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Pitkanen Ties Game Late, Wins it in Overtime

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia, PA – After his turnover led to a goal by Boston's Joe Thornton, Joni Pitkanen tied the game late in regulation and then won it in overtime as the Flyers won their seventh straight home game, 4-3 over the Bruins.

With the win, Philadelphia pulls into a first place tie with New York in the Atlantic Division with 19 points, although the Flyers have played three fewer games than the Rangers.

With his team trailing 2-1, Pitkanen attempted to bring the puck out of the Flyers' zone and was stripped by Thornton, who then got his own rebound to make it a two-goal lead for Boston with just 4:48 left in regulation.

After Simon Gagne knocked in a loose puck at 16:25 for his league-leading 16th goal of the season, Pitkanen tied the game with just 24 seconds left. He was stationed on the offensive blue line, as Peter Forsberg controlled the puck on the other side of the ice behind the red line. Forsberg patiently waited for the right moment before a brilliant cross-ice pass to Pitkanen. The defenseman skated in on net and beat goaltender Hannu Toivonen to the top corner.

In overtime it was Pitkanen again, who was in front to tip in a pass from Michal Handzus from behind the net at 1:55 of the extra session.

"He gained 15 pounds [in the off-season] and he's a really confident guy right now. I think we're seeing the emergence of a really good player," said Ken Hitchcock. "For everything he's done this year, to respond the way he did after making a mistake like that shows you a lot about the character of the person."

"After [the turnover] I felt bad, but I just kept going," said Pitkanen. "I know that Finnish goalie, Toivonen, and he goes down so I tried to hit it up high."

Forsberg finished the night with three assists, none of them as impressive as his pass leading to the game-tying goal.

"That pass and that goal at the end of the third period was unbelievable," said Hitchcock. "The goal was great but the pass was unbelievable."

"I had a clear angle of it sitting on the bench," said Robert Esche, who was pulled for an extra attacker at the time. "[Forsberg] paused, waited for the defenseman to commit, and he sent a pass over his stick and onto Joni's. I've never seen a pass like that."

The Flyers took the lead with a power play goal at 19:05 of the first period. Kim Johnsson floated a soft wrist shot towards the net, and Mike Knuble deflected it through the legs of Toivonen for the only goal of the first period.

Philadelphia had a great chance to increase its lead at the beginning of the second period with Nick Boynton and Travis Green in the penalty box to give the Flyers a two-man advantage for over a minute. The best scoring chance, however, came for Boston when Boynton stepped out of the box and in on a shorthanded breakaway. Esche got a piece of Boynton's shot with his glove to keep the Flyers' lead intact.

Toivonen made a key save of his own when later in the period he stopped Derian Hatcher's redirection attempt on a feed by Gagne.

The Bruins tied the game at the end of the second period on a power play when Shawn McEachern's slap shot got through Esche who was screened by Chris Therien.

Sergei Samsonov gave Boston a 2-1 lead early in the third period on a five-on-three, redirecting a pass through the slot by Thornton less than a minute into the frame.

Philadelphia allowed two power play goals on six chances by the Bruins, while going 1-for-5. The Flyers have scored at least one power play goal in their last 10 games.

The Flyers wrap up their season-long five-game homestand with the New York Islanders on Thursday and the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Pitkanen increased his point streak to six games, and has three goals and 11 assists over that span. … Forsberg also has a six-game point streak (4g, 12a), as does Gagne (9g, 4a). … Esche won his fifth straight start, making 27 saves. ... R.J. Umberger recorded his first NHL point, assisting on the game-tying goal.
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