OTTAWA, CANADA - JANUARY 8: Filip Kuba #17 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates Erik Condra #22 and Daniel Alfredsson #11 in their 6-4 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Place on January 8, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Philadelphia's recent sloppy defensive zone coverage once again cost them points in the standings, and the never-say-die Senators did all the right things in a tremendous come-from-behind victory.
Goaltender Craig Anderson made 33 saves, several of the spectacular variety to hold his club in the game, and Filip Kuba scored the game-winning goal with just 1:11 remaining in regulation, leading the Ottawa Senators to a 6-4 victory with a four-goal third period to beat the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday evening at Scotiabank Place.
With the win, Ottawa took three points in the home-and-home series, and closed to within two points of the fourth place Flyers' total of 52. Philly has managed just a 4-5-1 mark since a seven-game winning streak ended, while the Sens are now 5-0-1 in their last six, and 8-1-2 in their last 11.
Entering the third period with a seemingly safe 4-2 lead, the game marked the third time in the last four contests that Philadelphia surrendered a third period lead. It was also second time in the last three they gave up a two-goal lead in the final stanza. The Flyers are now 19-2-2 when leading after two periods of play.
During the weekend series, there was no shortage of offensive opportunities for both clubs. In Saturday's 3-2 overtime thriller in Philadelphia, in which Danny Briere completed the hat trick with just 5.3 seconds remaining in the extra frame, the Flyers outshot the visiting Senators, 39-37.
The goaltenders would face a similar assault on their respective nets in Ottawa, with the Sens throwing 38 pucks at Ilya Bryzgalov, and Philly 37 in Anderson's direction.
One of the biggest problems for Philadelphia has been defensive zone coverage, and the goal-scoring would start shortly after the opening faceoff as a result.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson was left all alone in front of the Philadelphia net and became the recipient of a beautiful Kyle Turris pass from the right wing side, beating Bryzgalov for his 14th goal of the season just 54 seconds into the contest.
Just over a minute and a half later, former-Senators' defenseman Andrej Meszaros, playing in his 500th NHL game against the club with which his career began, knotted the score at 1-1 with his sixth goal of the year when his seeing eye shot found its way through a mass of humanity in front of Anderson and into the net.
The next goal would take a great deal of time to actually become official, as Chris Neil's shot from a goalmouth scramble was originally ruled as no goal on the ice. Following a rather lengthy video review from the war room in Toronto, the correct call was made when super slow-motion revealed the puck well over the goal line between Bryzgalov's arms as he struggled to keep it in the crease area. Neil's sixth goal of the season gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead at the 8:25 mark.
That lead would hold up for the next seven minutes, until rookie defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon's wrist shot sailed past a Jakub Voracek screen and Anderson before hitting the far top corner for his second goal of the year to tie the game at 2-2.
Sean Couturier, who scored his first NHL goal in Ottawa on October 19, snapped a 21-game goalless drought as he was able to beat Anderson just 28 seconds later to give the Flyers their first lead of the night at 3-2.
Matt Read extended the visitors' lead, knocking home the rebound of a James van Riemsdyk blast from the right hash mark to give Philly a 4-2 lead. The power play tally was Read's 13th goal of the season, which ties him for the NHL lead in rookie goal scoring with the Edmonton Oilers' injured forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn had a golden opportunity to stretch the Flyers' lead to three as he found himself with an open net after picking up a Claude Giroux rebound, but Anderson dove across and made a fantastic stick save to keep the Sens within striking distance.
Colin Greening started the Ottawa comeback early in the third, when he flipped the puck harmlessly towards the net from the left wing boards. Defenseman Matt Carle, attempting to block the shot / pass from getting to the charging Senator's forward behind him, inadvertently tipped the puck past Bryzgalov for Greening's ninth of the year at the 3:11 mark.
It was now a 4-3 Flyers' lead, and Ottawa ramped up their attack after being given an opportunity to get back into the game.
After Anderson made yet another tremendous save, this time on Read, the Senators made it a new game. Erik Karlsson, the outstanding third year defenseman, broke into the Philadelphia zone along the left wing side. Using a teammate charging through the slot as a decoy, Karlsson appeared to surprise Bryzgalov by instead shooting the puck, picking the five-hole on the unprepared goalie for his sixth goal of the season at 6:19.
Karlsson ended the two-game weekend series with a goal and four points, as he continues to become one of the League's elite rear guards.
Though they had yielded the lead, the Flyers didn't show any signs of being discouraged, as they made a hard push to score a go-ahead goal.
That's when the complete impact of Anderson's play would come into full focus. He came up with another 10-bell save on Schenn with a diving stop on what looked like a sure goal, then moments after Kuba was able to catch Giroux from behind on what would have been a shorthanded breakaway, the goalie stopped a shot by Couturier on a shorthanded two-on-one rush.
That set up Kuba's late goal scoring heroics, as his point shot appeared to glance off Scott Hartnell's stick in front of the Flyers' net and redirect past Bryzgalov, who didn't appear to see the shot until it was passing him on the way into the goal.
With Bryzgalov pulled for an extra attacker, Nick Foligno dented the twine with his 12th of the year to seal the 6-4 Senators' triumph.
One of the biggest keys to Ottawa's success was keeping Philadelphia's top line in check, as Giroux, Hartnell, and Jaromir Jagr, who returned from a groin injury today, were all held off the board during the weekend set.