Danny Briere had a choice, actually.
Get an assist and earn a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Get a goal and earn a hat trick outright that wins the game.
Briere chose the latter, scoring with 5.3 seconds left in overtime Saturday as the Flyers defeated the Ottawa Senators, 3-2.
The guys were teasing me after the period that it Howe hat trick was there, but Ill take the win over that any time of day, Briere said of his game-winning goal.
It wasnt our best game, to be honest. Theyre a team that skates well and battles hard. I dont know if it was because it was an afternoon game or what."
Didnt feel like we were at our best but to somehow find a way to get a win, this is huge. Back to back wins against two big opponents after dropping the Classic.
Indeed, the Flyers closed out a mini three-game home stand taking four of six points against Chicago and Ottawa, after losing to the Rangers in the Winter Classic.
Now its back on the road for an entire week, starting Sunday against these same Senators in Ottawa.
We kinda played casual on the forecheck with less than 15 seconds in the overtime, Briere said of the final seconds in overtime.
When Jake Voracek was able to put it behind the net, all I was thinking was try to jam it. I knew I didnt have a lot of room. Try to get something going and I was lucky to find the puck.
Brieres offensive heroics -- plus his fight with Kyle Turris (see blog) -- were important, but equally significant was the play of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who had 35 saves, including a humongous big one as the Russian often says, on Bobby Butler in overtime.
Bryz got the Flyers two points instead of one.
He was excellent, start to finish, coach Peter Laviolette said. That Butler save gave us an opportunity to pick up the second point. Goaltending was a factor. It was good both ways.
Lots of opportunities, lots of attempts, but our guy held us in there against Ottawa. They have a high-scoring team. We knew going into it they would generate chances and wed need good goaltending and we got it.
Butler broke a 1-1 tie at 6:43 of the third period as the Flyers had another frantic finish. Shame of it is, it could have been a rout given all the Flyer shots that hit the post, plus the fact they failed to do anything on their first five power plays.
Butlers goal came after the Flyers fifth power play ended on another flat note.
We werent in sync and didnt do a very good job protecting pucks, Briere said of the power play. Getting into battles. To their credit, they were really fast on us. They didnt give us any time. Its something we have to adjust for tomorrows game.
The Flyers finished 1-for-6 on the man advantage. Their lone goal came from Briere three minutes after Butler had given Ottawa that 2-1 lead. Briere tipped a Kimmo Timonen shot in front of goalie Craig Anderson to make it, 2-2.
I was fortunate on that one, Briere said, noting that Sens defenseman Chris Phillips re-re-tipped it into the net.
Timonen returned to the ice Saturday after missing most of Thursdays game against Chicago game with a bruised left hand (see blog).
Ive had better days, he said of playing through pain which also meant his consecutive games streak continued (224 now).
Brieres line with Max Talbot and Voracek dominated play right from the start.
After the Flyers wasted an early first period power play opportunity against the 24th worst penalty kill in the NHL, they redeemed themselves during even strength play at 11:05.
Voracek, looking like a more confident player on Brieres line, avoided a check from Phillips and gave Briere a pass into the zone.
Though Briere flubbed his initial shot from the left circle, the puck bounced off Andersons pads right back to him.
For Briere, it was his first in six games. Following the hat trick, he now has 13 for the season.
The first shot was a good fake, Briere kidded. Not what I was trying to do. After that, I was trying to find the puck and I was lucky it bounced.
Bryzgalov had a number of strong saves, including a couple on Chris Neil and Daniel Alfredsson during a Sens power play during a weak second period by the Flyers.
Alas, that same power play became a 27-second 5-on-3 in which Milan Michalek tied the game at 11:05, with a rebound off Sergei Gonchars drive. Nothing Brzy could do there as Michalek was alone in the crease.
Near the end of the period, both teams skated 4 on 4 with Briere and Turris off the ice for an altercation: Briere hooked him and Turris hit Briere over the head with a stick.
Whey they emerged, Briere dropped the gloves and kicked Turris fanny as fans chanted, Danny, Danny, Danny.
That probably inspired me, I know that, Laviolette said of the fight. He came out and he was skating and in the battles and getting knocked around and taking some and giving some.
Thats where he has to be to score goals. Hes got to be willing to take that from some big guys and he did that. A fight, three goals, won with a half-dozen seconds on the clock. A terrific, terrific effort.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com