Jaromir Jagr saluted the crowd after his second-period goal, while Max Talbot provided the empty-netter as the Flyers walked into the CONSOL Energy Center on Thursday night and strolled out with a 4-2 win.
Matt Read put home his 12th of the season late in the second period for the game-winner as Sergei Bobrovsky grabbed the victory with 24 saves.
Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy scored for the Pens while Marc-Andre Fleury had 19 saves in the Pens’ second loss in December to the Flyers.
To start the game, Staal needed only 44 seconds before he put home a goal to give the Pens an early 1-0 lead.
An Andrej Meszaros pass behind Bobrovsky intended for Matt Carle was intercepted by Kennedy, who quickly moved the puck to in front to Staal. Standing at the bottom of the circle on the left side, Staal snuck home a shot inside the near post before the Flyers netminder was able to get his shoulder against the pipe.
Moments after another example of Malkin’s unwillingness to accept physical contact, James Neal took down Read in the corner to Bob’s right for another Philly power play. The Flyers made good on this chance to even the score at a goal apiece.
Wayne Simmonds tapped the puck to Giroux behind Fleury’s net. Moving the puck to the top of the left, Giroux set up Kimmo Timonen for a powerful shot that blew by Fleury’s glove for his first goal of the season 9:56 into the game.
Minutes later, Bobrovsky made an amazing diving save to keep the Penguins from experiencing their second lead of the game.
As Malkin worked his way into the slot, he tapped the puck to Matt Niskanen, who was rejected by Bobrovsky as the netminder flew across the crease to make the save. Fortunately for the Flyers, Neal couldn’t put home the loose puck in the crease on the rebound as Bobrovsky was feet out of the crease.
Although they couldn’t score on the generous opportunity, the Pens earned their second power play of the night as Braydon Coburn hooked Neal on the play.
Stopping the only Pittsburgh shot to reach the net during the power play, Bobrovsky helped the Flyers kill of their second penalty of the night.
Two minutes after Coburn exited the box, Zbynek Michalek was sent off for an elbowing minor on Talbot.
Fleury denied Simmonds and Jakub Voracek on the power play, then stopped Read on a scoring chance from the slot shortly after the power play.
Receiving a pass from Hartnell, Read found himself with a clear path to the Pens’ net. Reaching his stick out to poke the puck away from Read, Fleury successfully prevented the Flyers’ forward from releasing a shot on net.
The Pens’ 11-9 shot advantage, along with a 15-7 face-off advantage, wasn’t enough to give them a lead heading into the second period.
After an eventless few minutes to open the middle period, Jagr finally got his chance to irritate his former fan base with a beautiful backhanded goal to give Philly a 2-1 lead.
Dipsy-doodling his way through the offensive zone, Jagr moved the puck to his backhand before releasing a shot from the slot that beat Fleury glove-side for his 12th goal of the season. Slowly skating along the boards after his tally, Jagr removed his right glove and turned to the Pittsburgh crowd to give them the once familiar salute.
Following Jagr’s tally, Bobrovsky made several key saves over the remainder of the second period. Bob’s biggest save may have been on a blast from Malkin in the slot, which the netminder gloved down and covered in front of him.
Shortly after Malkin failed to tie the score, Harry Zolnierczyk missed a golden opportunity to extend the Flyers’ lead to two goals.
Poke checking the puck free at center ice, Marc-Andre Bourdon opened up an odd-man rush for the Flyers. Moving just inside the blue line, Bourdon slid the puck over to Zolnierczyk, who had an open path down the left wing. Making a good move on Fleury, Zolnierczyk missed his finish as he failed to put home his third goal of the season keeping it a one-goal game.
Minutes after Zolnierczyk’s miss, Jagr nearly set up Giroux for a goal as the league-leader had a shot ring off the knob of Fleury’s stick.
Working around the Penguins rather easily, Jagr found Giroux at the bottom of the left circle. Moving the puck between his forehand and backhand multiple times, Giroux worked the nearest Pens’ defender to the ground before releasing a shot that missed extending Philly’s lead by mere inches.
Following Giroux’s miss, as well as a failed breakaway attempt from Matt Cooke for the Pens, Read put home a Sean Couturier rebound to finally give the Flyers a two-goal edge.
