In a game of importance for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers walked into Pittsburgh today and left with a 6-4 victory.
“We haven’t talked about home-ice or the Rangers, or the Penguins or the Senators. We talked about the two points. That’s really all we can control right now,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “Eventually we’ll either have home-ice or we won’t.”
Not only did they move to within one point of the Pens in the standings, the visitors overcame numerous non-calls from the officials and drew an end-of-the-game line brawl and hissy fit from the team most of the media has already awarded the Stanley Cup.
Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek had three-point performances, while Marc-Andre Bourdon, Wayne Simmonds and Max Talbot also tallied as the Flyers won their fourth decision of the season against Pittsburgh in five chances.
Sergei Bobrovsky shook off a poor opening five minutes to record a season-high 43 saves, while Marc-Andre Fleury allowed five goals on 25 shots for the loss. Although they were out shot 47-26 overall, the Flyers dictated the pace of the third period, as they allowed goals to the Pens when the game was already out of reach.
Steve Sullivan picked up a pair of goals and Chris Kunitz added a late marker as the Pens dropped to 0-5-0 in their new home against their bitter cross-state rivals.
After Voracek netted an empty-net goal to make it 6-3 with only 1:15 left in regulation, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma decided to send out his fourth line. Thanks to a strong and legal check from Joe Vitale on Danny Briere in the neutral zone, all hell broke loose.
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To start, former Flyer Arron Asham started throwing punches at Brayden Schenn before the rookie could drop his gloves. Irked by Schenn’s earlier actions, where he cross-checked Sidney Crosby in the back while the two were skating back to the bench, Asham took out his anger on the Flyers’ forward before he tried to start another fight with Zac Rinaldo once everything died down.
While Asham was launching away on Schenn, Deryk Engelland decided to fight Wayne Simmonds, who injured his face and nose in yesterday’s game against Ottawa. With a good 20 pounds on Simmonds, Engelland earned a slight advantage before the two were sent off the ice.
“There was 1:10 left or so on the clock. We went out and played,” Bylsma said. “They took exception to a hit. The 10 guys joined together near center ice. From what I can gather, their coach didn’t like the hit and took a stick and broke it over the glass. That stick ended up on our bench. That’s pretty much what ensued.”
Along with these events, as well as Bourdon’s takedown of Craig Adams, Laviolette voiced his displeasure over Bylsma’s decision to put out his fourth line late in an already-decided contest by yelling at the Penguins’ coaches. Standing on the edge of Philly’s bench, Laviolette pointed at Bylsma and Pens assistant Tony Granato, while he yelled at the pair. Granato and Laviolette were both ejected after the incident.
“A few fights squared off and there are emotions in games and sometimes they go overboard,” Scott Hartnell said. “Lavvy lost it there for a second.”
When all the commotion was done, the Penguins, as usual, were awarded a man advantage: Simmonds and Engelland earned fighting majors; Rinaldo and Asham earned misconducts; Pavel Kubina, Asham, Bourdon, Adams, Briere, and Vitale earned unsportsmanlike conducts; Schenn earned a roughing minor and Voracek served Laviolette’s coach/manager on the ice penalty.
It should have come as no surprise the Penguins profited from a situation where they started the altercation and committed (arguably) more illegal actions, as Pittsburgh’s captain got away with two different blatant slashes today. After he slashed Giroux on a faceoff in the Flyers’ zone, Crosby got away with a slash Voracek in the neutral zone later in the game.
Also in the third period, Zbynek Michalek slashed Hartnell’s stick in half and got away with the action. Despite all the calls that should have handed the tilt to the Penguins, the Flyers fought through the adversity and won.
As for the game’s other action, the Flyers managed to leave the first period with a one-goal deficit after a rough opening patch.
The first goal in the game was a flubbed shot from Sullivan that painfully eluded Bobrovsky to give the Pens a lead 1:14 into the contest. The veteran one-timed a pass from Crosby, but when he made contact with the puck it popped up in the air and fluttered towards the net. Due to the fact Bobrovsky stumbled while the puck was in the air, Sullivan’s fluke shot floated under the crossbar and hit the camera in the net for his 16th tally this season.
Minutes later, James Neal beat Bobrovsky far side for his 39th of the campaign. Evgeni Malkin controlled the puck behind the net before he passed it to the bottom of the circle to Neal, who was alone in front to tap in the dish to the far side while Philly’s netminder hugged the near post.
