January 21, 2015
Heated rivals for years, the Flyers and Penguins scrapped through the kind of game that should have been settled on pay-per-view.
Claude Giroux delivered the biggest blow of all, scoring 3:57 into overtime to lift Philadelphia over Pittsburgh 3-2 in a fight-filled game Tuesday night.
After a throwback clash that featured one ejection and 93 penalty minutes, perhaps this one should have been decided by the judges' scorecards rather than goals.
"It was a game we needed to kind of get a little dirty, play together," Giroux said. "We literally fought for each other. There was a lot of emotions. Hopefully, we can build on this."
Philadelphia wing Zac Rinaldo was tossed and faces a likely suspension for plowing Kris Letang into the glass. FlyersAll-Star and NHL scoring leader Jake Voracek threw a series of fists in his first fight of the season. And Pittsburgh forward Steve Downie gave a flippant wave to a jeering crowd as he skated to the locker room after his role in a brawl.
With a rabid crowd going wild with each punch, the teams fought four times in the second period for a total of 66 penalty minutes.
Pittsburgh's Beau Bennett and Philadelphia's Chris VandeVelde scored in the third to make it 2-all.
The fisticuffs started after Rinaldo sped toward Letang alone along the boards late in the first period. Rinaldo rammed his right shoulder into Letang's back and slammed the defenseman into the glass. Letang crumpled to the ice and was down for several minutes. He slowly got up, hunched over and skated straight to the locker room. He did not return.
Rinaldo was slapped with a 5-minute major, which the Flyers killed off, and a game misconduct for boarding. One of the NHL's most penalized players, Rinaldo will surely sit out some games once the Flyers return from the All-Star break. He earned a four-game suspension last season for an illegal check to the head of Buffalo defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who suffered a concussion.
Rinaldo said he expected a suspension.
"I changed the whole game, man," Rinaldo said, tongue-in-cheek. "Who knows what the game would have been like if I didn't do what I did?"
While Rinaldo's check was certainly the most vicious hit of the game, it was just the start of the violence.
Penguins center Zach Still squared off with Flyers forward Michael Raffl in the first bout of the second period. Both helmets went flying and they tussled on the ice for a few moments before it was broken up.
Voracek and defenseman Rob Scuderi tangled in the second fight. Voracek threw several rights to Scuderi's head that sent him to his knees. Voracek waved his arms toward the fired-up crowd of 19,982 that roared in appreciation as he skated to the penalty box.
"I saw (Dave) 'Hammer' Schultz before the game, so I wanted to show him I got something," Voracek said.
Schultz is in the Flyers Hall of Fame and was one of the great fighters for the 1970s Broad Street Bullies teams. He had to appreciate what he saw the rest of the period. Downie, a former Flyer, mixed it up with southpaw Luke Schenn in the third fight of the second.
Flyers forward Pierre-Edouard Bellamare clocked Bobby Farnham right in the kisser, drawing gasps from the crowd before the Penguins forward recovered to dish out some shots of his own.
"That period was fun," Flyers forward R.J. Umberger said. "The crowd was definitely into it. It's good to have that and have them have your back. It's a loud crowd when they do."
Oh, right, the goals.
The Penguins took the first 13 shots of the game, but the Flyers scored first on just their second attempt when Schenn's wrister beat Thomas Greiss midway through the first.
"As soon as you get on the ice, you really don't even have to look at the other team's jersey," Schenn said. "You kind of already know who you are playing just by the atmosphere out there. It's unbelievable. Our fans are crazy about the Penguins and it seems to bring out the best of us. It's a great rivalry."
Chris Kunitz evened the score with a short-handed goal against Ray Emery in the second.
The Penguins went 0 for 6 on the power play.
"With that many opportunities and the skill we have, we should make them pay for that," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
NOTES: Crosby was held without a point against the Flyers for one of the few times in his career. He entered with 75 points in 49 career games against the Flyers. That's his second-highest point total against one team behind the 88 he has against the Islanders.