Hartnell Gets Game-Winner, Flyers Edge Pens, 3-2

The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the last ten minutes of the game, but Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot got the last laugh against their former team as the Flyers produced enough offense in the first two periods to earn a 3-2 win in Philly tonight.

Scott Hartnell tapped home his 13th goal of the season in the crease halfway through the game for his third game-winner of the season. Wayne Simmonds led the way with a goal and an assist, while Ilya Bryzgalov made 25 saves in his fourth straight win. The victory, coupled with Florida’s 2-0 win at Boston, propelled the Flyers into the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

The game presented a few scares early for the Flyers’ faithful featuring a play with Jordan Staal possessing the puck in the slot all alone before he lost it into the corner just a few seconds into the game.

After settling down a bit, the Flyers produced a few chances of their own as they jumped out to a 2-1 shot advantage before Kevin Marshall was nailed with a delaying game minor for throwing the puck over the glass in the defensive zone 3:42 in.

The Pens’ power play applied some offensive pressure, highlighted with an Evgeni Malkin shot from the doorstep that was denied by Bryzgalov, before Claude Giroux performed a one-man offensive show to close out Pittsburgh’s man advantage.

Shortly after the power play, Danny Briere received a fortuitous bounce for his eighth goal of the season. Letting go of a wrister in between the boards and the faceoff circle to Marc-Andre Fleury’s right, Briere’s shot first deflected off of Robert Bortuzzo’s right skate before changing directions for a second time as it hit the inside of Brooks Orpik’s left knee. Eluding Fleury’s left leg pad, the puck found the back of the net to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead only 6:38 into the game.

Briere’s goal seemed to ignite the Flyers as Philly dominated the next several minutes of play, featuring a Hartnell miss on a rather easy tap in and non-stop cycling for over a minute. All the time in the Pens’ defensive zone resulted in a Pittsburgh icing as well as a Pens’ timeout.

After the timeout, the Penguins finally enjoyed some puck possession before one of their most storied players dangled threw their defense drawing a penalty to give his new team a power play.

Already out shooting the Pens 9-4 before Steve Sullivan’s holding call on Jagr at the 12:41 mark of the opening period, the Flyers’ gained a great chance to gain an early 2-0 lead.

Featuring a Matt Carle shot after bull-rushing his way to the crease and a Hartnell shot that just missed the top shelf from the slot, the Flyers were unable to score on their first power play of the night.

The power play was cut 50 seconds short as Hartnell was called for tripping. Skating towards Bryzgalov on the penalty kill, Staal had the puck knocked away from him and behind Philly’s net. Checking Staal into the boards behind the net, Hartnell was labeled with a questionable tripping call.

Just 40 seconds later Giroux was called for an even more curious hooking call as Joe Vitale flopped on Giroux’s stick in between the circles in the Flyers’ defensive zone. After Sullivan’s exit from the box, the Pens started their two-man advantage, which they expected to have for 1:10.

In unlikely fashion, the first scoring chance on the two-man advantage came from Talbot. After missing a 2-on-1 chance with Kimmo Timonen, Talbot almost put home a shot from the doorstep as Timonen regained possession of the puck and threw a pass to him from the blue line.

Later in the two-man advantage, both Talbot and Timonen lost their sticks resulting in five Pens working the offensive zone against one Flyer with a stick. Somehow, for some reason, Chris Kunitz felt pressured to cross-check Timonen choking away their huge offensive opportunity.

Since the Kunitz infraction happened at the exact second Hartnell was leaving the sin bin, the teams endured four-on-four action for forty seconds before another brief Flyers’ power play.

Throwing five shots towards Fleury’s net, only a Wayne Simmonds’ shot forced Pitt’s netminder to make a save as the Flyers produced a strong power play that was less than a minute long.

As the Flyers’ power play concluded, so did the first period just 2:09 later as the Flyers ended the first twenty minutes with a 1-0 lead. Out shooting the Pens 15-8, the Flyers showed stretches of absolute dominance in the first period as they kept all of their defensive zone turnovers from finding the back of their net.

