April 1, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers fight against each other during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Philadelphia Flyers won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
After falling behind 2-0 in the game's first five minutes, the Flyers stormed back for a hard-fought win over their arch rivals from the west in a battle for home-ice advantage in their likely first round postseason meeting.
Jakub Voracek scored two goals and added an assist and Claude Giroux scored a goal and added two helpers, while Sergei Bobrovsky made a career-high 43 saves as the Philadelphia Flyers once again had to overcome a two-goal deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The cross-state rivals have a long history of animosity, and that likely ramped up another notch Sunday afternoon, as bad blood spilled over in a fracas late in the third period which even saw Flyers' head coach Peter Laviolette and Pittsburgh assistant coach Tony Granato feverishly jawing at one another while standing on the edge of the boards at their team's respective benches.
With the victory, Philly pulled to within a single point of the Penguins in the battle for fourth place -- and home ice advantage in the likely first round playoff matchup -- with both teams each having three games remaining heading into the final week of the regular season. The Flyers passed the century mark in points for the 19th time in franchise history (101), tying the Boston Bruins for the most 100-point seasons in NHL history.
The pair faceoff in the season finale next Saturday in Pittsburgh in what could be a one game dogfight for the right to open the postseason on their home ice.
Things did not look good for the Flyers early on. For the sixth time in the last nine games and 18th in the past 25, Philadelphia allowed their opposition to score the first goal of the contest, as Steve Sullivan and James Neal each scored within the contest's first five minutes to stake the home team to a 2-0 lead.
But the team from the eastern portion of Pennsylvania came back with a vengeance, starting with an all-important late first period goal from Giroux, the club's leading scorer. His shot from the high slot eluded Marc-Andre Fleury, who was being screened by Scott Hartnell in front to bring the Flyers back to within 2-1 at the first intermission.
It gave the team some much needed momentum, as the Pens had outshot Philly by a 15-8 count in the first 20 minutes.
It didn't take the Flyers long to capitalize on the wave of emotion in the second period as ex-Penguin Maxime Talbot redirected a Zac Rinaldo pass to beat Fleury for his 19th goal of the season and tie it up at 1:25. The goal would prove to be the only tally in the middle stanza, as Bobrovsky stopped all 15 shots he faced in the second period.
Philadelphia would take control of the game in the third, beginning with a power play with Chris Kunitz in the penalty box. Wayne Simmonds ripped his 27th goal of the season past Fleury off a beautiful Voracek feed, giving the Orange-and-Black their first lead of the afternoon at 3-2 just 2:35 into the third period.
Goals by Voracek and Marc-Andre Bourdon gave the Flyers a commanding 5-2 lead with 6:45 remaining in regulation, before Sullivan notched his second of the game to draw Pittsburgh to within 5-3 two minutes after the Bourdon tally.
With Fleury pulled for an extra attacker, Voracek hit the empty net from long range for his second of the game to set a new career-high of 17, giving Philly a 6-3 lead with 1:15 left.
Just 12 seconds later there was a major skirmish between the two teams, resulting in 15 penalties and 52 PIMs, with the coaches nearly coming to blows between the two benches. It was no doubt calling cards being left for the unfinished business between the two organizations, which resumes again next Saturday.
After sanity was restored, Kunitz closed out the scoring with 32 ticks remaining on the clock.
The Pens might want to think twice about wanting to open the playoffs at home. The Flyers had tremendous problems playing in Pittsburgh over the last several seasons that the Civic / Mellon Arena was in existence, but they've thrived in Steel City since the CONSOL Energy Center was opened last year. With Sunday's triumph, Philly now sports a very gaudy 5-0-0 mark in the Penguins' new building.
It was the second time this weekend Philly had trailed their opponent by a 2-0 lead -- they fell behind 3-0 Saturday to the Ottawa Senators before coming back to force overtime before falling in the shootout -- but they came away with a hard-fought three of a possible four points in the two tilts.
It was also the second consecutive season Philadelphia has recorded 25 road wins -- the most all-time in their history -- and the highest win total away from home of any team this year. They can set the new franchise mark in the last game of the season, Saturday back in Pittsburgh.