Mar 18, 2012, 5:49 PM EDT
Scott Hartnell’s amazing All-Star season rolls on.
With one goal already under his belt to knot the score at two in the third period, Hartsy would go on to play the hero. His 35th goal of the season sailed past Marc-Andre Fleury as the final seconds ticked off the clock in overtime, boosting the resilient Flyers to a 3-2, come-from-behind victory over a white-hot Penguins club that came to Philadelphia winners of their last 11.
Various pieces of hockey equipment were mistreated as the Pens vacated the bench area, but not merely out of frustration over dropping a two-goal lead in a game they dominated for the first 40 minutes. Tempers flared increasingly during this intense meeting between division rivals jockeying for playoff positioning, and emotions finally boiled over when one of the main antagonists netted the game winner.
There was a point where the Flyers walking away with two points seemed improbable though. Orange and Black stumbled out of the gate, and appeared to be headed for a dull effort. Thankfully, Ilya Bryzgalov steadied the team until they made a late rally, stopping 38 shots in yet another strong showing for the redeemed netminder.
Bryz survived a pair of dangerous-looking power plays late in the first period, but not before the Penguins had already lit the lamp. Craig Adams made Wayne Simmonds pay for a rare miscue, putting the Flyers’ forward on his butt before he could clear the puck. The veteran Adams went back to work in front of the net, redirecting a Kris Letang slap shot off of young Brandon Manning’s leg, and past a guessing Bryzgalov.
It was a quality deflection, but Manning maybe could have been stronger on the body in front of his net.
Things went from bad to worse in the second frame. After getting outshot 17-8 in period one, the Flyers offense disappeared entirely, completing an 18-minute stretch without a shot on goal. It took a five-on-four to break out of the funk, but they never really threatened.
Despite the offensive ineptitude, the Flyers almost made it to the locker room unscathed. Evgeni Malkin had something to say about that however, victimizing Philly’s defense with a late goal that increased the deficit to two.
The NHL’s points leader skated around Claude Giroux out of the corner, then went for a walk in Bryzgalov’s crease. Basically uncontested, Malkin had time to maneuver across the mouth of the goal, and slip the biscuit under the sprawling goaltender’s pad on the opposite side. Impossible play for Bryz, and difficult for Kimmo Timonen and Brayden Coburn as well, both of them opting to stick with their man while Malkin dazzled.
Things began to turn around for the Flyers shortly thereafter. Zbynek Michalek took a slashing penalty following Malikn’s goal, and Philly began the third period on the power play. They responded 31 seconds in with a Timonen blast from the point. Fleury was playing peek-a-boo behind Simmonds, and never saw the puck as it sailed into the net, cutting Pittsburgh’s lead to one.
Four minutes later, Hartnell evened the score on an impressive finesse goal from in tight.
Simmonds pick-pocketed Malkin as he attempted to skate the puck of his own zone, then dished off to Giroux. Giroux showed one-timer, but instead slapped a pass to Hartnell along the side of the cage. With Brooks Orpik bearing down on him, Hartsy took the wrister from the difficult angle, and buried the shot top shelf, over Fleury’s shoulder. Sick.
The Pens eventually snapped out of it, and the action was tight the rest of the way, forcing extra hockey. It appeared we would see the dreaded shootout, but Hartnell was having none of it today.
Danny Briere carried the puck across the blue line for one final rush — five seconds left. He pumped the brakes as a pair of white sweaters converged on his path to the net — four seconds. Nothing there, Briere located Hartnell, and calmly slid the puck across the ice — three. Hartnell accepted the pass in the slot, and all alone, he unloaded the wrister — two.
One — vulcanized rubber met twine, and the Flyers celebrated on the ice.
The win was Philadelphia’s fourth this season when trailing after two periods. More importantly, it was two points. With three weeks remaining in the regular season, they are two points back of Pittsburgh, and three points back of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers, though the Flyers have played one more game than each of those clubs.
- Hartnell had quite a raspberry on his face after the game, stemming from a third-period scrum with Chris Kunitz.
An incensed Hartnell wanted a piece of anybody wearing a white sweater, long after whistles had blown and referees had separated him from the initial brouhaha. Kunitz eventually wound up on top of Hartnell in a dog pile, and as Keith
Jones put it, was really giving him the business. The Flyers and Pens meet two more times this season, so this feud probably isn’t over.
- Unfortunately, Hartnell also wound up taking out one of his own guys. Hartnell and Zac Rinaldo each wanted to have words with Letang, but Rinaldo probably isn’t speaking to anybody right now. Letang gave Hartnell a shove, and his stick wound up clipping Rinaldo right inside the mouth. Nasty.
- What we’re trying to say is Scott Hartnell was really gooning it up out there today. He amassed six penalty minutes to go along with his two scores.
- Next meeting: Sunday, April 1 in NBC’s Game of the Week from Pittsburgh.
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