Tempers flare in Flyers’ win over Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin collides with Philadelphia Flyers’ Claude Giroux in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Sunday.
Jakub Voracek scored twice in the third period to break open a tight game and lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux, Max Talbot and Marc-Andre Bourdon also scored for Philadelphia while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 43 shots as the Flyers pulled within a point of the Penguins for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The game served as a preview of what could be a heated first-round playoff matchup. The intensity bubbled over late during an extended third-period brawl that even had the coaches of both teams yelling across the glass at each other.
Steve Sullivan scored twice for Pittsburgh and James Neal added his 39th of the season, but the Penguins couldn’t hold an early two-goal lead. Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves yet remains one victory short of Tom Barrasso’s franchise record for career wins.
Fleury will have three more chances to tie the mark before the regular season ends — including the regular season finale against Philadelphia on Saturday — but at the moment the Penguins have much bigger issues.
Pittsburgh appeared on the verge of chasing down the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference a week ago.
Instead the Penguins have dropped three of four and lead the Flyers by one point in the standings with three games to play.
The fourth seed will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, though it might not matter to Philadelphia. The Flyers are 5-0 at Consol Energy Center since it opened in October 2010.
Pittsburgh’s frustration bubbled over late after captain Sidney Crosby took a hard hit from Philadelphia centre Brayden Schenn in the third period. He slowly got back to his feet and returned to the game, but teammate Arron Asham tried to exact some revenge by taking on Schenn a few minutes later.
It led to a chaotic sequence in which all 10 players on the ice started fighting, with Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma and assistant Tony Granato screaming over the glass at Philadelphia’s Peter Laviolette.
It was an exclamation point for the Flyers, who have struggled during daytime games this season. Philadelphia came in with a 4-8-2 record when the puck is dropped before 3 p.m. local time.
Those numbers include a 4-3 shootout loss to the Senators on Saturday in which the Flyers fell behind 3-0 in the first period.
A day later, Philadelphia was no sharper.
The Penguins raced to a 2-0 lead in the first 5 minutes. Sullivan scored his 16th of the season on a knuckled one-timer that deflected off a Philadelphia player and over Bobrovsky into the net.
There was no fortunate bounce necessary on Pittsburgh’s next score. Neal collected his 39th on the season by parking himself on the doorstep then wristing a shot over Bobrovsky’s right shoulder thanks to a slick pass from Evgeni Malkin.
Yet just like Saturday, the Flyers rallied.
And unlike Saturday, they came all the way back.
Giroux gave Philadelphia life late in the first when his shot from the point squirted between Fleury’s pads. Scott Hartnell didn’t receive an assist on the play, but he barrelled into Fleury, obstructing the goaltender’s view.
Talbot tied it at 2 early in the second period. The former Pittsburgh star — a key cog in the franchise’s 2009 Stanley Cup — deflected a shot past Fleury and the ensuing boos indicated not all of Pittsburgh’s vitriol is saved for Jaromir Jagr alone.
Simmonds — who scored on Saturday when a puck smashed off his face into the net — gave the Flyers their first lead in a more conventional fashion when he tapped in a pass from Voracek past Fleury 2:35 into the third period.
Voracek pushed the lead to 4-2 on a nifty backhand. When Bourdon’s slap shot from the point deflected off Pittsburgh defender Zbynek Michalek the Flyers had things well in hand.
Then things got out of hand.
NOTES: Philadelphia D Nicklas Grossman went to the dressing room with a lower body injury during a first-period collision with Pittsburgh’s Joe Vitale and did not return … The Penguins play in Boston on Tuesday while the Flyers host the Rangers. … Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis recorded the second assist on Sullivan’s goal to extend his points streak to 14 games, the longest in the NHL this season. … The Penguins are 6-4-1 since Crosby returned from concussion-like symptoms on March 15.