(Philadelphia, PA, February 8) – Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble scored two goals apiece and Peter Forsberg tallied four assists, but it was not enough as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout on Thursday night at the Wachovia Center, 5-4.
Philadelphia tied the game when Knuble tipped a shot out of mid-air by Alexei Zhitnik with the goaltender pulled at 18:36 of the third period, but Sidney Crosby had the only goal of the shootout to give the Penguins the victory.
The Flyers had several good chances in the overtime, including a rebound attempt that Kyle Calder could not quite get a hold of. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made saves on Jeff Carter and Gagne in the shootout while Forsberg's attempt bounced off of the post. Crosby scored after Erik Christensen was stopped by Niittymaki and Evgeni Malkin hit the post.
"I feel like we did a lot of really good things," said John Stevens. "I love the resiliency we showed; I loved the energy on our bench. When you push the game to overtime and you have the better opportunities in overtime, you are going to win a lot of hockey games."
"I guess we have to practice [the shootout], but overall I thought it was great to come back in the third," said Forsberg. "We played with more emotion coming back, so that is good to see."
The Penguins scored two goals early in the third period to break a 2-2 tie.
First, a centering pass from Whitney deflected off of Niittymaki's stick to Mark Recchi in front of the net. Recchi got the puck on net and then buried his own rebound to just 34 seconds after the faceoff.
Just 30 seconds later, Christensen got position in front of the net and got the back of his stick blade on a pass from Colby Armstrong.
Philadelphia cut the lead to 4-3 later in the third. On the play, Forsberg made a great feed to Randy Jones through the slot. Jones tipped it nicely to Gagne for a quick one-timer at 5:58 that deflected in off of Knuble's stick.
"The way we played in the third period was fun to watch, and it is tough to lose like that in a shootout," said Gagne. "But, I think everybody liked the way we played tonight."
Pittsburgh has now won all seven games of the season series over Philadelphia. The teams will face one another once more this season on March 4 at Mellon Arena.
Pittsburgh led 1-0 before a couple of power play goals by Gagne gave Philadelphia the lead.
First, Forbserg found Gagne to his right and Gagne's quick shot found daylight between the pads of Fleury at 11:57.
Forsberg drew a holding call on the Penguins' Jarkko Ruutu that led to the next tally. Again it was the Flyers captain assisting on the goal, when he threw the puck in front of the net where Gagne and Knuble whacked away. Gagne got credit for his 26th goal of the game with 1:12 left in the first period.
The Flyers applied good pressure throughout most of the second period, including a shot by Carter that rang off of the near side post, but could not increase their lead. Pittsburgh would tie the game on the power play at 12:56 when Michel Ouellet got behind the Philadelphia defense, and raced in on Niittymaki all alone and slid the puck between the Flyers' goaltender's five-hole.
Mike Richards was stopped by Fleury on a shorthanded breakaway with less than a minute left in the second period, but could not convert. It was a missed opportunity that would hurt the team early in the third period.
Philadelphia is now winless in its last 13 home games (0-9-4).
"We've got to win a home game for our fans. The fans were terrific tonight," said Stevens. "Right now, we've just got to win a hockey game regardless of the opponent."
The Flyers continue their four-game homestand on Saturday night when they host the St. Louis Blues (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).
FLYERS NOTES Dmitry Afanasenkov played in his 200th game in the NHL. … Geoff Sanderson returned to the lineup after sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. Michael Leighton served as Niittymaki's backup, while Robert Esche and Mike York did not dress.