Zhamnov is playoff money for Flyers

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:52 PM ET


 The goaltending of Robert Esche aside, Philadelphia Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock has another player to be thankful for.

 Centre Alexei Zhamnov, who thrust a dagger into the Maple Leafs last night with the game-winning goal, has proven to be an excellent addition since he was brought in from the Chicago Blackhawks in February.

 "He saved our season when he came here," Hitchcock said.

 "We were in dire straits. He is a skilled and composed guy and has fit in great."

 Zhamnov leads the Flyers with 10 points in the playoffs, which is not a huge shock given his abundance of talent.

 But these are uncharted waters for the Moscow native, in his 12th NHL season. Just three times in the previous 11 years did he participate in the post-season -- once with the Blackhawks and twice with the Winnipeg Jets -- and never played past the first round.

 Zhamnov has found a nice home on a line between Americans Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte.

 WEAPON

 Not only does Zhamnov provide another offensive weapon for the Flyers, he takes the heat off his linemates.

 And for now, Zhamnov is making people forget that Mark Recchi and John LeClair have combined for three post-season points.

 "I'm just more excited to be part of this organization in the playoffs, especially since I don't have experience in the second round," Zhamnov said.

 "It's a different atmosphere ... it's a lot of fun."

 Zhamnov got the winner at 8:25 of the third. With Robert Reichel serving a holding minor, Zhamnov skated to the net from the corner along the goal line, and zipped a shot between Ed Belfour's legs.

 "I think Eddie was waiting for the pass, but as soon as he started to move I saw the five-hole open," Zhamnov said.

 "There is no question I was going to make a pass."

 Roenick, who was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996 from the Blackhawks for Zhamnov, is in awe of his relatively new teammate.

 "He has been one of our MVPs by a long shot," Roenick said.

 "You can't teach that play he scored on."


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