Philadelphia, PA – Mike Knuble broke a 2-2 third period tie with a goal late in the third period as the Flyers defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wachovia Center on Monday night, 4-2.
After an offensive zone faceoff win by Peter Forsberg, Derian Hatcher wristed a shot towards the net. Knuble, stationed between the circles, tipped the puck in mid-flight for his 22nd goal of the season.
"It was kind of a bang-bang play," said Knuble. "Peter wins a big draw there and it went direct to Hatcher and I broke for the net. He threw it up there and I got a piece of it and it jumped up."
Pittsburgh had a great chance to tie in the closing seconds on a two-on-one rush, as John LeClair shot the puck on net and it bounced around the crease where a charging Sidney Crosby was unable to find it despite having an open net in front of him.
Simon Gagne's diving empty net goal from the Flyers' side of the red line sealed the victory as the Flyers snapped a three-game home losing streak.
After an uneventful first period, the Flyers struck first on a goal by Michal Handzus. It began when Freddy Meyer threw the puck on net from the point, hitting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the mask. It trickled behind Fleury, and Handzus was there to knock it in for his eighth goal of the season with 46 seconds left.
Fleury was called upon early in the second period, making two stops on shots by Forsberg, who returned after missing the last two games with an abdominal injury. Antero Niittymaki was also tested when Tomas Surovy had time with the puck at the side of the net but was stopped by the right pad of the Philadelphia goaltender.
Petr Nedved tallied his first goal as a Flyer on the power play. Playing in his second game with the club, he charged in on net after a shot by Mike Rathje was deflected behind the net and out to the other side where Nedved blasted it home at 5:07 of the second period.
"I tried to shoot it to the other side of the net because [Fleury] was moving and it went in," said Nedved. "It kind of took the monkey off my back. I was very happy about that."
"Nedved is a really good addition for us right now. He's exactly what we need," said Ken Hitchcock. "[This is] two games in a row where the second unit on the power play scored goals, which has really helped us a lot. I am not sure where the line combinations are going to go yet but I know Petr is a good player."
Pittsburgh made it 2-1 during a four-on-four situation after Crosby was called for holding but Sami Kapanen was whistled for diving at 13:11. A wrist shot by Rob Scuderi was deflected in front by Mark Recchi for the former Flyer's 14th goal of the season.
The Penguins tied the game up with defenseman Randy Jones in the penalty box for delay of the game. Crosby found Michel Ouellet camped out in front of the net and sent him a perfect pass from the other side of the ice to make it 2-2 at 12:18 of the third period.
Philadelphia outshot the Penguins 36-26, despite playing with a patchwork defense corps that included rookie call-up Alexandre Picard making his NHL debut. Kim Johnsson missed his second consecutive game with a head injury and Joni Pitkanen sat out with a right groin injury.
The game ended with a fight between Philadelphia's Mike Richards and Shane Endicott of the Penguins at the 20-minute mark. A solid right hand by Richards sent Endicott falling to the ice to the delight of the sellout crowd.
A scary moment for the Flyers came when Gagne was hit with a slap shot in the third period, hobbling the team's leading goal-scorer. He did not miss a shift, however.
"It was just a blocked shot, it hit me right on the skate," said Gagne. "After a little while it felt a little better. It got me right on the laces. There is no protection right there."
This was the sixth of eight games between the Atlantic Division rivals this season, as the Flyers were 4-0-1 in the previous five. They meet for the final two times on March 12 in Pittsburgh and April 11 in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia remains home for two more games this week on Wednesday against Montreal and Saturday vs. Tampa Bay.
FLYERS NOTES Philadelphia has nine games remaining before the Olympic break beginning February 12. … Turner Stevenson was a healthy scratch. … The Flyers are 83-18-8 all-time at home against Pittsburgh. … Gagne's 33 goals ties his career high set in 2001-02.