Alexei Ponikarovsky scored two power play goals and added an assist and Chad LaRose scored a goal and assisted on two others, as the Carolina Hurricanes stormed into Philadelphia and beat the shorthanded Flyers, 4-2.
Already without star winger Jaromir Jagr because of a groin injury, it was announced just two hours before game time the Flyers would be missing both captain Chris Pronger (virus) and Braydon Coburn (upper body injury) on the blue line. In their absence, defensemen Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon were recalled from the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms.
Ponikarovsky opened the scoring at the 13:42 mark of the opening period. With Wayne Simmonds in the penalty box for holding, LaRose sent a pass from the left of Philadelphia starter Ilya Bryzgalov past the defender in front, and Ponikarovsky had an open half of the net with which to shoot. He made no mistake for his fourth of the season, and the man advantage tally gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.
Late in the first, Jeff Skinner would double the Carolina lead. Carrying the puck down the right wing side, he did a spin move and got around Flyers' defenseman Kimmo Timonen, then cut directly to the net. Bryzgalov was able to stop the first attempt, but Skinner got his stick on the rebound and poked it past the goaltender for his ninth of the year with just 15 seconds remaining in the frame.
"Coming through the neutral zone, I didn't think I had any speed," Skinner said after the game. "So I tried to generate a little bit by turning around and just putting it up in the air. I just put it in the net. He (Bryzgalov) did a good job saving the first one, I just tried to tap it in on the second."
Philadelphia struck early on in the second period, when James van Riemsdyk carried the puck behind the Hurricanes' cage. He powered past defenseman Jay Harrison and wrapped around the right side of Cam Ward, tucking it past the fallen netminder. Van Riemsdyk's eighth of the season brought the Flyers back to within 2-1 at the 1:34 mark.
Carolina would regain the two-goal lead just over two minutes later. Tomas Kaberle fed LaRose at the left faceoff circle, and his wrist shot beat Bryzgalov cleanly for his sixth of the year and made it a 3-1 'Canes lead.
Matt Read cut the lead to 3-2, with van Riemsdyk playing a big part in the team's goal once again. With Tim Brent in the box for tripping Jakub Voracek, the big winger rumbled down the right wing side, carried the puck around the net, then whipped a pass onto the tape of Read's stick The first-year winger ripped a shot past Ward for the power play goal for his ninth of the season and sixth in the last five games.
But the Hurricanes would strike back with another late-period goal. With Andrej Meszaros off for high-sticking Eric Staal, Bryzgalov made the initial save on a LaRose shot. As the goalie fell backwards into the net, he had the puck between his legs and was in a "snow angel" position. Ponikarovsky found the loose puck and chipped it up and over Bryzgalov for his second of the game, and fifth on the year.
"He's played great," head coach Paul Maurice said of Ponikarovsky's play. "In a really lousy stretch last week, he was one of the lone forward voices always barking on the bench, always up, always going. So I'm happy he got rewarded for it. He was a very consistent leader for us throughout that (tough time)."
The power play goal was their second of the night. Carolina ended up 2-4 with the man advantage.
The Hurricanes defense shut things down the rest of the way, holding Philadelphia to just seven shots in the third period.
Ward finished the night with 30 saves on 32 shots.
"He's been huge pretty much the whole year," Skinner said of his goaltender. "He made some big saves at key times, and that's what you need out of your goalie. Not only big saves, but when it matters and he makes them when it matters."
Tonight was the second successive victory in two nights for Carolina, who may have saved their coach's job. Rumors began to surface that Maurice's job may be in jeopardy. but the team has played well in the last two contests, and hope to build on those wins.
"We have struggled a little bit for the past few games, and we just come out and played pretty good teamwork," Ponikarovsky said. "Everybody was on the same page. As long as we can continue to do that, we will have a lot of success."