On the ropes and down 2-0 to a steamroller of a Pittsburgh Penguins club looking for their 12th straight win, the Philadelphia Flyers put together one of the most unlikely turnarounds in recent memory and took a 3-2 home decision on Sunday afternoon.
Scott Hartnell was the hero, as his second goal of the game, coming with 0.9 seconds left in overtime, proved to be the winner.
It came as a result of a defensive breakdown. Danny Briere entered the Penguins’ zone near the boards on the left wing, then turned into the middle. He allowed Braydon Coburn to shoot into the slot as a decoy, then hit the trailing and open Hartnell, who ripped his decider home from between the circles.
That gave Peter Laviolette’s club three points out of a possible four against possible opponents in the postseason, and prevented the hottest team in the NHL from walking away from a near-certain shootout victory.
“It was a playoff game,” a breathless Hartnell admitted. “The odds are we’re gonna end up against these guys. We get another point and that’s one step closer to home ice. We get to play them two more times and it’s not gonna be easy.”
Even more impressive than getting the win despite a 27-10 shot deficit through two periods, was the fact that it was accomplished without the services of Max Talbot, Andreas Lilja, James van Riemsdyk and Pavel Kubina.
The reversal denied the Pens a chance to match their run from November 17-December 11, 2010 — the second longest in team annals. It also denied the visitors their ninth positive decision in 11 appearances in Southeastern Pennsylvania, stretching back to January of 2009. It brought the comeback kids within one point of their Steel City foes for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
One other ray of light in this season series which is tied at two wins apiece, is that the final two meetings are scheduled for CONSOL Energy Center — where the Flyers have not lost in four trips since it opened — on April 1 and 7.
Kimmo Timonen posted a goal and assist, Claude Giroux came up with two helpers and Ilya Bryzgalov made 38 stops as Philadelphia won for the eighth time in its last 10 contests.
“Everybody showed a lot of resiliency, especially Bryz,” said Laviolette. “There were a lot of saves there that prevented it from becoming 3-0 when it was 2-0, then 3-1 or worse when it was 2-1. They didn’t cave and that’s a great sign from your team. It’s a credit to the players that they continued to battle.”
Craig Adams and Evgeni Malkin tallied, while Kris Letang assisted on both scores. Marc-Andre Fleury took the loss despite a 24-save performance in his club’s first loss since February 19 at Buffalo.
The Orange and Black finally showed life on the advantage with 31 seconds gone in the third period, as Timonen’s point blast sailed through traffic, appeared to clip Hartnell and hit the back of the net before Fleury could react.
“Regardless of where the game was played and what the shots were at that point in time, it turned into a one-goal game at that point,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. “I think that spurred them on in the third period and they got some good shifts after that, hemmed us in a little bit.”
It was a tie game at 4:47, after Hartnell ripped one under the crossbar from along the goal line to the right of Fleury. The play was started when Wayne Simmonds stripped the puck near the point from Malkin, wheeled and fed Giroux, who faked a slapper before dishing up to the goal scorer.
Despite showing more jump than in their previous handful of afternoon starts combined, that effort failed to pay off.
Pittsburgh drew first blood, with 6:39 left in the opening period. Simmonds was hit hard by Letang which trying to clear the puck along his defensive left-wing boards and the disc stayed in the zone, working its way to the opposite side where Pascal Dupuis fished it out.
He fed back to Letang at the point, and that wrister was deflected in by Adams in the slot. Bryzgalov was fooled on the play, and if he would have stayed stationary instead of moving to where he thought the puck was shifted, he might have stopped it with his right pad.
The hosts survived two late short-handed situations, when Matt Carle and Timonen committed infractions less than three minutes apart, but trailed by a goal and were outshot 17-8.
The Flyers didn’t test Fleury until a power play with under five minutes in the second period, thanks to the Penguins’ forechecking and puck possession game.
Malkin finally made his presence known on the score sheet with 52.9 seconds left, when he out-waited Bryzgalov at the left post ans slid the puck just under his outstretched pad. En route to his 41st goal of the year, he outworked Giroux behind the net and Coburn in front.
Notes: According to Elias, Hartnell’s goal was the latest OT winner in franchise history…Tony Amonte recorded the closest tally to zero, scoring a shade ahead of the third-period buzzer to send the Flyers to overtime in an eventual 4-3 loss at Anaheim on October 22, 2003…Philly improved to 4-18-2 this season when trailing after two periods…The Flyers crept within three points of the idle Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division, but remained two points behind the Penguins with their point beyond regulation…Sidney Crosby was held without a point in his third game back after recovering from a second concussion suffered in early December…Philadelphia leads the season series 3-1-0 and took two of three on home ice…Hartnell posted his sixth multi-goal effort this season and first since February 25 at Calgary…Zac Rinaldo needed five stitches and suffered no loss of teeth after Hartnell’s stick accidentally struck him in the mouth…Jody Shelley dressed for his fourth game in March, most since a six-game stint in January.