Following the pair of goals from Pittsburgh, Laviolette called his trademark timeout to try and turn the momentum of the game. Although it didn’t pay immediate dividends, the stoppage of play forced by the Flyers’ coach led to a goal from Philly by the end of the opening period.
A Matt Cooke turnover in the Pens’ defensive zone led to a Giroux shot from the top of the circles that squeaked through Fleury’s five-hole and over the goal line to make it a 2-1 game. After he moved from the middle of the circle to the top of the circles, Giroux turned around and wristed a shot towards Fleury. Since Hartnell caused some disturbance in front, Fleury had issues with the innocent shot.
To kick off the middle stanza, Talbot potted a goal against his former team to even the tilt at two goals apiece.
On the Flyers’ first shot of the second period, Talbot redirected a Rinaldo shot from the top of the crease to the left of Fleury for his 19th goal of the season. The tip put the puck in between Fleury’s blocker and leg pad at the 1:25 mark.
Early in the third period, and late in Eric Wellwood’s minor, Kunitz was hit with an interference minor for a brief four-on-four session and a shortened Flyers’ power play. Simmonds took advantage of the extra ice for his 27th tally of the season and gave the visitors the lead for good.
After Giroux controlled the puck or a second at the top of the circle, he threw a pass cross ice to Voracek, who snapped a pass to Simmonds at the side of the net. While Fleury did a split in an attempt to get back in time to make a save on the shot, the former Los Angeles King slammed home the biscuit before he emphatically pumped his fist towards the Pens’ fans in celebration.
Just over four minutes later, Voracek scored on a breakaway to give the Flyers a two-goal lead with 13:23 left to play. A Braydon Coburn outlet pass found Wellwood in the neutral zone, who nudged the puck to Voracek for a quick entrance into the Pens’ zone. Voracek blew by Matt Niskanen and Engelland then undressed Fleury with a backhander for his 16th of the season.
Bourdon extended the edge to three goals with 6:45 to play, taking a Giroux feed following a left-circle faceoff win and unleashing a wrister that changed direction off Michalek’s hip and veered in.
The game was essentially won at that point, but three more shots found the back of the net before the end of the contest.
Sullivan’s second tally of the game preceded Voracek’s empty-netter, and Kunitz potted a power-play goal with 32 seconds left after the brawling was complete.
The resurgent Flyers look to keep the momentum going on Tuesday, when they host the New York Rangers and look for their first win of the season against the Blueshirts and to prevent them from clinching the Atlantic Division.
Notes: With today’s win, the Flyers passed 100 points for the 19th time in franchise history. That ties the Boston Bruins for most 100-point seasons in NHL history…The Flyers also tied a franchise record by winning 25 games on the road for the second consecutive year…They hit 25 road wins last season to set a franchise record…Philly can break the record again with a win at Pittsburgh on Saturday…Bobrovsky improved to 5-0-0 in his career at the CONSOL Energy Center and to 5-2-1 against the Pens overall…Today’s game was the 10th time this season the Flyers have come from down two goals or more to earn at least a point, improving to 7-21-3 when trailing by two or more goals this season…Coburn played 27:50 today, which is the second-most ice time he’s had this season behind only the 28:03 he played against the NY Rangers on November 26…He played more than 27 minutes in both games of this weekend back-to-back set…With his two-goal game today, Voracek now has 17 goals this season, setting a new career high for tallies in a season…He also recorded his first two-goal game with the Flyers and his second three-point game this season. His last two-goal game was on November 10, 2010, when he scored two goals for Columbus against the St. Louis Blues…Giroux now has 61 assists on the season. He is just the eighth Flyer to record a season of 60 assists or more, and the first to do so since Mark Recchi had a league high of 63 in 1999-2000…Giroux posted his ninth game this season of three or more points with a goal and two assists…Nicklas Grossmann left the game in the first period after going knee-to-knee with Vitale and didn’t return…Today was the third time in the last four games the Flyers have trailed after the first period…The Flyers improved to 4-1-0 against the Penguins and to 11-9-2 against the Atlantic Division this season (NYR 0-5-0, PIT 4-1-0, NJD 3-2-1, NYI 4-1-1)…The Flyers improved to 46-24-9. They were 46-22-11 after 79 games last season.