Sweeping in along the right-wing boards, Couturier fended off Alexandre Picard while releasing a weak shot along the goal line that forced the Pens’ goalie to drop to his knees. Fleury provided a rebound in front of the net which led to Read’s 12th tally of the season with 3:49 left in the middle stanza.
That proved to be the final score and the visitors held a two-goal edge at intermission.
Joe Vitale nearly cut the Flyers’ lead to one goal as he rang a shot off the post a few minutes into the third period.
Receiving a pass in the slot, Vitale tipped a shot past Bobrovsky and off the outside of the left post before it bounced into the corner.
Vitale’s chance started a strong sequence of offensive opportunities for the Penguins during the first half of the third period. A handful of blocked shots by the Flyers, Bobrovsky saves, and near misses on pass attempts through the slot led to the Pens inability to cut into their deficit.
Pitts’ offensive surge in the early part of the final period culminated with Malkin launching himself in Bobrovsky and being sent to the box for a goaltender interference minor.
Successfully killing off the Philly power play, the Pens scored on a Kennedy blast to cut the Flyers’ lead to one late in the game.
Moving into the right circle with speed, Kennedy let go of a slap shot that hit the net high and inside the near post for his fifth goal of the season with 6:29 left in regulation.
Kennedy’s goal gave Pitt new hope as the team worked even harder in an attempt to force the game into a 3-3 tie.
The pressure led to a too many men on the ice minor for the Flyers 1:42 after Kennedy’s goal.
Despite recording only two shots on net during the man advantage, the Pens’ power play provided several excruciatingly close scoring chances. However, they couldn’t tie the game at three as Simmonds left the box with 2:47 left to play.
In the final minutes, Pitt pulled Fleury for the extra attacker, but it was the Flyers who scored to put the game away.
Returning to Pittsburgh for the first time since signing with the Flyers this summer, Talbot grabbed control of a Voracek pass at the red line and launched a long shot into the empty cage for his 10th goal of the season with only 25 seconds left.
As the disgruntled Pittsburgh fans quickly exited the building, the Flyers held on for the 4-2 win.
It wasn’t his first game as an opponent in Pittsburgh, but it was his first game as a Flyer in Pittsburgh and Jagr made sure it was a game Pens’ fans would remember. In addition to his nifty goal in the second, Jagr dominated the Pens throughout as he, along with linemates Giroux and Hartnell, created several scoring chances throughout the game. If his intimidating offensive pressure wasn’t enough for Jagr, he made a key defensive play in the second period as he swiped the puck away from Neal in the goal mouth while Bobrovsky was completely out of the play.
After an extremely quick goal from Staal, Bobrovsky settled down and provided excellent goaltending for the Flyers tonight. The back-up made several saves on open scoring chances from Staal and Malkin as well as playing a crucial role in the Flyers’ perfect penalty kill tonight. Compared to Tuesday’s game, the team played with much greater confidence tonight against a much stronger opponent. Peter Laviolette now has to decide who gets the start in The Winter Classic.
Speaking of which, the Flyers next game is Monday, The Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park against the New York Rangers at 1pm.
Notes: The Flyers have won all four games at CONSOL since these two clubs christened the arena in October of 2010…They’ve earned points in their last six games against the Penguins (5-1-0)…Jagr was plus-1 with a goal on two shots while Talbot had a goal on four shots in his first game in Pittsburgh against his former team…Couturier had two assists and was plus-1 in his return to the line-up. Philly went 1-2-1 in the four games Couturier missed…Giroux’s pair of assists gave him his second multi-point game since returning from his concussion on December 21st…Voracek’s pair of assists gave him his fourth multi-point game of the season…Timonen’s goal in the first period was his first goal since Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Buffalo Sabres ending a 43-game goalless span…Read’s goal in the second period ended his nine-game goalless span…Bobrovsky is 4-0-0 in Pittsburgh over his career. He is 8-2-1 this season…This is the fourth straight game the Flyers have allowed the first goal. It’s the third time in their last six games they’ve allowed a goal in the first minute…Tonight was the second time in their last seven games the Flyers entered the third period with a lead…The Flyers went 9-3-1 in the month of December…The Flyers improved to 2-0-0 against the Penguins on the season and to 4-2-1 against the rest of the Atlantic Division (NYR 0-2-0, PIT 2-0-0, NJD 1-0-1, NYI 1-0-0).