Less than a half-minute into the second period, Hartnell provided the Flyers first scoring chance of the period deflecting a Braydon Coburn shot from the point. As he stood in front of Fleury, along with Jagr, Hartnell tipped Coburn’s shot causing Fleury to react quickly for his first crucial save in the period.

As the Pens returned down to the other side of the ice, Malkin led a brief Penguins offensive surge before things started getting chippy.

Matt Cooke took a run at Marshall in the Flyers’ defensive zone, which led to Zac Rinaldo trucking over Simon Despres in the corner to Fleury’s right before Harry Zolnierczyk exchanged pleasantries with the much bigger Steven MacIntyre in Bryzgalov’s crease after the whistle.

MacIntyre then drew a holding the stick minor from Marshall as the large Pens’ forward fought for ground in the slot near Bryzgalov.

The Pens failed to convert on their fourth power play of the night. Having a Paul Martin shot blocked and a Matt Niskanen slap shot go wide of the net, Pittsburgh couldn’t even register a shot with Marshall in the box before they quickly awarded Philly their third power play of the night.

After Giroux was held by Vitale in the slot, the Flyers received a brief scare as a pass to the point left the zone and headed towards Philly’s net, which was now vacated due to Bryzgalov moving to the Flyers’ bench because of the delayed penalty. Thankfully the puck missed wide left of the net as the Flyers struck on the Vitale minor.

Seperating himself further from Phil Kessel for the league-lead in points, Giroux started a play that resulted in a Simmonds tap-in for his sixth goal of the season and a 2-0 Flyers’ lead 8:42 into the second period.

Standing along the boards to Fleury’s right, midway between the blue line and goal line, Giroux fired a pass cross ice to Jakub Voracek, who was standing at the bottom of the circle to Fleury’s left. Apparently Voracek only drew the attention of Fleury, as the Pens’ netminder squared up to the Flyers’ forward dropping to his knees in the process. With all of the Pens’ skaters leaving Simmonds open at the top of the crease, Voracek slid the puck over to him for an easy power-play goal.

Sullivan took his second penalty of the night only minutes after Simmonds’ goal as he hooked Coburn in the faceoff circle to Fleury’s right.

Philly may have not converted on their power-play opportunity, but they striked shortly after their man advantage to gain a three-goal lead with just 6:28 left in the middle stanza.

Andrej Meszaros faked out Orpik at the Pens’ blue line before flipping a pass over a diving Martin’s stick to Hartnell, who awkwardly slammed the puck home at the top right part of the crease as he lost his stick and fell over in the process.

Immediately taking action following the Flyers’ third goal, Bortuzzo drew an interference minor on Rinaldo leading to the Pens’ first goal of the game.

As Malkin stood at the top of the faceoff circle to Bryzgalov’s right, he slid the puck through the slot to James Neal, who was parked at the bottom of the circle to Bryzgalov’s left. Putting home a high shot, Neal’s 15th of the season cut the Pens’ deficit to two goals.

Minutes after Neal’s goal, Zolnierczyk was handled by Tyler Kennedy as the two exchanged punches near the end of the second period. Losing his balance early, Kennedy landed several punches before eventually tackling the Flyers’ rookie to the ice to end the bout.

Only 20 seconds after the fight, Hartnell drew a cross-checking minor from Niskanen to give the Flyers half a power play to start the third period.

Skating past a flailing Niskanen, Hartnell fumbled away a breakaway opportunity before Niskanen got up and completed his illegal action marking the last major event in the second period.

Although they only out shot the Pens 7-5 in the middle period, Philly increased their one-goal lead as they entered the final period of play up by a score of 3-1. The Flyers briefly gave the Pens momentum allowing  to score on the power play and allowing Kennedy to boost his team’s energy with a fight, but they earned it back with the Niskanen minor to close out the period.

The Flyers may have had a power play to start the third period, but the Pens provided the first few scoring chances. Pascal Dupuis brought the puck into the Flyers defensive zone before passing it to Craig Adams, who was in the slot. Tipping the shot in on Bryzgalov, the Flyers goaltender denied the early threat to keep the lead at two goals.

