PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) — There is absolutely no quit in Simon
Gagne, Scott Hartnell and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Gagne tied the game late in regulation and scored the decisive
goal in the shootout as the Flyers rallied from a four-goal
deficit in the third period Thursday and posted a 6-5 triumph
over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Hartnell recorded his fourth career hat trick and Scottie
Upshall also tallied for Philadelphia, which improved to 11-1-3
in its last 15 games and 6-0-2 in its last eight at home.
“Scottie Hartnell had a breakout night,” Flyers coach John
Stevens said. “He was all over the ice tonight.”
Jeff Carter and defenseman Andrew Alberts notched two assists
apiece and Antero Niittymaki made 26 saves for the Flyers, who
raised their record against Southeast Division opponents to
Eric Staal scored two goals and set up another and Tuomo Ruutu
collected three assists for Carolina, which has not posted a
regulation victory over Philadelphia in the last 11 meetings
between the teams. Staal’s first tally was his 300th career
Matt Cullen, Sergei Samsonov and former Flyers defenseman Joni
Pitkanen also tallied and Michael Leighton stopped 32 shots for
the Hurricanes, who fell to 2-5-2 in their last nine games.
“We played some fine hockey for 40 minutes, and in the third, we
got a lesson in forecheck pressure,” said Carolina coach Paul
Maurice, whose team fell to 1-1-2 since he took over for Peter
Laviolette on December 3. “We had a difficult night moving the
puck, and our feet stopped moving. It’s a learning process for
The contest was the fourth in 16 days between the clubs, with
Philadelphia posting a 3-0-1 record.
“We’ve played Carolina four times in the last couple of weeks,”
Upshall said. “We knew what they had and we fought back.”
With the Flyers trailing, 2-0, Hartnell halved the deficit
during a power play midway through the second period, tipping
Carter’s wrist shot from the blue line past Leighton at 9:17.
However, Samsonov began a string of three straight goals for the
Hurricanes just 11 seconds later as Carolina entered the second
intermission with a 5-1 cushion.
“It didn’t matter what I tried to do,” Niittymaki said. “The
rebounds went straight back to them and everything went in.
You’re just trying to think, ‘What’s going on here?'”
Hartnell chipped away at the deficit, burying the rebound of
Alberts’ shot just 1:42 into the third for Philadelphia’s
league-leading 12th shorthanded goal of the season. Last
campaign, the Flyers netted 13 tallies while down a skater.
After his initial shot from the right faceoff circle sailed over
the net, the puck bounced off the glass and into the slot, where
Hartnell regained possession and fired it past Leighton at 7:12
to complete his hat trick and draw Philadelphia within 5-3.
“We came in (after two periods) and (Stevens) basically said,
‘You’re playing like a bunch of pansies,'” Hartnell said. “We
turned it on for 20 minutes. You get one quick and you never
know what’s going to happen. We stuck with it, got a couple of
great goals late and we were able to get the extra point out of
Niittymaki, who has won four in a row, denied former Flyer Rod
Brind’Amour on a breakaway with just under 11 minutes remaining,
and Upshall made it a one-goal game at 15:08, when he converted
the rebound of a slap shot by defenseman Lasse Kukkonen for his
fifth of the season.
“I think collectively, we came together and we threw everything
at them,” Upshall said. “We played pretty much Flyer hockey,
the way we know how. We shot the puck, we made simple plays and
we won battles, and that was the difference.”
“It seems like when a guy like Scottie scores, it gives your
team even more energy,” Stevens said. “Then the power play kept
coming and we just stayed with it. It was great to see.”
Just three seconds after Carolina successfully killed rookie
blue-liner Brett Carson’s hooking penalty, Gagne did the
unthinkable, stuffing his second attempt past Leighton at the
right goalpost with 1:44 remaining to forge a 5-5 tie.
“Richie (captain Mike Richards) kept the puck in and Mike
(Knuble) made a blind pass to me,” Gagne said. “I took the
first shot and then the rebound. I needed that rebound to go
in. At first, I thought the puck went behind the net, but it
worked out. It was a great feeling.”
“It’s not what we had envisioned going into the third period,”
Staal said. “We got back on our heels and they just kept
attacking. … The chances they got, they capitalized on. They
were taking pucks to the net from low and they were finding the
back of the net, so it’s a tough one to swallow.”
Knuble recorded his 400th career point on the play with an
assist, while Richards extended his points streak to six games
by helping set up the goal.
Stevens was unhappy with his team’s effort over the first 40
minutes but thrilled – and a bit surprised – with its late
“I was disappointed with the way we played the first two
periods,” he said. “It seemed like our role players were really
providing the energy and the physical play, but we were allowing
their skill people to hurt us.
“The game plan (in the third) was to get pucks in deep and put
pressure on them with our forecheck. I just asked them to go
out and play 20 minutes the right way. I never had any idea
that we could come back from that kind of a hole against a team
that was playing so well.”
After a scoreless overtime that saw Carolina fail to cash in on
a power play, Gagne began the shootout by avoiding a diving
Leighton and sliding the puck into a vacant net.
“I’ve practiced shootouts with him when he played here,’ Gagne
said of former teammate Leighton. “I think he knew I liked to
go with my backhand. I figured I’d fake to go to my backhand
and come back to my forehand. He went for the poke-check pretty
hard, but I was ready to move on the forehand.”
Niittymaki made a blocker save on Ruutu before Richards lifted a
backhander past Leighton after deking for a 2-0 advantage.
Representing the Hurricanes’ last chance, Brind’Amour was denied
by the glove of Niittymaki, whose last three victories have come