebound in front and slid it past Robert Esche. Philadelphia got even at 17:10 when Kapanen scored.
Notes: The chants of “Fire Sather!” returned in the third period, directed at Glen Sather — New York’s coach and general manager. ... The Flyers acquired D Mattias Timander earlier in the day from the New York Islanders and he was in the starting lineup. ... The Rangers were again without D Tom Poti (back spasms) who hopes to play Saturday in Ottawa. ... Dunham, who stopped 17 of 20 shots, is not expected to travel for Saturday’s game at Ottawa. ... Esche made 23 saves. ... Philadelphia C Jeremy Roenick was also chosen for the East team.
PHT: The Bruins got goals from Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron, and their smothering defense helped Tuukka Rask pitch a shutout, as Boston took a 2-1 series lead.
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