An overtime game-winner from Captain Claude Giroux capped a fight-filled affair and gave the Flyers their third victory in the last six games.
By Josh Kaz
In their last game before a week-long hiatus, the Philadelphia Flyers pulled out an overtime victory against their hated cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in a game in which the orange-and-black tallied as many hits (40) as shots.
The Penguins always bring out the best and the worst in the Flyers, and Tuesday night’s game was no exception.
Playing short three starting defensemen–Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, and Nick Schultz–the Flyers called up rookie Brandon Manning and pressed veteran reserve man Carlo Colaiacovo into service.
With goalie Steve Mason still not skating after a knee injury, the team was backstopped by Ray Emery.
It was hardly the ideal roster on paper to face one of the top teams in the conference, and the Flyers played much of the first period on their heels, surrendering 13 shots before notching one of their own after nearly 12 minutes of the game had transpired.
The second shot found its mark, however, as defenseman Luke Schenn squeezed an unassisted shot through traffic, and the Flyers took a 1-0 lead.
Tempers rose soon thereafter, when Zac Rinaldo left his feet to destroy Penguins defenseman Kris Letang on a vicious and dirty hit from behind. Letang’s head hit the boards and he stayed on the ice for a while. He left the game and did not return. Rinaldo was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Despite being the worst penalty killing team in the NHL, the Flyers got out of it unscathed, and miraculously walked away with their lead intact at the end of the period.
Less than two minutes into the second period, the rough stuff continued. Penguins forward Craig Adams cross-checked winger Michael Raffl, who took exception, and the two dropped the mitts. On the Flyers’ ensuing power play, it was the Penguins who capitalized while shorthanded. Chris Kunitz took advantage of a misplay from Mark Streit, and ripped a shot past Emery, using Sidney Crosby as the decoy on a two-on-one.
Just a couple minutes later, Emery joined in on the scuffling, taking a swing at newly acquired Penguin David Perron, who got his stick tied up in Emery’s equipment. Philadelphia killed off the ensuing Penguin power play, but just 30 seconds after that, Pittsburgh defenseman Robb Scuderi low-bridged Jake Voracek with a hip check that Voracek thought was out of line.
The Czech forward angrily flung away his gloves and pummeled Scuderi, earning 17 minutes in penalties and a rinkside view from the penalty box for the remainder of the second and part of the third periods.
Not long after, Penguins pest Steve Downie laid a retaliatory slash on Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, drawing the ire of his teammate Luke Schenn, who dusted off his knuckles, sending Downie off the ice for another 17 minutes.
The action wasn’t over yet, as Flyers winger Pierre Edouard Bellemare squared off with Penguins enforcer Bobby Farnham, and dropped Farnham with a shot to the chops in his first National Hockey League fight. There were only about six to seven minutes of full strength hockey played in this wild middle period; however, not one power-play goal was scored.
At the top of the third period, Pittsburgh’s leading scorer, Evgeni Malkin, helped put the Penguins in the lead for the first time in the game. Flying in on the odd man rush, “Geno” slammed on the brakes, waited out the Flyers defense, and found linemate Beau Bennett for a wide open net.
Refusing to go down quietly, the Flyers answered back with another goal through traffic, this time a deflection from Chris VandeVelde off a shot from Del Zotto, 2:01 later, tying the game at two apiece. The Flyers and the Penguins traded power plays late in the game, yet neither team could break the tie.
The Flyers opened the extra frame with a penalty that carried over from the end of overtime, and, although the failed to capitalize, were given another opportunity when the Penguins were caught with too many men on the ice.
With less than 10 seconds left in the power play and just about a minute left in overtime, Voracek blasted a shot that somehow went through the jersey of Penguins goalie Thomas Greiss, and then laid in the crease for Flyers captain Claude Giroux to pounce upon for the game-winning goal.
Philadelphia played the game with passion; seeing players stand up for each other and themselves, killing penalties when it matters the most, and scoring the big goals is something the Flyers have been missing up to this point. Hopefully Philadelphia will be able to carry over this emotion and passion into the second half of the season.
- Tonight was the sixth straight win for the Flyers against the Penguins.
- Claude Giroux tied a career-high 10 shots on goal. It was the first time since February 21, 2012 that Giroux took 10 shots in a game.
- Philadelphia went a perfect six for six on the penalty kill, including a five-minute major; its power play unit was one for six.
- Despite only picking up three shots in the first period, the Flyers still outshot the Penguins, 40-35. It was only the fourth time this season and first since December 20 that the Flyers took 40+ shots.
- Voracek’s 17 penalty minutes tonight is the second-highest total of his career, and the highest since picking up 19 PIM in a game against Washington on March 31, 2013, when he got into his first NHL fight.
Josh Kaz writes about the Flyers at dropthepuck.org.