Hart Attack! Flyers Down Pens on OT Buzzer Beater

Hart Attack! Flyers Down Pens on OT Buzzer Beater

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.

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.

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.