Penguins, Kunitz complete rally to defeat Flyers
PHILADELPHIA – Whenever the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers meet on the ice, a football-style shootout breaks out. This time, the Penguins scored last.
Chris Kunitz scored his second goal just 18 seconds into the third period to cap a four-goal rally that lifted Pittsburgh to a 5-4 victory over the Flyers on Thursday night.
Pascal Dupuis, James Neal and Tyler Kennedy also scored for the Atlantic Division leaders, who won their third straight game.
The teams have combined for 20 goals in their last two games after a memorable, high-scoring playoff round in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last spring.
“We knew it would be a challenging game,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “It was kind of a tale of two teams in the first two periods. We didn’t come out with enough emotion and weren’t really into the game. Maybe they got caught sitting back in the second.”
Jakub Voracek had two power-play goals, and Zac Rinaldo and Kimmo Timonen also scored for the Flyers, who blew a 4-1 lead after the first period.
Both starting goalies – Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury – were pulled after allowing four goals.
Scott Hartnell had his tying goal disallowed near the midpoint of the third period because his stick was above the crossbar when he deflected Timonen’s shot into the net.
The Flyers fell to 11-13-1 and remain on the outside of the playoff race with 23 games remaining.
“It’s embarrassing to the fans, embarrassing to one another,” Hartnell said. “It’s a big letdown. I don’t know why we stopped playing.”
The visitor has won all three games this season in this intrastate rivalry between two teams that struggle to play much defense against each other.
Voracek had a hat trick in a wild 6-5 win at Pittsburgh on Feb. 20. The Flyers and Penguins totaled 45 goals through the first four games of last year’s first-round playoff series that Philadelphia won in six games.
Asked the last time he saw this kind of game, Neal replied: “The last time we played the Flyers. And the time we played the Flyers before that. And the time we played them before that.”
A turnover by Timonen near Pittsburgh’s blue line led to a 3-on-1 break for the Penguins. Crosby fed Kunitz, who ripped one past a diving Brian Boucher to give the Penguins their first lead in the opening minute of the third period.
An unusual number of Penguins fans at the Wells Fargo Center roared in approval while the orange-clad Flyers fans fell silent.
“It’s one victory,” Kunitz said. “We can’t get too high. We’re halfway through our season and we have to get better.”
Dupuis got Pittsburgh’s comeback started, scoring off a crisp, behind-the-net pass from Crosby to cut it to 4-2.
Just 2:43 later, Neal scored his team-high 15th goal. Neal tried to center a pass from the side of the net to Evgeni Malkin in front, but the puck hit Bryzgalov’s blocker and went under him.
Then Kennedy ripped a slap shot just inside the left post to tie it at 4 with 4:13 left in the second. That ended Bryzgalov’s night. Boucher entered to the usual “Boosh” chants.
“It can’t break us,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We need to come back and win a game.”
The Flyers scored three times in the last 5 minutes of the first period to take a 4-1 lead.
First, Rinaldo put Philadelphia up 2-1 with his third goal of the season. Fleury kicked aside Nicklas Grossmann’s slap shot, but the rebound went to Rinaldo in front and he snapped a wrister into the net.
Fleury then gave Philadelphia a gift goal when Timonen’s floater from outside the left circle bounced off his chest and went in.
Seconds into a power play, Voracek got his 12th goal on a wrister from the point that hit defenseman Paul Martin’s skate and trickled between Fleury’s legs with only 8 seconds left in the period.
Fleury angrily flicked the puck out of the net and was replaced by Tomas Vokoun at the start of the second.
Voracek scored his team-high 11th goal to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead near the midpoint of the first period. Claude Giroux set it up with a crossing pass from the left circle to the right, where Voracek slipped a soft one-timer between Fleury’s legs.
As the Flyers celebrated, Hartnell got into it with Neal, who was coming out of the penalty box. The Penguins ended up with a power play and Kunitz scored his 13th goal less than a minute later to tie it.
“We didn’t play well in the first period, but we stuck with it,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Game notes: Matt Read was back in Philadelphia’s lineup a month ahead of schedule after injuring his ribs in the first meeting against the Penguins. … Voracek has nine goals in the last 10 games. … Kunitz has a point in seven straight games, a career-high streak. … The road team is 18-5-1 in this series going back to 2009. … The Penguins are 10-3-1 in their last 14 games at the Wells Fargo Center, but they’re 32-90-10 overall in Philadelphia. … The Flyers’ sellout streak is up to 93 games.