Philadelphia, PA – The Atlanta Thrashers scored two goals late in the game and then won it in overtime, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center, 6-5.
The Flyers led 5-3 for most of the final period, but could not put it away. They failed to score on a double-minor to Ilya Kovalchuk for high sticking at 12:01, and R.J. Umberger was stopped on a penalty shot at 14:06.
Peter Bondra cut the Flyers lead to 5-4 on the power play with a slap shot with Atlanta's goaltender pulled at 18:10, and then Patrik Stefan tipped in a feed from Scott Mellanby with just seven seconds left in regulation.
A breakaway goal by Greg deVries at 3:05 of the extra session sent Philadelphia to its third consecutive defeat.
"We played well in the third period," said Umberger. "It's disappointing, I could have iced the game for the team. It's disappointing right now, but we have to look forward to tomorrow."
"I thought we played good in the second and third and we were going to win this game, and then we took two penalties and it's a tough loss," said Branko Radivojevic. "It's hard to explain."
A borderline hooking call to Hatcher gave the Thrashers a two-man advantage before the Bondra goal and then a non-call on Gagne when he was going in alone on an empty net had the Flyers frustrated with the officiating.
"I just think that every set of referees calls a different game and I think that's the biggest issue," said Hatcher. "If the players know exactly what's going to be called then I don't think you'd find that. The guys we had the other night did a pretty good job, but these guys tonight seemed to call a little bit of a different game."
Despite the loss, the Flyers gained a point in the standings and jumped ahead of the idle New York Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division, although Philadelphia has played three fewer games.
Trailing 3-1 after the first 20 minutes, the Flyers scored four times in the second period to take the lead.
First it was Radivojevic, who deflected a wrist shot by Chris Therien at 10:42. Then, at 12:07, it was Simon Gagne taking a feed from Peter Forsberg on an odd-man rush. Gagne stopped the puck and then fired it past goaltender Michael Garnett for his 18th goal of the season.
A power play goal by Radivojevic gave Philadelphia its first lead since early in the game, when he deflected in a shot from the top of the circle by Jeff Carter at 15:06.
Derian Hatcher capped the nightmarish period for the Thrashers when he stepped out of the penalty box, raced to a loose puck in the Flyers' offensive zone and chipped it past the glove hand of Garnett at 18:58.
The Flyers' four goals in the period came on consecutive shots. Garnett entered the game with the highest goals against average in the league at 6.34 in three games.
The Flyers took an early lead at 2:45 of the first period on Michal Handzus' fourth goal of the season. Handzus skated the puck into the zone, dropped it to Carter and cut to the slot. Carter threaded the pass to Handzus, who lifted it over Garnett while on the power play.
Atlanta came storming back and scored three times before the intermission, two of which came on the power play with Donald Brashear in the penalty box. After a double minor to Brashear for holding and interference, Kovalchuk ripped a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle past Robert Esche at 8:01.
Bobby Holik was the recipient of a turnover by Esche in the slot, and easily scored at 8:01 to give the Thrashers the lead. Kovulchuk's second goal of the game from virtually the same spot as the first made it a 3-1 game at the 15-minute mark.
The Flyers traveled to Pittsburgh immediately following the game to face the Penguins for this third time this season on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Mellon Arena. Philadelphia will be looking to avenge its 3-2 overtime loss to Pittsburgh at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday night.
FLYERS NOTES Kovalchuk finsihed the night with three assists to go with his two goals. Umberger had two assists. Brian Savage was a healthy scratch. The Flyers were 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Thrashers were 4-for-10.