Game 27Ladies and Gentlemen Would You Please Welcome The Pittsburgh Penguins

Game 27Ladies and Gentlemen Would You Please Welcome The Pittsburgh Penguins

Last season, the very first
game the Flyers played was against their current top rival, the
Pittsburgh Penguins. They helped to open a new arena in western PA,
although not quite the way the home team would have wanted. This year,
we've had to wait more than a quarter of the season to see Jaromir Jagr
and Max Talbot face their former club, which we'll finally get to do
tonight.

That storyline aside, the Pens and Flyers are also deadlocked at the
top of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings,
separated by just one point. Pittsburgh has played and lost two more
games than Philadelphia, and the teams aren't alone at the top. There's a
lot of hockey left to be played, but we get the feeling it's going to
be tight most if not all of the way through to the spring.

The division races are heating up as the schedule gets more
Atlantic-heavy, which should provide for some great theatre as the
winter months kick in. The players come and go, but the rivalry never
seems to change much. The coming and going seems to be the spark that
will fuel some of this season's battles, with Jagr and Talbot taking top
billing.

Their stories are quite different, their Pittsburgh tenures
separated by years, but in the eyes of some Pens fans and media members,
the current most important characteristic Jagr and Talbot share isn't
that they won Cups for Pittsburgh—it's that they signed with the Flyers
this past summer. [Puck Daddy has more]

Jagr hasn't played for the Pens since 2001, having stopped in
Washington and New York before heading to Russia for three seasons. When
news broke that he'd be returning to the NHL, it was assumed he play
for either the Pens or the Red Wings, who were rumored to have interest.
But, like a thief in the night, Paul Holmgren worked a deal with former
Flyer and current Jagr agent Petr Svoboda, bringing Jagr to Philly.
Along with the departure of Talbot to none other than the Flyers he once
battled in a memorable playoff series (memorable for the wrong reasons
if you're from Philly), two playoff heroes had traded in their status as
flightless water fowl for roles with a team known for Flying.

The money, and in Talbot's case, years, that the Flyers gave these
two prodigals helped soften the blow for many Pittsburgh fans. Some said
Talbot was overrated and Jagr might dazzle here and there, but these
weren't currently guys you could pin big hopes on. With both playing at
the very least to the potential they were brought here for, I wonder if
the pill's as easy to swallow today as it was in July.

In truth, it probably is. The Penguins are doing just fine without
them, and there's still plenty of time for any Jagr and Talbot haters to
be proven right. But all indications are that if healthy, these two
will be key contributors to a versatile and dangerous Flyers team that
will contend for the division some thought would certainly belong to the
Penguins or Rangers once Homer pushed ctrl+alt+delete on last season's
roster. No one knew what to expect. It's safe to say that as the puck's
about to drop between the Penguins and Flyers for the first time this
season, fans on both sides wouldn't trade their players for their
counterparts in the other sweaters.

Just the way it should be in a great rivalry.

Quick notes:
As you already know, Sidney Crosby won't play tonight. Hope to the gods
that all is soon well with him and that we're not seeing the beginning
of concussion symptom recurrence so soon after his return. 

Also, HBO is shooting at tonight's game, gathering footage for the first episode of 24/7.

Ilya Bryzgalov will get his second start in as many nights, facing
Marc-Andre Fleury. Crosby's a well known Flyers assassin, and his
bullet's been dodged for the night, but the Flower's numbers (20-10 in
33 career appearances) against Philly aren't anything to shrug off… 

Quite possibly my favorite hockey pump-up song:

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).