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Flyers overpower Hawks in Cup rematch

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGO -- While facing each other in last season's Stanley Cup Final, the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers made a habit out of lighting the red lamp behind each goal.

Action was fast-paced and skill on both sides was overflowing. On Sunday, it wasn't that way for most of the Flyers' 4-1 win in front of 21,660 at the United Center.

Instead, it was more of a slugfest in Philly's first return trip to Chicago since the Cup Final. Hits almost equaled shots on goal exactly, and for the first two periods a pair of standout rookie goalies took turns making big stops to keep it tight.

In the end, Philly's Sergei Bobrovsky got the better of Chicago's Corey Crawford by making 30 saves and improving to 20-6-3 -- while Crawford took the loss for the Hawks (26-19-4). It was also a little measure of revenge for the Flyers (32-12-5), who haven't forgotten the sting of watching the Hawks raise the Stanley Cup at what was then known as the Wachovia Center.

"It was obviously a big motivation factor for us," said Philly forward Jeff Carter, who scored twice on Sunday and finished with three points and a plus-4 rating. "Before the game nothing needed to be said. We all knew what was going on today, so it was nice to come in and get a big win."

Along with Carter's pair of markers -- scored early in the second and third periods -- Philadelphia got a goal from Nikolay Zherdev early in the third to seize control of the game. Scott Hartnell added an empty-netter for the final score, while Claude Giroux picked up assists on all four goals.

Zherdev moved to a forward line with Carter and Giroux after James van Riemsdyk suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday's 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. The line excelled by combining for three goals and nine points.

"He's obviously a highly-skilled player," Carter said of Zherdev, whose wraparound goal just 2:28 into the third gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead. "He can make a lot of plays. I think when all three of us are skating and controlling the puck, good things happen."

Carter's second goal of the game and 21st of the season then made it 3-0 Philly at 5:21 of the third. He redirected a cross-ice saucer pass past Crawford and gave the Flyers a comfortable lead.

Soon after, Marian Hossa scored Chicago's only goal on a penalty shot at 6:49 of the third, after a scrum in the Philly crease. The penalty shot was awarded after Braydon Coburn was ruled to have closed his hand on the puck during the scrum.

Hossa beat Bobrovsky low to become the first Blackhawks player ever to score on a penalty shot in the United Center and the first Hawk to accomplish the feat in Chicago since Troy Murray did it on Dec. 30, 1987 against the Minnesota North Stars.

Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg each were unable to score on penalty shots in the United Center earlier this season, with Stalberg's attempt hitting all three posts after he beat Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen.

"I tried to get an angle and found an opening in the five-hole," Hossa said. "A few months ago, [Murray] reminded us he was the last guy [to do it]."

Still, getting that one was no consolation for the Hawks -- who were coming off a big 4-1 road win Saturday against the Central Division-leading Detroit Red Wings.

"We obviously didn't bring the speed and tempo to our game like we did yesterday," said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who appeared to struggle with an undisclosed lower body injured that cropped up in the Red Wings game. "In more ways than one, we were too easy to defend. We come out flat against a team like the Flyers, it's not going to be easy to come back.  I think we were a little bit too easy on their entire team."   

That was especially the case in the second period, when Philly outshot Chicago 19-9 and dominated in almost all facets. Carter's first goal finally broke a scoreless tie just 49 seconds into the second to end a scrum in the Hawks crease.

It was hard to tell who scored it at first glance, but Carter was eventually awarded with it after the Flyers got a couple of whacks at the puck in the exchange. Hawks goalie Corey Crawford was lying flat on his stomach and couldn't corral the puck, while several teammates tried unsuccessfully to keep it from going across the goal line.

"It was a weird one," Carter said. "We missed it about five times. Their D may have made a few saves there in the crease, and I don't know what the goalie was doing. He was just kind of down and out and just kind of laid there. It was a lucky one, but we'll take it. It was a good way to get started."

The score didn't change for the rest of the period, but mostly because Crawford rebounded to make several quality stops.  Meanwhile, Chicago's offense struggled mightily and Toews was noticeably slowed after a hit by his off-ice friend, Mike Richards, early in the second.

Richards' hit took Toews off his feet near the Flyers blue line and he had to take a moment to get up. Both teams actually made physicality a priority, as players from both teams landed solid checks -- with the action bubbling over into a pair of fights in the first 40 minutes.

Despite playing in difference conferences and the Hawks losing roughly half of their Cup roster because of salary-cap related moves, you could tell there's still a burgeoning rivalry between these two teams.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette would prefer to leave the past exactly where it is, but his players don't seem ready to let it go just yet.

"We were pretty excited for this game," Giroux said. "I don't know if we wanted to prove something or something like that, but we played well and every guy on the team showed up tonight."
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