PHILADELPHIA — The Flyers opened to a throwback video from the Stanley Cup glory days, then displayed a quick fuse that showed flashes of the old Broad Street Bullies spirit and revved up the crowd.
The bond with the past and the rowdy home fans gave a nice emotional lift, but it was Jeff Carter and Mike Richards that jolted the offence early and really got Philadelphia back in its playoff series against Pittsburgh.
Carter and Richards scored their first goals of the series early for a sorely needed fast start on home ice. Claude Giroux and Simon Gagne put the Flyers ahead for good in a 6-3 victory over the Penguins on Sunday.
Pittsburgh leads the opening-round series 2-1 and Game 4 is Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
“It was a huge game. We didn’t want to go down 3-0 because that’s a tough task,” Flyers centre Danny Briere said. “We have to enjoy it for a few minutes here.”
Unlike last season’s Eastern Conference finals when the Flyers flopped at home against the Penguins in Game 3, this year’s team came out charged from the opening faceoff.
Carter, the NHL’s scored-leading goal scorer, scored his first of the post-season three minutes into the game, and Richards made it two goals on two shots for the Flyers 2:15 later.
The Flyers put the pressure on early for the first time and were determined not to get outmuscled against the Penguins. The Flyers, the most penalized team in the NHL, and the Penguins never stopped scrapping and put on quite a show for the energized crowd.
“You look at Game 1, and I thought we sat back too much and let them dictate the pace,” Briere said. “We can’t sit back and let them dictate because guys like Crosby and Malkin are going to hurt you.”
Evegni Malkin scored two goals for the Penguins, who are still waiting for Sidney Crosby to catch fire. Crosby had two assists in Game 3, but has only one goal in three games.
While the shoving and punching invigorated the atmosphere, it was the rapid goal scoring after a punchless first two games that really made the difference for the Flyers.
The two goals in the first period were only one less than the Flyers scored in the first two losses. After the Penguins tied the game with goals 25 seconds apart over two periods, the Flyers came right back at them.
Giroux, the 21-year-old rookie, made all the difference in the second period. Briere swiped a rebound off Marc-Andre Fleury’s pad and fed it across the ice to a streaking Giroux, who punched in the puck for a 3-2 lead.
Playing short-handed midway though the second, Giroux controlled the puck behind the net. The Penguins defence swarmed him, but the former first-round pick was able to fend off Kris Letang and slip the puck to Gagne. Gagne scored the short-handed goal to make it 4-2 and their first of the series after they scored 16 that way during the regular season.
“I never anticipate them getting two back on us right away,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Martin Biron stopped 26 shots and played like the goalie who led the Flyers to the conference finals last year. Keeping up that kind of play in net along with the steady scoring and the series could come back to Philly for Game 6.
“It was more than another game for us today, coming back home in the hole that we were in,” Biron said. You saw the desperation that carried on through the game. The emotion was definitely there and that’s the way we’ve been successful all year.”
Jared Ross scored his first NHL goal in the third to make it 5-2 and Gagne added his second on an empty-netter with 1:36 left to secure the win.
Each team spent so much time fighting in the first period, the penalty box could have used a corner man. Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell stuck up for a flattened Kimmo Timonen when he threw punches at Chris Kunitz. Kunitz landed a flying elbow hard into Timonen’s head and sent him to the ice. Flyers defenceman Andrew Alberts scuffled with Malkin on the other side.
The bell sounded much to the delight of the sold-out crowd and the Flyers showed they still had plenty of fight left in this series.
By the midway point of the first period, the officials had their hands full. Giroux and Tyler Kennedy mixed it up at centre ice, and the refs couldn’t stop Flyers centre Darroll Powe and Letang from throwing punches along the boards.
The Flyers had 30 penalty minutes and the Penguins recorded 28.
The Penguins surprised Biron when Malkin took Ruslan Fedontenko’s feed from the corner and fired a slap shot on one knee for a goal with 12 seconds left in the first.
Rob Scuderi needed 13 seconds into the second to tie the game 2-2 on shot into traffic from the high slot.
Malkin scored his fourth goal of the series to make it 5-3.
The 19,975 orange T-shirt-wearing fans erupted when Lauren Hart, the daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sang “God Bless America,” alternating lyrics with Kate Smith, who was on a video image. Smith’s rendition of the song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since the mid-1970s and the team uses the song sparingly.
The Flyers didn’t waste the energy from the amped-up crowd. Carter backhanded the puck into an empty net and Richards caught a break when his shot from the goal line appeared to knock off a Pittsburgh stick and shoot in for a power-play goal.
“We knew they would come out charging in the first period and that’s what they did,” Crosby said. “We expected that. I would have liked to weather it a bit, but we still got ourselves back in the game.”
The Penguins also got themselves a flight back to Pittsburgh.
Notes: Flyers F Dan Carcillo returned after serving a one-game suspension for his whack to Penguins forward Max Talbot’s head in the waning seconds of Game 1. … The Flyers have fallen behind 0-2 14 times in playoff history and have won Game 3 eight times.