To celebrate the return to the National Hockey League of the Winnipeg Jets, it was "1980's Night" on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In a game reminiscent of the wide open, offensive '80's, it was one of the strangest games in recent memory; one that featured 15 different goal scorers, 17 total goals on 73 shots on goals, two blown four-goal Winnipeg leads, and three goaltender changes.
When the smoke cleared, the Jets had pulled out a 9-8 win in Philadelphia. Somebody call Gary Bettman and tell him that scoring is not down in every NHL game.
After Scott Hartnell opened the scoring for the Flyers at the 4:10 mark of the opening period, the Jets stormed back to net the next five. It was a bit of deja vu for Philly, as they had jumped out to an early lead in Montreal last night, only to drop a 5-1 decision to the Habs.
But Thursday was different for the Flyers, as they battled all the way back.
Claude Giroux and Evander Kane traded power play goals to make it 6-2 Jets, before Danny Briere and Max Talbot scored in the last five minutes of the second to get the Flyers close at 6-4 heading into the third.
"We were up 5-1, and all of a sudden we're down 7-6," said Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd after the game. "It's tough to get the momentum back, but we were able to find a way. We were just able to find a way to win."
Winnipeg did find a way, and quickly. Alex Burmistrov and Mark Stuart each scored within 1:01 to retake the lead at 8-7.
Van Riemsdyk -- who ended the night with a game-high nine shots on goal -- scored his second of the game with 3:31 remaining in regulation to knot the score at 8-8 before Ladd scored the game-winner from point blank range on a great goalmouth feed from Blake Wheeler with just 1:06 left.
That's right. A Winnipeg team that had managed just 17 goals in eight games so far this season scored nine in one game against the Flyers -- on a night when Philadelphia outshot them, 48-25.
It was a wild ride for all involved, and Jets' winger Chris Thorburn seemed like his head was still spinning. "Oh man, it was crazy, it was such a roller coaster ride," he said. "The first half of the game, we were just putting them in and off the guy's feet, and they were just finding ways to go in, and it was so easy, and we kind of changed our game a little bit."
Defenseman Zach Bogosian, who didn't record a point and finished at a minus-3, was asked if it was like playing a video game out there tonight. "Yeah, I felt like I was watching the World Series," he said. This was definitely no Fall Classic, but rather a sloppy defensive game at both ends of the ice.
Even though the Jets are in denial regarding their Atlanta roots, they had no problem giving the Flyers fits, just as the Thrashers took three of the four contests against the Flyers last season (2-1-1).
After stopping just six out of 10 Winnipeg shots sent his way, Bryzgalov took the loss -- the fifth decision in a row that he's dropped (0-4-1). Afterwards, he blamed himself for the loss.
"If you have a terrible goalie, its no surprise why there were so many goals," said the despondent goalie. "I have zero confidence in myself right now. I am terrible. I will now apologize in front of the fans, in front of my teammates. I don't know what's going on. I have no answer for you guys. I thought in the last game against Montreal, that nothing worse was going to happen. Today was worse."
Briere didn't want to hear that his goaltender, who was signed for a cool $51 million over nine years during the summer, solely pointed the finger at himself. "I don’t think its right to just blame one guy on that, there were breakdowns left and right," said Briere, who scored two goals and added two assists, while posting a plus-3 rating.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen agreed. "Obviously, we played two really bad periods up in Montreal yesterday, and it seems like we’re in the same mode today for the first half of the game," said Timonen, who had four assists on the night, and was a +3. "And you know, that’s not the way we win games. That’s why I say we have work to do."
Jets' head coach Claude Noel was asked to add his thoughts on what was a crazy night. "Yeah," he laughed, "that wasn’t necessarily the way we drew it up to win a game on the road, but hey we’ll take it, we’ll take the two points and just go from there."
Winnipeg netminder Ondrej Pavelec got the start for the Jets, but was pulled for Chris Mason after the Flyers tied the game in the third at 6-6. Mason stopped four of five shots, but appeared to pull a groin muscle, and left the game. Pavelec got the win, despite yielding seven goals on 43 shots.
Ladd, who saw his club fashion nine different goal scorers, summed up the night pretty well - and was just happy that his team was able to get the win. "I definitely didn’t come here thinking we were going to win 9 – 8, but it was kind of like (the video game) 'Blades of Steel' out there," he said. "We need something to get us going, whether it’s a 9 -8 win, or a 2 – 1 win, or a 1 -0 win, we will take it. We definitely need to tighten up a lot and use this going forward."
The same can be said for the Flyers, as they have now given up 13 goals in their last five periods.