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NHL Stadium Series

Flyers, Gritty put on memorable show in Stadium Series against Penguins

Philadelphia rallies late for OT win after mascot's turn in spotlight

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

PHILADELPHIA -- The spectacle was about Gritty. The game was about grit.

On a night when the Philadelphia Flyers mascot soared through the air and streaked across the field before 69,620 fans, the fifth-largest crowd in NHL history, the Battle of Pennsylvania raged on the ice outdoors Saturday.

Through drizzle early, rain late and temperatures in the 30s, it was hard fought and physical, and it came down to this: The Flyers scored twice in the final 3:04 of the third period with their goalie pulled -- first 6-on-4 on the power play, then 6-on-5 -- and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series when Claude Giroux scored at 1:59 of overtime.


[RELATED: Simmonds cherishes possible final game with Flyers | Stadium Series coverage]


Giroux held out his arms at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and his teammates mobbed him.

Fly, Flyers, fly.

"My celebration there, I would never do a celebration like that (normally)," said Giroux, who was part of the Flyers' three previous outdoor games, all losses. "It was just kind of a relief to finally win an outdoor game. It was a battle to get it, but sometimes those games that are the hardest to win are the nicest to win."

For a while, it looked like the highlight for Philadelphia would be Gritty.

During the pregame show, the mascot stood atop the roof of the stadium lit up in an LED suit, then zip lined over the stands, over the ice and onto the field. He ran up steps replicating those at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the "Rocky" theme, as if he were the boxer in the movie.

Video: PIT@PHI: Gritty bungee jumps to start Stadium Series

Midway through the game, he wore nothing but his orange fur as he ran away from security during a TV timeout and dove headfirst across an auxiliary rink.

It was comic relief. Philadelphia trailed 2-1, and who had the Pittsburgh goals? Sidney Crosby, the center the crowd had booed loudly during intros, and Justin Schultz, one of four defensemen Pittsburgh had left after Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang left with injuries in the first period.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin made it 3-1 at 6:29 of the third period. He took a hard shot, and the puck hit the glove of goalie Brian Elliott, popped into the air, fell onto the back of Elliott's right skate and slipped into the net.

"To be honest, I wasn't believing we were going to win, which is probably bad to say," Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said. "… With water in your visor, the ice was kind of heavy in the third period. The conditions were obviously tough. But I think we've been a pretty good team coming back, and that's what we needed today."

The Flyers got a break when Penguins center Matt Cullen took a slashing penalty with 4:20 left in the third. They pulled Elliott, and forward James van Riemsdyk went to the net and poked the puck in with 3:04 left.

"We're never out of it," van Riemsdyk said. "It doesn't matter the score. I think we've had some weird comebacks this year. We just keep playing and just keep trying to stick with it and don't really give up."

Voracek tied it 3-3 when he slipped a shot between the pads of goalie Matt Murray with 20 seconds left.

"Lucky third goal, but a big one," Voracek said.

Video: PIT@PHI: Voracek scores tying goal in waning seconds

That set the stage for Giroux, who whipped a shot past Murray on the rush, sending flames shooting into the air and fans home happy.

The Penguins (32-22-8) are behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference; each has 72 points, but the Hurricanes have one more win in regulation and overtime (32-31). The Flyers (29-26-7) are seven points behind.

"We had a lot of fans in the stands," Elliott said. "They braved it, the weather, just as we did out there. It was really fun to play that. [Giroux] kind of going out there and scoring like he did put the cherry on top for everybody."

The NHL has staged 27 stadium games since 2003. The temperature has been as cold as zero degrees Fahrenheit at face-off and as warm as 65. It has snowed. It has rained. It has been dry. It has been sunny and cloudy and dark.

Each game has been different in its own way, and each stadium has been packed. The total attendance for these events is 1,459,359 -- almost 1 million more than the same regular-season games would have drawn in sold-out, 18,000-seat arenas.

Not only have the crowds been bigger, but the buzz has been bigger. The memories have been brighter. Who's gonna forget Gritty after this one? Who's gonna forget the Flyers comeback?

Video: PIT@PHI: Flyers rally late to top Penguins in OT

Why do you think the players shook hands after the game, as if this were the end of a playoff series?

"What did you expect?" Voracek said, setting up a joke. "Like, a brawl or something?"

You never know what to expect.

"We didn't play our best, to be honest with you," Voracek said. "We found a way, which is the only thing that matters."

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