Moments later, the Pens started another 2-on-1 while still down a man. Fortunately for Philly, the Pens couldn’t muster a shot on net due to a blocked shot by Timonen.

After the Pens’ pair of scoring chances to start the period, the Flyers’ received a scare as Hartnell appeared to be hurt blocking a shot from the point. Standing only feet in front of Alexandre Picard, Hartnell denied the defender’s shot before being cross-checked by the former Flyer into the boards in front of Philly’s bench. Showing discomfort in his one foot route to the bench, Hartnell recovered quickly making it back out onto the ice only minutes later.

As the midway point of the third period approached, the Pens’ strong offensive pressure led to their second goal of the game. Orpik was standing to Bryzgalov’s left on the goal line as he played the puck behind the Flyers’ net after it hit high up on the glass. Backhanding a pass to the bottom of the circle to Bryzgalov’s left, Malkin gained control of the puck and blasted it through the netminder’s five-hole to cut the Flyers’ lead to only one goal with 11:39 left in regulation.

The crowd at the Wells Fargo Center started to get anxious as they felt the Penguins within reach of tying the game and as they witnessed the refs alter numerous Flyers’ entry attempts into the offensive zone.

With less than half the third period remaining, the Penguins started dictating play as they nearly scored numerous times near the end of the game. As the Flyers iced the puck multiple times, more Penguins’ chances occurred due to tired Flyers making lackadaisical plays in the defensive zone.

In the midst of these offensive chances, Malkin felt it was necessary to take a run at Giroux in the neutral zone. While skating back to his bench, Malkin threw a blatant elbow towards Giroux’s head. Dodging the attack, Giroux then looked at Malkin, who decided to throw some verbal jabs at Giroux while entering the Pens’ bench. Naturally, the refs didn’t call Malkin for roughing or interference in the hopes that Pittsburgh could tie the game at three.

Continuing their avalanche of offense, the Pens pulled Fleury with only 90 seconds left in the game.

With the opposing netminder pulled, the Flyers’ just missed putting home the empty-netter twice. The first failed chance came from Jagr, who decided to let go of a shot just outside the Flyers’ offensive zone. Hindered by Malkin, Jagr missed the net on what would have been the best way for the Flyers to cap off this game.

The second chance came on an iffy offsides call. As van Riemsdyk controlled the puck at the red line right next to the players’ benches, he lobbed it into Philly’s offensive zone as it looked like the play was going to conclude with Giroux walking in on the empty net for the easy goal. Unfortunately for Giroux, the refs blew the play dead just after he entered the zone on a play where the puck seemed to be in the zone before Giroux.

After Malkin provided one last-ditch effort for the Pens, with a booming shot that was countered by a Bryzgalov stick-save as only four seconds remained in the game, the Flyers narrowly hung on for the 3-2 win.

Despite Chris Pronger and Sidney Crosby not taking part in tonight’s game, the usual violence and intensity surronding the Flyers/Penguins rivalry was still present. In a game with 57 hits, Meszaros led the way seven checks as Zolnierczyk was second in hits tonight for the Flyers with four. Add in Rinaldo’s huge hit on Despres and the Zolnierczyk/Kennedy scrap, the teams showed that they haven’t missed a beat in their pugilistic relationship as they still have five more games against each other this season.

Notes: The Flyers are currently enjoying their first four-game winning streak of the season…Jagr had 5 shots on net in 18:35 TOI against his former team, while Talbot 2 shots in 16:08 TOI…Briere’s goal in the first period was his first goal since his overtime winner against the New York Islanders on November 23rd…Briere now has three points in his last two games against the Pens (two-assist game on March 29th)…Giroux now has a two-point lead over Kessel for the league-lead in points…Tonight was Simmonds’ first two-point night as a Flyer and his first two-point night since April 23rd…The Flyers improved to 1-0-0 on the season against the Penguins and are 3-1-1 against the rest of the Atlantic Division this season (PIT 1-0-0, NYR 0-1-0, NJD 1-0-1, NYI 1-0-0).