Raleigh, NC – Sami Kapanen scored in overtime on a feed from Michal Handzus for the second consecutive night, as the Flyers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center, 4-3.
On the game-winner, Handzus dropped the puck to Kapanen who was charging to the goal. Niclas Wallin blocked Kapanen's first shot, but Kapanen stayed with the puck and got behind Wallin before sliding it past goaltender Cam Ward at 1:27.
"It feels good, scoring in overtime back-to-back nights," said the former Hurricane. "This one feels really special, coming back here and getting one tonight."
Kapanen scored in overtime in Atlanta on Wednesday night as well as the Flyers improved to a perfect 4-0 on their franchise record 11-game road swing. Overall, the Flyers have won five straight, six in a row away from home, and are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games away from the Wachovia Center.
"There's a tremendous feeling about not wanting to let the other guy down when the game is on the line, and you see that every night," said Ken Hitchcock. "That's the feeling that is here. It doesn't matter who is in and who is out. That's the feeling in the locker room and nobody wants to let go. Nobody wants to be the person that lets the other person down.
"We've won a lot of close games and we've gotten points in games that have been right up for grabs. Even if it went the other way today, you have to look at the way we played. Sure, we want to win, and I wanted to win for them, but the way we played was tremendous today. That was the one focus for the coaches."
The third period began with the game tied at 2-2. Carolina took the lead on Matt Cullen's second goal of the game, when he tipped in a pass from behind the net by Ray Whitney at 1:48.
Philadelphia responded with Simon Gagne's 27th goal of the season midway through the period as the Flyers' left wing took over sole possession of the league lead. Gagne tipped in a shot from the point by Kim Johnsson, after a great effort by Handzus in the corner to fight off a couple of Hurricanes before his pass to Johnsson.
Gagne entered the game tied for the league lead in goals with Carolina's Eric Staal, despite playing in five fewer games.
Handzus finished the night with two assists.
"In some ways he is like Peter [Forsberg] in that he is always looking to pass first," said Kapanen. "With them, you just try to stay close to them and get open and be ready to take a shot."
The third period and overtime featured wildly entertaining end-to-end action as both teams piled on the scoring chances.
"I think in the last five minutes we weren't evening thinking about just getting a point [to force overtime]," said Handzus. "We were going after them. We killed the penalty [to Mike Knuble at 15:53] but after that we had three or four scoring chances and we could have won in regulation. I think it was great to see."
After a scoreless first, Philadelphia opened the scoring in the second period on a great effort by Brian Savage. On a delayed penalty call, Savage took the puck from along the boards and cut to the net to deposit it past Ward at 5:44 for his second goal in as many nights.
Carolina came back with a couple of power play goals after an inadvertent high stick by Chris Therien caught Erik Cole in the face, right after the Flyers had killed off a two-man advantage for over a minute.
First it was Cory Stillman, who took a shot on net that was blocked by Dennis Seidenberg, but the puck went right back to Stillman and his shot got through at 10:49. The goal came with four seconds left on the front end of Therien's penalty, so the Hurricanes remained on the power play and Cullen's shot from the slot 58 seconds later on a give-and-go with Whitney gave Carolina the lead.
Philadelphia tied the game on Freddy Meyer's first goal in the NHL. Meyer, who has provided a steady presence on the blue line since being recalled from the Phantoms, took a slap shot from the point with Knuble screening Ward. The puck went between Knuble's legs before finding the back of the net with just 70 seconds left in the period to make it a 2-2 game after 40 minutes.
The Flyers had a great chance to tie the game before Meyer's goal, when they got 1:44 of time with a two-man advantage, but a dazzling save by Ward on a slam dunk attempt by Peter Forsberg kept it 2-1 at the time. Ward got just enough of the puck with the end of his glove and the puck bounced off of the post.
Ward finished the game with 36 saves, while Antero Niittymaki recorded the win with 25.
There was a scary moment for the Flyers with 4:48 left in the second period, when a shot by Rod Brind'amour caught Mike Rathje in the collarbone and the big defenseman fell to the ice. Fortunately, Rathje was able to return after being helped to the bench and did not miss a shift. Cole was also helped off the ice with 10 seconds left in regulation when he went head first into the boards after missing a check on Meyer, who ducked at the last second.
FLYERS NOTES This was the second of four meetings between the Flyers and Hurricanes this season. Carolina won the first game, 8-6 at home. The Hurricanes visit Philadelphia on January 17 and March 8. … Jon Sim was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. … The Flyers improved to 5-3 in overtime. … The loss was Carolina's first at home this month (5-0-1). … The Flyers were 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Hurricanes finished 2-for-7.