PITTSBURGH -- The Philadelphia Flyers stuck to their dangerous strategy, one they'd actually like to get as far away from as possible, to take an early lead in the latest installment of the Battle of Pennsylvania.
Jakub Voracek scored 2:23 into overtime Wednesday as the Flyers erased a three-goal deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 at Consol Energy Center. Danny Briere scored twice and Brayden Schenn had a goal and two assists in the final 33 minutes and 38 seconds in regulation to help the Flyers grab a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins
Game 2 is Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS), when the Flyers hope to avoid going into an early hole like they did in Game 1.
However, should it happen again, at least they have enough evidence now to prove that no deficit is too great. The Flyers beat the Penguins twice in the final month of the season after falling behind 2-0.
"We've done it all year and that's what we've got going our way after the first period," Briere said. "At the same time we have to find a way to rectify that because it's not going to happen every night, especially in the playoffs. We got away with it tonight. We're not going to come back from two or three goals every single game. We'll take it, but let's be better."
The Flyers will have Thursday to correct the errors they made in the first period, when they sat back and let the Penguins come at them with great speed that led to a 3-0 deficit by the intermission. Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis all scored for Pittsburgh, but still it wasn't enough.
Instead of sitting back in the second, the Flyers started to skate. They were better and the Penguins weren't nearly as effective with their speed game.
By the third period, the Flyers were flying and the Penguins were on their heels. After getting outshot 23-13 in the first two periods, the Flyers outshot the Penguins 11-5 in the third. The Flyers kept up the pressure in overtime, and it led to Voracek's winner. He slammed home a loose puck from the right post after Matt Carle's shot from the left point appeared to be partially blocked by Kris Letang.
Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was less-than-inspiring in the first period, stopped the last 15 shots he faced. He was never tested in overtime.
"To be honest I don't really know what happened," Voracek said after calling it the biggest goal of his career. "I just put it on my backhand in front of the net. I just went back door and scored."
The Penguins know exactly what happened to them after the first period. They sagged and could never find their rhythm. Their power play was also problematic as they managed only five shots over three chances. Despite having all the star power, including Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins could not establish any in-zone possession time with the man advantage.
"We've got a game on Friday. It's one game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said when asked how to avoid letting this frustrating loss linger. "They did a lot that they have done all season, which is keep coming and come back from deficits. They did that. They're a good team -- and they don't stop. The second half of the game we didn't get to our game and where we needed to play as much as we needed to, and they really got back in it."
The Flyers started to get back into it when Briere, who missed the final three games of the regular season with a back injury, scored a semi-breakaway goal that maybe shouldn't have counted 6:22 into the period. Replays showed that Briere went into the zone offside, but the whistle did not blow and the goal counted after he beat Marc-Andre Fleury (22 saves) over the glove.
"Everybody has been asking me about it," Briere said. "I had no clue that I was offside. In my mind it's still good."
It was on the official scoresheet as well.
"It was clearly offside, but what are you going to do?" Penguins forward Craig Adams said. "It's frustrating now. At the time you say, 'It's 3-1, let's not get too worked up about it and make sure it's not a difference-maker in the game.' But it ended up being a difference-maker."
It did because the Flyers kept coming hard in the third period, and there was no question about their two goals that got the game into overtime.
Briere scored at 9:17 off a shot through traffic from the left side of the left circle. The shot appeared to surprise Fleury, who was also being screened by his own player.
Brooks Orpik was called for interfering with Briere less than 90 seconds later, and this is where the Flyers won the special-teams battle. While the Penguins could get nothing on their three power plays, the Flyers needed just one shot to tie the game.
Jaromir Jagr carried the puck into the zone and found Scott Hartnell at the right point. His shot-pass from there went to the slot for Schenn to redirect it past Fleury with 7:37 to play in regulation.
"We know what makes us successful and we know what we need to do to play a game that we are happy with," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We weren't happy with the first 20 minutes. We started skating better in the second and we were skating at our best in the third. When you're skating good things happen. When you're not you become playable and you become hittable. That's what we were in the first period."
The goal for the Flyers is to never be that way again, but it seems almost unrealistic to think it won't happen. They have a habit of getting down early only to find their way back into the game.
It's not a strategy they prefer, but for yet another night it did not burn them.
"We can't keep doing that," Briere said. "It's the playoffs. It's not going to keep happening. We got away with it, but we understand it's not going to keep happening. We have to find a way, and I know we keep saying that and I wish I knew how to reverse our starts, but at the same time it makes it a special way to win."