PITTSBURGH -- After the booing, the jeering, the questionable language on placards, Jaromir Jagr finally silenced the Consol Energy Crowd with one of his vintage goals that harkened right back the mid-1990s.
Split the defense, backhand the puck with a hard shot past the goalie, then give the salute. This time, to an elderly woman on the end glass.
She didnt like it much, Jagr said. Im like, bleep off. I almost fell in the corner its so small and I have to do my salute. Obviously, she was there. She didnt salute me back, I know that for sure.
Jagrs return to Pittsburgh as a Flyer was a success as Peter Laviolettes club closed out 2011 with a 4-2 win over the Penguins that snapped an ugly two-game skid and strengthened the Flyers' hold on the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
They did everything right in this game, particularly on the penalty kill (3 for 3), which came up big in the final minutes.
To come back after a couple of tough games, I thought it was a real big effort by our guys, Laviolette said. There was a realization after the first period that we were better than what we were showing there.
The PK did a good job. They have a talented group. We gave up maybe two or three quality chances throughout the night. They did a really nice job.
The Flyers had a quiet 3-1 lead going into the final seven minutes before Tyler Kennedy ripped one from the right circle over Sergei Bobrovsky, but the PK units buckled down.
Its a good way to finish out the month, Claude Giroux said. Weve got to take this momentum and hopefully bring it for the Winter Classic.
The game was hard-skating, hard-checking and competitive everything you expect from this rivalry.
We knew we were going to play a great hockey team, and we did, Jagr said. Theyre right behind us in the standings and they didnt have Sidney Crosby.
Theyre going to be tougher. We didnt play very well lately and for our confidence itll help us for our future. Itll help us for next year.
It took 36 games for Kimmo Timonen to actually find the back of the net, but if youre going to get your first goal, might as well notch it against a hated rival.
His one-timer from the point off a Giroux pass during the Flyers' second power play of the game tied it at 1-1 midway into an opening period that offered a glimpse of the past for one former Penguin and how hell be remembered into the future for another.
Of course, we're talking about Jagr and Max Talbot. Jagr was part of three scoring chances in his very first shift on the ice and actually muffed an open net.
They were saying, I love youuuu, Jagr laughed about the booing. I had a lot of chances. I had the most chances this year in a game. G Giroux just feeding me and I couldnt score. Probably meant to be. Then, I score a nice one and Im happy about it.
Giroux whispered, I think he might have actually liked it a little bit.
While Pens fans wont ever forgive Jagr for not signing back with Pittsburgh in free agency, they showered Talbot with love and even a tribute video.
Bobrovsky, who had not started since winning at Dallas eight days ago, could not be faulted for the Pens' first goal 44 ticks into play. Kennedy picked off Andrej Meszaros routine exchange pass behind the net and fed Jordan Staal for a cheapie at the post.
Bobrovsky faced 26 shots and was very steady throughout the game. Many of Pittsburghs best chances were off scrums around the net.
He gets that tough one coming out from behind the net and then he seals the post and it squeaks in there, Laviolette said. That shows his mental toughness from there to come back and play so well and make so many big saves for us after that. Hes been really good for us.
He even withstood some physical play from the Pens Evgeni Malkin, who ran him over in the third period to pick up a goalie interference penalty.
The big question now is: will Laviolette cast aside potential bruised feelings and play Bobrovsky in the Winter Classic given his game appears far more at ease right now than Ilya Bryzgalov's?
What a big win tonight, lets stick to tonight, Laviolette said. Im not even out of the building yet.
Incidentally, near the end of the first period, Jagr saved an open-net goal from James Neal in the paint, lifting his stick.
Remember me for the Selke Trophy, Jagr yelled after the game, a reference to the award given to the NHLs top defensive forward.
Six minutes into the second period, Jagr took a pass from Giroux and zig-zagged right through Penguins defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, before backhanding a high shot from 22 feet that Marc-Andre Fleury waved on.
Jagr has such quick hands and does that in practice, its pretty impressive, Giroux said of the goal. How quick he is.
Jagrs 12th goal gave the Flyers their first lead of the night at 2-1. Finally, the fans had reason to boo.
Matt Read, who was denied by Fleury on a poke check during a first period breakaway, ended a nine-game goal drought with his 12th goal at 16:11 to give Bobrovsky a two-goal lead heading into the third period.
Fellow rookie Sean Couturier, back in the lineup after a four-game absence because of a non-concussion, head injury, picked up his first assist since Dec. 15 at Montreal.
By the final period, the boos that greeted Jagr every time he touched the puck had dissipated considerably.
Im glad the goal was one of my better-looking ones, Jagr said.
Im glad it wasnt off my ass or my leg or a rebound. Kind of pretty move against the defensemen and score. Its nice to score and win the hockey game.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com.