PITTSBURGH — This almost never happens in an NHL playoff game, a team going on a two-man advantage in overtime. Maybe that was all Bill Guerin needed to do something he had never done, either.
Guerin scored his second goal of the game for Pittsburgh, which rallied twice against Philadelphia and then won after been given a rare two-man edge in an extra period. The Penguins earned a 3-2 victory Friday night to go up two games in the first-round playoff series.
Guerin, at 38 the oldest player on a mostly young team, took Sergei Gonchar’s pass from centre point and skated toward the net from the low left circle, faked a pass and beat goalie Martin Biron on a shot that deflected off the left post and into the net 18:29 into overtime. It was the first game-winning playoff goal in Guerin’s 17-season career.
“There’s a first time for everything, I guess,” said Guerin, who was traded by the last-place Islanders to the Penguins at the March 4 trade deadline. “It was a thrill for me to come over here. This was a big win for us.”
Guerin also scored the goal that tied it at one late in the second period, and Evgeni Malkin tied it at two with 3:37 remaining in the third after rookie Darroll Powe’s goal put the determined Flyers up early in the period.
The Penguins will take a 2-0 series lead to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Sunday, as they did in winning last year’s Eastern Conference finals against the Flyers.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other playoff game since at least 1933 decided by a two-man advantage overtime goal came in 2003, when Tampa Bay beat Washington 4-3 on Vincent Lecavalier’s goal 2:21 into the extra session.
“You don’t see it too often,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “You have to see a play like a broken stick or a clear high stick or something like that, but we’ll take it and move on.”
The overtime game was the first between the in-state rivals since Keith Primeau’s goal decided the Flyers’ 2-1, five-OT win that started on May 4, 2000, and ended in the early morning hours of May 5. That game was the NHL’s longest in the last 73 years.
This game was much shorter. And much harder to take for the Flyers.
The Flyers initially went on the power play in overtime when Penguins defenceman Hal Gill was called for cross-checking, but an identical penalty on Mike Knuble and a slashing call on Claude Giroux 30 seconds later gave Pittsburgh a two-man edge that would have lasted 1:29. Guerin scored with 27 seconds left in the two-man.
“My stick broke and I was just trying to jam his (Chris Kunitz’s) stick,” Giroux said. “The refs saw that the stick broke so they had to call it. I was just trying to make sure he doesn’t get the pass and I guess I went a little too hard and it broke. I let down the guys here and I’ve got to put that behind me. It’s a dumb play.”
Philadelphia avoided the numerous penalties and breakdowns it had in the 4-1 loss in Game 1 and were in position to tie the series after rookie Powe’s go-ahead goal, only to get tripped up again by penalties.
“We certainly proved to ourselves that we can play,” coach John Stevens said. “We did a lot of good things. But it’s tough — it’s tough, but we’ll regroup.”
Of going down two men, Jeff Carter said, “It’s tough, but they’re going to call what they’re going to call.”
The Penguins, given their third power play in regulation after having eight Wednesday, tied it at 16:23 of the third when Kris Letang’s shot from the point deflected off Malkin and past Biron for Malkin’s second of the series.
Pittsburgh created the overtime only because goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made an improbable save several minutes before, scrambling from one side of the crease to the other to stick out his right skate and deflect Carter’s shot toward an unguarded side of the net.
“I was a little far from the puck on that, I was in a bad spot so I just tried to get my pads over there and it hit my toe,” Fleury said.
The Flyers responded the way Stevens said they needed to following their undisciplined Game 1 loss. They didn’t worry about retaliating or sending messages or trying to outhit Pittsburgh, only trying to beat them — and it nearly worked.
They pressed the play from the start, got the important first goal from Scott Hartnell, then kept pressuring even after Pittsburgh tied it on Guerin’s 29th career playoff goal. His 30th would be even bigger.
The Flyers came back to take a 2-1 lead when Powe, playing more because oft-penalized forward Dan Carcillo was suspended for a shot to Max Talbot’s head with seconds remaining in Game 1, steered a wrist shot from the left circle past Fleury 2:09 into the third.
Powe is a former Princeton player who had six goals during the season, one an empty-netter during the Flyers’ 3-1 win in Pittsburgh on March 22.
Philadelphia’s under-control persistence finally paid off with Hartnell’s power-play goal at 13:26 of the first and only its fifth lead after the first period in 26 games.
“It’s disappointing for sure. We did all the right things,” captain Mike Richards said.
The way the Flyers kept pressuring, the Penguins were in jeopardy of leaving Pittsburgh tied two games into a playoff series for the first time since they lost to Montreal in six games in 1998. But they tied it after coach Dan Bylsma put Malkin and Crosby on the same line, and it paid off with Guerin’s first goal.
Notes: Pittsburgh has won Game 2 in nine of its last 13 series and has won 10 of its last 12 home playoff games. … The Flyers are 34-26 in playoff Game 2. … Biron made 46 saves, Fleury 38. … Pittsburgh was 2-of-5 on the power play, Philadelphia 1-of-4. … Flyers’ Kimmo Timonen was assessed a 10 minute misconduct penalty on Guerin’s overtime goal.