It nearly slipped away, but Pascal Dupuis
reached back and grabbed a victory for the Pittsburgh Penguins
on Tuesday night.
After his team had surrendered a 2-0 lead, the gritty forward flew down the left wing and drilled a slap shot past Antero Niittymaki
with 10.8 seconds left in overtime, lifting the Pens to a thrilling 3-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers
at Mellon Arena.
It was an odd night in the Steel City, as the Penguins scored three times and won a game without getting Sidney Crosby
or Evgeni Malkin
onto the score sheet. It marked the fourth straight game that Pittsburgh's two brightest stars failed to find the back of the net. Yet four games into the season, the Penguins have picked up five of a possible eight points in the standings (2-1-1).
WHAT FANS ARE SAYING
"Not in panic mode yet, the Flyers must get going soon..."
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"Long live the Battle of PA! Bring on Game 2..."
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"I feel like my heart was just ripped out..."
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''That's what makes winning teams; everybody chipping in at different times. It's a matter of time before their all their effort becomes goals,'' Dupuis said. ''I'm not worried about that. It's nice to see other guys putting it in.''
Dupuis' rocket wasn't exactly a spur-of-the-moment decision, as he nearly opted to try to dish it to Crosby before letting it rip from 25 feet. Shooting turned out to be the correct move.
''I brought it back with my foot and it almost got stuck there on me (in the soft ice), but I closed my eyes and shot it and it went in,'' Dupuis said.
Niittymaki was sure that he had shut down the angle, but Dupuis found a way to beat him with a perfect shot, high and just inside the far post.
''His angle wasn't that good, and I pretty much thought it would go wide or hit me,'' said Niittymaki, who finished with 25 saves. ''Maybe I was in little bit of a wrong place, the positioning wasn't perfect, but it was a pretty good shot.''
After a scoreless first period, Brooks Orpik
put Pittsburgh ahead with a power-play goal at 14:12 of the second. With Glen Metropolit
in the penalty box, Orpik fired a wrist shot from the point that beat a screened Niittymaki.
''We're getting contributions from our defense, and that's a great sign,'' Crosby said.
Thirty-two seconds later, the Pens went up by a pair on the first goal in nearly a year by Mike Zigomanis
. With the teams back at even strength, Zigomanis — yet another unlikely source — took a pass from Matt Cooke
and snapped it past Niittymaki to make it 2-0. It was his first tally since Oct. 30, 2007, when he was a member of the Phoenix Coyotes
But the Flyers stormed back with two quick goals of their own before the end of the second period. Jeff Carter
got things going at 19:16, when his attempted pass was accidentally redirected by Pens defenseman Hal Gill
into the net to make it 2-1. Simon Gagne
tied things up 21 seconds later when he deflected Kimmo Timonen
's blast past Marc-Andre Fleury
for his third goal in as many games.
"It was a very positive step for this group here tonight," Flyers coach John Stevens
said. "That's our third game in four nights. We got down 2-0, and the resilience was great. We gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game. I was really, really happy with the effort. Guys were tired, but they dug in. Everyone was trying to make a difference out there, and that's what you want."
Those were the only blemishes on Fleury's night. The Penguins' No. 1 netminder finished with 28 saves, just three nights after he made 47 stops in a 2-1 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils
. His performance on Tuesday was a big reason why the Flyers have opened a season with three consecutive losses for the first time since 1995.
''That's not the place we want to be, that's not the start we want, but we saw some great stuff tonight,'' said Gagne, who is off to a great start after missing 57 games with concussion-like symptoms last season. ''It's not like we played bad three games in a row. But it's a rough League now, and those two points are hard to get.''
Three games into the season, the Flyers have just one point and are nine behind the first-place New York Rangers
in the Atlantic Division. Philadelphia went 0-for-6 on the power play and has converted only twice in 19 opportunities in 2008-09.
"It's still only one point,'' Flyers captain Mike Richards
said. ''Good teams find a way to win. We're still looking for two points.''