Philadelphia, PA – The Vancouver Canucks rallied for three goals in the third period and then held on to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center, 5-4.
The Flyers led 3-2 entering the final frame. On a power play, Markus Naslund held the puck at the side of the net and his centering pass deflected off of the skate of defenseman Mike Rathje and behind goaltender Robert Esche at 3:29.
Anson Carter gave the Canucks their first lead of the game just 37 seconds later when he took a pass in front of the net from Daniel Sedin and had time to make a move and get Esche to fall to the ice. Carter's second goal of the game at 9:23 proved to be the game-winner, as he easily tipped in a pass from Daniel Sedin again on a two-on-one rush, this time beating Antero Niittymaki who came on in relief.
"In the third period it seemed like every bad mistake, every two-on-one, every guy left in front of the net alone just seemed to end up in our net," said R.J. Umberger. "You can't have that."
The Flyers made things interesting when Sami Kapanen scored on a loose puck in the crease at 18:34 to make it a 5-4 game. Later Mike Knuble and Michal Handzus had a couple of great chances to tie the game with the goaltender pulled in the final seconds, but the Canucks held on for just their third win against the Flyers all-time.
The Flyers had 20 shots on goal in the third period and outshot the Canucks for the game, 43-26.
"We deserved a better fate tonight, a much better fate," said Ken Hitchcock. "We had a lot of things go right. We outshot them. We outchanced them. We outplayed them. They're an opportunistic team. They took advantage of the mistakes we made."
Philadelphia suffered yet a couple more injuries in the game to add to their almost unbelievable injury list. Mike Richards was diagnosed with a head injury after getting hit by Wade Brookbank, and Hitchcock said that the reason he pulled Esche in the third period in favor of Niittymaki was due to a groin pull, which Esche had just recovered from. Jeff Carter also missed a good portion of the game when he was hit in the ear with the puck and received 52 stiches, but later returned although just for one shift.
"In the second period, I felt it," said Esche of his groin. "In the third period, I felt it a couple times. "Obviously you don't want to take any chances with that."
"We just have to suck it up and bounce back," said Kapanen. "Obviously, it gets harder and harder when guys keep going down, but hopefully we're going to get some of the guys back pretty soon and fill up the line-up."
The Flyers and Canucks traded goals in the first period. It was Handzus who began the scoring when he took a wrist shot on goal from the faceoff circle. Goaltender Alex Auld was unable to control the rebound, and Handzus followed up his shot for a tip-in goal midway through the frame.
Trevor Linden's wrist shot from the faceoff dot to Esche's right found the far corner at 13:40 to tie the game.
The Flyers took the lead again about six minutes into the second. After a pad save by Esche, Handzus took the puck from the Philadelphia end across the Vancouver blue line. He fed Kim Johnsson with a cross-ice pass, and Johnsson stopped the puck with his skate and snapped a shot into the top corner for his third goal of the season.
Nolan Baumgartner's power play goal tied the game when his wrist shot deflected off of Knuble and skipped like a stone on a pond through Esche at 14:35.
Knuble gave Philadelphia the lead back before the end of the frame, when his wrist shot on an odd-man rush snuck through the five-hole of Auld at 16:23.
A slap shot by Henrik Sedin flew by Esche as time expired in the period, but a quick video review showed the puck went in a split second after the clock struck zero.
The Flyers travel to St. Louis on Saturday before returning home against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday and Ottawa Senators next Thursday.
FLYERS NOTES The start time of the game was pushed back to 7:38 due to poor weather conditions in the Philadelphia area. Ben Eager, Pat Kavanagh and Josh Gratton were recalled from the Phantoms earlier in the day. Former Flyers prospect Maxime Ouellet was the backup goaltender for Vancouver.