Four Atlanta goals, including two in the final three minutes, helped the Flyers choke away a huge lead in the third period and led them to eventually lose 5-4 in overtime.
Ron Hainsey’s extra-session goal turned a happy night for the Flyers’ faithful, who witnessed Ville Leino’s first career hat trick, into an upsetting one as their home team blew a 3-0 lead entering the final twenty minutes. Sergei Bobrovsky was nineteen minutes away from his first shutout of the season before allowing five goals in just over a 20-minute span.
Despite being sorely outplayed in the beginning of the game, the Flyers took the first lead. After Danny Briere dumped the puck to Scott Hartnell at the top of the circle to Ondrej Pavelec’s right, Hartnell sold a shot before passing it to Leino at the bottom of the opposing circle. Kicking it from his skate to his stick, Leino put the puck home in what was essentially an empty net. Leino’s fifteenth on the season and first on the night gave Philly a 1-0 lead with just under six minutes left in the first.
About four minutes into the second period, the Thrashers had an opportunity to tie up the game by going on the man advantage. While Darroll Powe sat in the box for hooking, Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen created a chance of their own. Leading a 2-on-1 with Timonen, Richards faked a slapshot before moving past Pavelec. With the goalie down in the crease, Richards went forehand to backhand lobbing a pass from behind the goal-line to Timonen for the easy score. Putting home his fifth of the season, Timonen’s short-handed goal gave the Orange and Black a two-goal lead.
Ten minutes later, this time possessing the man advantage, the Flyers were able to extend their lead to 3-0 before the end of the second period.
As Tim Stapleton sat in the sin bin for holding, Kris Versteeg passed it from the point to Richards in the middle of the circle to Pavelec’s right. With plenty of time to line up a shot, Richards let one rip resulting in the puck hitting Pavelec and rebounding in front. Hartnell nudged the puck behind Pavelec where a waiting Leino pounced on the puck in the crease and slammed home his second goal of the night.
Attempting to change his team’s momentum, Atlanta head coach Craig Ramsay switched Pavelec with Chris Mason to start the final period.
One minute into the final stanza, Evander Kane broke up the shutout giving Atlanta hope. Guarding the puck to his right side from the blue line in, Kane switched the puck to his forehand sneaking it past Bobrovsky’s blocker side for his eighteenth on the season and a 3-1 Thrashers’ deficit.
Just over eleven minutes later, Zach Bogosian found a way to put a booming slapshot through traffic and Bobrovsky to cut the Flyers’ lead to one. It gave the visitors seven minutes and forty-five seconds to find the equalizer.
Responding quickly to the Thrashers’ previous salvo, Leino put home his third and final goal of the night.
Timonen moved right to left along the point before sliding the puck over to a waiting Leino at the top of the circle to Mason’s left. One-timing the puck, Leino slapped it past an angered Mason. His power-play goal capped the trifecta and provided Philadelphia with a seemingly iron-clad 4-2 edge.
With just six minutes and twenty-eight seconds left in regulation, Leino’s 17th of the year looked like enough to secure two points. However, Atlanta wasn’t giving up without a fight.
With Versteeg in the box for a questionable interference call, Tobias Enstrom took advantage of a misplaced Flyers’ defense man to make the deficit one. As Timonen roamed into the corner to pick up Bobrovsky’s dropped stick, Anthony Stewart realized Enstrom was open across the ice and passed him the puck. Enstrom nailed the opportunity giving Atlanta just under three minutes to find the game-tying goal.
Failing to effectively wrap the puck around the boards in the final minute of play, Versteeg instead passed the puck into the side of the net on Bobrovsky’s blocker side. Bryan Little worked the puck free, where Andrew Ladd slid it past a falling Bobrovsky and tie the game with just forty-five seconds left.
Hainsey was then allowed to break free up the middle to tip a backhanded shot home off a Kane centering pass 1:17 into the extra period. Needing only to hold onto a 3-0 lead for twenty minutes, the Flyers found a way to bobble away a point and end up with a 5-4 overtime loss that would be more crushing if the club was struggling to find playoff seeding.
After being outplayed in the first period, it looked as though the Flyers had weathered the storm. However, several poor defensive plays led to the Flyers’ downfall. A poor decision by Timonen on the penalty kill as well as a poor pass from Versteeg in the corner essentially handed Atlanta the two goals they needed to tie the game.
This collapse was definitely the Flyers’ fault, but the officiating in the game was absolutely horrible. Atlanta’s power-play goal in the third was due to an interference call on Versteeg where Little ran into him. The Thrashers’ breakout in overtime to win the game was started when Claude Giroux was tripped in the offensive zone and no call was made. Throw in the fact Briere didn’t dive on Enstrom’s interference and multiple none calls in one’s home arena and it’s safe to say the referees had their presence felt tonight.
Notes: According to the Associated Press, this marked the first time since November 21, 1987 that the Flyers coughed up a three-goal lead heading into the final period…In that game, the New York Islanders erased a 4-1 deficit by scoring five times in the third to win 6-4…The Flyers were 2-for-2 on the power play tonight….This was the third time this season Bobrovsky has faced at least 40 shots in a game (40 against Buffalo on January 11 and 41 against Montreal on December 15)…Leino’s trick was the Flyers’ second on the season (Jeff Carter against Carolina on November 11)…The Flyers are now 1-0-1 against the Thrashers on the season and 9-5-2 against the Southeast division (WSH 2-0-1, TBL 1-3-0, CAR 3-1-0, ATL 1-0-1, FLA 2-1-0).