PHILADELPHIA -- Clint Malarchuk hasn't won an NHL game in about 20 years, but Saturday night he was getting credit for the Atlanta Thrashers' biggest win of the season.
Malarchuk, the Thrashers' goaltending coach, addressed the team following the second period, and what he said worked as Atlanta rallied from a 3-0 deficit for a crucial 5-4 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Ron Hainsey capped the comeback by tipping an Evander Kane centering pass over Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky at 1:17 of extra time to give Atlanta two desperately needed points.
Kane also had a goal, and Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom and Andrew Ladd also scored for Atlanta. Chris Mason, who replaced Ondrej Pavelec in goal to start the third period, stopped 12 of 13 shots for the victory.
Ville Leino had his first NHL hat trick for Philadelphia, and Kimmo Timonen scored the team's League-best 12th shorthanded goal.
However, a misplay by Leino led to Atlanta's overtime goal. Leino tried to find Braydon Coburn entering the Atlanta zone late, but the pass was behind the defenseman. Anthony Stewart jumped on the puck and started a 3-on-1 rush. Stewart sent a cross-ice pass to Kane on the left side. When Timonen slid to take away Kane's shooting lane, he centered the puck to Hainsey, who scored his third of the season.
"Kaner drove with so much speed, so when their guy went with the slide he was able to skate right by him," said Hainsey. "At that point it was his option to either shoot it, or I'm so close to the net he put it on the tape and we've got to hope it deflects in. He made a great play, skating by the guy originally, that set it up and he put it on the tape."
While Hainsey gets credit for the game-winning goal, it was Malarchuk who fueled the comeback when he went into the locker room to tell Pavelec he was being pulled for Mason.
"I kind of got a little irritated and … it's not my place to do this. It's not my place to talk to forwards or defensemen or the team. My job is the goalies," said Malarchuk. "I turned around and I said you guys got to understand, these guys (goalies) play every night and give us a chance every night. Can we not just gut up and do it for teammates? We are a family and we have to understand that when one guy is down or the other guy is down, you fight, you push. We're family. Let's do it, boys."
"That's the first time he's done that, so he might have to do it a little more often," Ladd told NHL.com. "Definitely worked."
Kane started the comeback by grabbing a loose puck in the neutral zone, jetting into the Philadelphia end, driving past Flyers defenseman Sean O'Donnell and poking it through Bobrovsky just 69 seconds into the third period. Then Bogosian's shot from the point through layers of traffic got between Bobrovsky's pads at 12:15 of the period to make it 3-2.
The Flyers restored their two-goal lead just 1:17 later when Leino finished his hat trick with a rifle shot from the right circle for a power-play goal.
But with the Flyers' Kris Versteeg off for interference, the Thrashers were able to pull back within a goal on Enstrom's 10th of the season. Bobrovsky lost his stick and in the ensuing confusion Enstrom pinched in from the right point and took a nice feed from Stewart to score with 2:59 remaining.
"I thought OK, 4-2 looks like you're cooked, but we were able to come back on the power play," said Hainsey. "If you're within one with two minutes to go in this League, you get the extra guy, you got a shot."
The Thrashers' shot came thanks to a mistake by Versteeg, who tried to send an Atlanta dump-in behind the net, but instead threw it into the crease. Bryan Little had a chance, but the puck popped over Bobrovsky and right to Ladd, who scored with 44.6 seconds left in regulation.
"We dumped it in and I thought it was going to come around so I was going to cut it off on the other side of the net," said Ladd. "Somehow it ended up short side, and (Little) kind of jammed at it and it popped back door and I was the only one there and had a wide-open net."
The Thrashers' previous three games had gone to overtime, with Atlanta winning two of them, but they lost their most recent one, Friday to New Jersey. That pushed their desperation level that much higher.
"It's big, especially this time of year when points are crucial," said Stewart. "We went into these games before and didn't get the extra point, so we made it a point to get that extra point."
The Thrashers remain locked in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, but the victory pulled them within four points of the eighth-place New York Rangers pending the outcome of their game in San Jose. Regardless of what happens out west, the Thrashers know Saturday's game could be huge for them going into their final 13 regular-season games, starting Tuesday in New Jersey.
"This is a game you don't forget easily," said Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay. "This is a game that's special. We've had some really wonderful games this season where we've played so well and so hard. This is one where we got rewarded for all that hard work."
This also is a game the Flyers likely won't forget. The last time Philadelphia lost a game with a three-goal lead after two periods was Nov. 21, 1987.
"It is one of those tough ones where you go back and it's tough to leave the rink," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "You're up and you're in control of the game and it slowly slips away. Every time they got an opportunity it was in the net."
Philadelphia looked to be in control early. Despite being out-shot 10-4 in the first period, they led 1-0 on Leino's 15th goal of the season. Scott Hartnell sent a cross-ice pass to an open Leino below the right circle. Leino kicked the puck onto his forehand and scored for the first time in eight games.
The goal gave the Flyers a League-high nine players with 15 or more goals.
The Flyers made it 2-0 early in the second when Timonen finished a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush with Richards. The Philadelphia captain faked a shot from the right circle, deked around Pavelec and sent a pass through the crease that Timonen banged in for his fifth of the season at 4:21 of the second.
Leino made the lead 3-0 with a power-play goal at 14:22 of the second. With the Flyers skating on the power play, Richards fired a shot from the left side that trickled through Pavelec. Leino dove into the crease to tip the puck in.
That was one of the last highlights for Philadelphia. The point they received for making it to overtime gives them a three-point lead on idle Washington atop the Eastern Conference, but that was little solace to a team that saw its two-game win streak snapped, and dropped them to 6-6-2 over the last month.
"It's has been like this the last few games," said Timonen. "We stop playing. When you stop playing in this League you are going to lose games. This game is about hard work and making good plays, making simple plays. It seems like every time we get it to be 3-0, 4-0 or whatever, we start turning the puck over. We think the game is over. It's not over. That's one of those things we have to change now. We can't wait. We can't keep doing the same mistakes game after game after game."