Philadelphia, PA – After erasing a two-goal third period lead by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers allowed a breakaway goal to rookie Sidney Crosby in overtime, losing 3-2 at the Wachovia Center.
The game looked like it would be the first one in Flyers franchise history to go into a shootout, but Crosby raced in alone on goaltender Antero Niittymaki and found daylight with just 47 seconds left to give the Penguins the victory.
"I saw it was Crosby; I was just kind of hoping he would make a move so I tried to be aggressive, but at the last second I saw he was going to shoot it and it was too late," said Niittymaki.
Niittymaki was outstanding for Philadelphia for the second start in row making 26 saves, but it was Marc-Andre Fleury who picked up the victory stopping 45 Flyers shots.
Philadelphia's nine-game home winning streak ended.
"We won a lot of close games, we won a lot of games in overtime, and like everybody says it evens out," said Ken Hitchcock. "We threw a lot of rubber at Fleury today. He made good saves."
The Penguins broke a scoreless tie on a power play early in the third period. John LeClair passed to Crosby, who then sent a pass through the slot to Ryan Malone for a redirection at 2:03.
They increased their lead to 2-0 just 56 seconds later when Crosby knocked in a bouncing puck in the crease.
Joni Pitkanen scored a pair of goals, both on the power play and both set up on passes from Peter Forsberg, to tie the game and earn the Flyers a point in the standings for forcing the extra session.
First, with LeClair in the penalty box, Pitkanen redirected a feed from the point by Forsberg at 5:10. Forsberg then found Pitkanen sneaking in from the point at 6:44 as the Flyers defenseman tallied his seventh goal of the season.
"I saw Peter had the puck and I just went hard to the net," said Pitkanen. "He got the puck to me. He is very good."
"In the last 15 minutes we played excellent," said Hitchcock. "When we went down 2-0 we really stepped it up and really played well. We did a lot of really good things."
Neither team was able to score through the first two periods. Philadelphia outshot the Penguins 11-4 in the first period and then 15-10 in the second, but the game remained scoreless.
Niittymaki made a couple of outstanding saves on Erik Christensen seven minutes into the second. Christensen cut to the net alone, but Niittymaki got his left pad on the attempt. The rebound went right back out to Christensen, but Niittymaki gloved the shot to freeze the puck.
Philadelphia's best chance in the period came midway through the second period on a loose puck in the crease in front of Fleury, but neither Jeff Carter nor Branko Radivojevic could get a handle on the puck and it was eventually cleared out of harm's way.
Niittymaki was called upon again later in the frame, when Mike Rathje misplayed a puck at the offensive blue line and Matt Murley failed to convert on a shorthanded breakaway.
There was a scary moment for the Penguins in the second period, when Derian Hatcher roughed up Crosby in the corner of the Penguins' offensive zone. Crosby was hunched over for about a minute but eventually got to his feet and made his way back to the bench without missing a shift.
Late in the second period Crosby was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after he embellished a high-stick from Hatcher, nullifying a Penguins power play. Hatcher was not penalized on either play.
The Flyers remain home to play the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday before their first of four visits to Pittsburgh on Saturday night at Mellon Arena.
FLYERS NOTES The Flyers won the first meeting of the season between these two teams on October 14 in Philadelphia, 6-5 in overtime. Turner Stevenson returned to the Flyers lineup after missing the last 13 games due to a torn muscle in his right hip. Brian Savage was a healthy scratch to make room for Stevenson.