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Jagr nets goal in return as Flyers down Pens 4-2

by Corey Masisak /
PITTSBURGH -- The buildup to this game was all about two guys -- Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot -- as they both arrived in Pittsburgh wearing Philadelphia Flyers jerseys. Both did a pretty good job of making the storylines after the game about them as well.

Jagr put Philadelphia in front to stay Thursday night with a stellar goal and helped quiet an energized Consol Energy Center crowd, while Talbot hit the empty net to seal the Flyers' 4-2 triumph against the rival Penguins.

"Certainly I'm sure [Jagr] was happy to come in and be a factor the way he was," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "Max had a great game too, so for both of them to contribute that way was nice to see."

Added center Claude Giroux: "I think it was important not just for him but for the whole team that he got that goal. He got it pretty tough from the fans. I think he kind of liked it a little bit."

The victory helped snap the Flyers out of a 1-3-1 funk and ended a four-game winning streak for the Penguins. Philadelphia is now tied with the New York Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division, and those two teams will play Monday in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.

Philadelphia received a solid effort in net from Sergei Bobrovsky, giving the Flyers a huge boost after some recent so-so play by starter Ilya Bryzgalov. Bobrovsky made 24 saves and has now won all four games the Flyers have played in the two-year-old building.

"We've been successful in this building," Giroux said. "I don't know -- we just come and play our game and play the way we should play. I think we're starting to like playing here."

The top line for the Flyers terrorized the Penguins for much of the night. Giroux had a pair of assists to extend his League-leading point total to 46, while Jagr collected a fantastic goal while being booed every time he touched the puck in a city where he was once the toast of the town.

"You want to play them early. You don't want to let them have time and space," Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy said of the Flyers. "They're incredibly dangerous on the power play; they're dangerous at all times, but we allowed them to come through the neutral zone pretty easily. We didn't have a great gap [control], we didn't have great back pressure and when you give players like that time and space they're going to make you pay."

Jagr collected a drop pass from Giroux and flicked a backhander into the net for his 12th goal of the season at 6:03 of the second period to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. After the goal, Jagr slowed up to gain his balance and turned toward the Penguins fans to his left for a pronounced salute -- a celebration he made popular while logging more than 800 games with the franchise and the type of move the guys from the WWE who inhabited this building the night before would have approved of.

"I felt pretty good, I had so many chances. I could have scored five goals, but I just couldn't score," Jagr said. "Fifteen years ago I would score five. But not anymore."

It was the start of a dominant period for the Flyers. Sean Couturier was six months away from being born when Jagr lifted the Stanley Cup for the second time in a Penguins uniform in 1992, but he created Philadelphia's third goal late in the second. Couturier drove around and past a Pittsburgh defenseman before backhanding a shot on net, and fellow rookie Matt Read was there to finish the play for his 12th goal of the season.

Tyler Kennedy brought the Penguins within a goal at 13:31 of the third period. Evgeni Malkin came out of the penalty box and had a monster shift, creating chances with two prolonged dashes with the puck. The second ended with a pass to Kennedy, who ripped a long-distance shot past Bobrovsky for his fifth goal of the season.

Pittsburgh had a power play after that as well, but Bobrovsky made a couple of quality saves and Talbot was able to ice the victory with his empty-netter -- his 10th goal of the campaign -- with 25 seconds left.

"It's not me and Jags. Tonight was the Flyers and the Penguins, and we got two points," said Talbot, who returned for the first time after playing six seasons for the Penguins and was given a standing ovation by the crowd after a tribute video was played during the first television timeout. "[The video was] very classy. Obviously, it felt very special when the fans reacted the way they did."

Jordan Staal put the Penguins in front 44 seconds into the game. Flyers defensemen Andrei Meszaros and Matt Carle botched a pass behind their own net and Kennedy collected it to feed Staal for his 15th goal of the season. Kennedy also extended his point streak to a career-best five games.

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen evened the score at 9:56 with his first goal of the season. Jagr and Wayne Simmonds won a battle for the puck in the right corner during a Philadelphia power play, the puck came to Giroux below the goal line to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury and he fed Timonen for a one-timer from just inside the top of the left circle.

The Penguins' best chance for a second goal in the period was nullified by Jagr. James Neal, who leads Pittsburgh with 21 goals, had a chance to slide the puck into a wide-open net after Bobrovsky had scrambled to stop a shot, but the 39-year-old was able to lift Neal's stick on the play.

After the game Jagr was asked about the play, and he proceeded to ask members of the media to remember that play when they vote for the Selke Trophy at season's end. The past two days were pretty much a perfect snapshot of Jagr's career -- charismatic and poignant some days, combative on others, but with a whole lot of excellence after the puck was dropped.
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