Flyers blow three-goal lead, lose 5-4 to Penguins

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The Philadelphia Flyers had the Pittsburgh Penguins right where they wanted them after the first period, but the visitors responded with four unanswered goals to pull off the 5-4 win tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. Chris Kunitz had the game-winner on a night where he had two goals and an assist, while Sidney Crosby posted a three-assist performance. Tomas Vokoun earned the win after he relieved Marc-Andre Fleury, as he denied all 14 of the shots he faced.

With the game tied 4-4 after 40 minutes, Kunitz beat Brian Boucher, who had five saves on six shots in 22:53 minutes of work, on a cross-ice pass from Crosby just 18 seconds into the final period. The Flyers had a chance of their own in the first few seconds of the third stanza, but the Pens’ counterattack resulted in the decisive goal.

Scott Hartnell looked to have tied the game just over seven minutes into the third period, but his deflection was waived off immediately due to the fact it was ruled on the ice to have been played with a high stick. After the refs reviewed the deflection and ruled it was indeed played by a high stick, the Pens managed to limit Philly’s chances for the rest of the contest to hang on for the one-goal victory.

Jakub Voracek had a two-goal game and Zac Rinaldo has his first multi-point game in the NHL, but it wasn’t enough for the Flyers, who vented their frustration after the defeat.

“We just can’t do that,” Hartnell said after his squad blew a 4-1 advantage. “It’s embarrassing to the fans and it’s embarrassing to one another; we let another two points slip away. It’s not [coach Peter Laviolette] not getting us ready to go, he came in and said exactly what we’re saying, ‘Be ready to play.’ It’s not his fault, it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s everyone collectively and we have to figure it out fast.”

“Our second period was not a good period,” Laviolette said at his press conference following the loss. “It was the opposite of the first period. In the first, we were skating, physical, putting the puck behind him, and we looked to establish our game. In the second period, they picked up their game and we stopped working. The second period belonged to them.” Here’s the rest of Lavy’s press conference:

Both teams’ goaltenders struggled, as Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov were pulled before the start of the third period. Fleury had 14 saves on 18 shots in just 20 minutes of work, while Bryzgalov was pulled after he allowed his fourth on the Pens’ 16th shot of the contest late in the second stanza.

Although both teams experienced issues in net, the Pens dominated the final two periods defensively. They may have not blocked an extreme amount of shots, but the Penguins limited scoring chances for Philly and forced them away from the slot for the majority of the final two periods.

As for the first period, Voracek opened the scoring on a power play with 8:42 left in the frame.

James Neal took a run at Claude Giroux after Philly’s captain cleared the puck in the Flyers’ zone, which earned the former Dallas Star an elbowing minor. With Neal in the box, Giroux threw a cross-ice feed to Voracek, who then tried to quickly move the disc to the far post for a tap-in from Wayne Simmonds. The puck never reached Simmonds, as Mark Eaton deflected the puck through Fleury’s five-hole for the tally.

While the Flyers skated back to the bench after the goal, Neal and Hartnell bumped into each other at center ice, which led to an altercation. Neal dropped one his of gloves first, but Hartnell earned the additional minor to put Pittsburgh on the man advantage.

Kunitz erased the Flyers’ lead with the power-play chance. Just 47 seconds after Voracek’s goal, Nicklas Grossmann broke up a cross-ice feed from Kris Letang to Crosby, which left the puck in the slot. With Bryzgalov moving from his right to his left, Kunitz converted on the chance for his 13th of the season.

In the final five minutes of the first period, the Flyers put home three tallies past a shaky Fleury.

Philly’s second of the game came right as a Matt Niskanen minor for interference was ending. Max Talbot won a draw back to Grossmann, who let go of a slap shot that Fleury kicked out to the slot. Rinaldo grabbed the rebound and put home his third of the campaign with 4:54 left in the opening stanza.

With just under two minutes left in the frame, a Kimmo Timonen wrister from the boards somehow found its way past Fleury. After Rinaldo wrapped the puck around the boards to Timonen, the blue liner let go of a lazy wrist shot that hit Fleury just below his armpit and trickled over the goal line.

The Orange and Black increased their lead to three with eight seconds left in the period. Voracek recorded his second power-play goal of the frame, as another puck found its way to the back of the cage off of Eaton.

Vokoun replaced Fleury to start the second period, a move by Dan Bylsma that his squad responded to with three goals in the middle period.

The trio of Pascal Dupuis, Neal, and Tyler Kennedy beat Bryzgalov to force Philly’s netminder out of the game in favor of Boucher. Luckily for the Flyers, Boosh wasn’t forced to make a save in the final 4:13 of the middle stanza, as they escaped the second period tied despite the fact Pittsburgh dominated.

The Flyers look to rebound on Saturday against the Boston Bruins.

Notes: Matt Read returned to action tonight. Read missed just six games after he was expected to miss six weeks with a muscle tear in his ribs. He was minus-2 with two hits and a shot on net in 16:37 TOI. Philly was 3-3-0 in his absence…Grossmann, who left after the first period of Tuesday’s loss to New York, played tonight. He had an assist, two PIMs, three hits, and five blocked shots…Voracek recorded his second straight multi-point performance and has six multi-point games over the last nine contests. He has nine goals and nine assists over the last nine games…The last time the Flyers lost in regulation while scoring four goals came last season, when the Pens won 6-4 in Philly on February 18th, 2012…According to 97.5 The Fanatic, the last time the Flyers blew a three-goal lead and failed to record a point in a regular season game was in a 7-4 loss against the Detroit Red Wings on February 17th, 1993…The Flyers scored four goals in the first period tonight, the first time they’ve put home four in a period since they scored four in the first period of last season’s 8-4 win in Game 3 of the ECQF against Pittsburgh. It’s the first time they’ve done it in the regular season since they had a four-goal third period against the Pens on April 1st, 2012 in a 6-4 win…With a goal and an assist, tonight was Rinaldo’s first multi-point game in the NHL. He had four goals and seven assists in 86 regular season games before this loss…Tonight was the second game in Harry Zolnierczyk’s four-game suspension…The Flyers dropped to 1-2-0 against the Penguins this season and to 3-6-0 against the rest of the Atlantic Division (PIT 1-2-0, NJD 0-2-0, NYR 1-2-0, NYI 1-0-0).