Pittsburgh, PA – Jeff Carter and Michal Handzus scored third period goals and Mike Knuble added an empty-netter, as the Flyers snapped their three-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena.
Carter's individual effort ended up to be the game-winner, as he skated the puck into the zone and shot on net. Goaltender Jocelyn Thibault thought he had control of the puck, but it dropped to his right. Carter skated around defenseman Ric Jackman and chipped it in at 1:49.
Just 41 seconds later, Handzus charged into the Penguins zone, cut to the slot and found the back of the net for his fifth of the season.
With the win, the Flyers remain tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with the New York Rangers, who have played three more games than Philadelphia. The Flyers are unbeaten in their last six visits to Pittsburgh with four wins and two ties.
"It was a strong second and third. We had the bus legs going in the first period but after that we were really good in the second and third," said Ken Hitchcock. "Our checking took the game over, which was nice to see."
"I thought we got better as the game went on," said Peter Forsberg, who contributed two more assists on the night to give him 30 on the season, leading the league. "The first period they outshot us and [Antero Niittymaki] kept us in the game. We got better and better in the third and a couple guys came through with some big goals. It was a big improvement compared with the last couple of games."
The game was a seesaw battle through two periods, as the Flyers took the lead three times but Pittsburgh kept responding.
Simon Gagne tallied at 6:13 of the first period, and Sidney Crosby's power play goal at 9:28 on a nice backhanded feed through the slot by John LeClair made it 1-1 at the end of the first 20 minutes.
Mike Richards found space between the near post and the skate of Thibault at 3:19. Ziggy Palffy re-tied the game at 12:03, when his wrist shot beat Niittymaki to the short side.
Later in the period Mike Rathje was ordered to the penalty box for tripping at 15:23 after Crosby easily fell to the ice, prompting a minor shoving match between Crosby and Forsberg.
"I thought it was a dive, but I'll have to see the replay," said Forsberg following the game.
The penalty led to two goals. Gagne took a shot himself on a three-on-one rush and the puck deflected in off of Mark Recchi's stick at 16:24 for his league-leading 20th goal of the season. The lead would last all of nine seconds, as Erik Christensen's snap shot from the top of the faceoff circle on the ensuing faceoff made it a 3-3 game.
Gagne assisted on Knuble's empty-netter to give him three points on the night.
"I thought Gagne was absolutely dominant on the ice," said Hitchcock. "His play was outstanding. Never mind the goals, but just his grit and determination, to me, carried the day today. It was good to see."
"With what happened last night, getting two points from them feels pretty good," said Gagne.
The sellout crowd was on the Flyers the entire game, as the intra-state rivalry appears to be back in full force. Derian Hatcher was the main target, as the fans were apparently not happy with the way Hatcher treated Crosby in the teams' previous meeting in Philadelphia on Wednesday night after the rookie ended up with a bloody lip and some chipped teeth.
The Flyers return home on Tuesday night to the Wachovia Center to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
FLYERS NOTES Jon Sim was a healthy scratch for the Flyers . Mario Lemieux, who was listed as questionable for the game, returned to the Penguins lineup after missing the last game with a stomach virus. The Flyers lead the league in shorthanded goals with eight. The Flyers improved to 2-1 in the second half of back-to-back games this season. Philadelphia was 0-for-6 with the man advantage and killed off five of seven Pittsburgh power plays. Brian Savage left the game early with an injured knee and will be reevaluated on Sunday or Monday, according to Hitchcock.