PHILADELPHIA – Scott Hartnell sensed good things coming for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Little did he know that they were about to match their greatest comeback in franchise history. Hartnell had a hat trick as the Flyers erased a four-goal deficit in the third period and beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 in a shootout victory Thursday night.
Hartnell scored twice on second shots in the third period to complete his fourth NHL hat trick. Scottie Upshall made it 5-4, and Simon Gagne tied it with 1:44 left in regulation. Jeff Carter had two assists for the Flyers, who have won three straight and four of five.
“What a comeback, ” Hartnell said. “After we got the first couple of goals, the atmosphere was crazy. You felt that something special was going to happen.”
Gagne and Mike Richards scored the only goals in the shootout, and the Flyers matched their biggest comeback since Feb. 23, 1988, when they wiped out a 5-1 deficit against Detroit and won 11-6.
“We didn’t feel very confident going out there being down 5-1,” Gagne said. “Ninety-five per cent of the time you end up losing the game. The crowd got energized, gave us energy, and fired us up.”
Philadelphia had been 0-2 in shootouts this season. The Flyers forced the tiebreaker by pushing four rebound shots past Carolina goalie Michael Leighton in the third. Hartnell scored on putback shots at 1:42 and 7:12.
Eric Staal scored two goals and added an assist for the Hurricanes, who had lost three straight and six of seven before beating Washington 3-1 on Sunday.
“Staal looked like a man possessed,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “We were having a tough time containing him.”
Matt Cullen, Sergei Samsonov, and Joni Pitkanen also scored, and Tuomo Ruutu added two assists for Carolina, which earned an overtime win over the Flyers in Philadelphia the day after Thanksgiving. That was the Hurricanes’ final victory under former coach Peter Laviolette, who was fired five days later.
Leighton, starting in place of Cam Ward who is day to day with a groin injury, made 32 saves.
Antero Niittymaki, who stopped 26 shots to earn his fifth win in six starts, said he felt the excitement.
“You could see the guys get so pumped up and you got pretty excited about it,” Niittymaki said. “We kept playing better and better.”
Staal put the Hurricanes ahead just 1:01 in, scoring his 10th goal of the season and his 300th NHL point. Staal had another goal disallowed later in the period when he was called for high-sticking.
“Obviously, it’s not what we envisioned,” Staal said. “We got on our heels, they kept attacking, and they were able to capitalize on their chances.”
Cullen made it 2-0 when his shot from the goal mouth bounced under Niittymaki’s armpit and trickled into the net at 2:10 of the second.
After Hartnell got the Flyers to within a goal with a rebound of Carter’s shot at 9:17, the Hurricanes broke the game open with three goals in a span of 5:45.
Samsonov put in a rebound at 9:28. Pitkanen scored on a slap shot, with the Hurricanes on a 5-on-3 power play at 12:08, and Staal added his second goal on another power play at 15:13 to give Carolina a 5-1 lead.
It was Staal’s 20th career two-goal game.
Carolina coach Paul Maurice said his team played fine for 40 minutes.
“In the third we got a lesson in forecheck pressure,” he said. “We had a difficult time moving the puck and our feet stopped moving.”
Philadelphia and Carolina finished their season series by playing their fourth game against each other in 16 days. The Flyers went 3-1-1 against the Hurricanes.
Notes: Richards extended his point streak to six games (five goals, four assists). … Carolina RW Justin Williams scored his first point of the season by assisting on Cullen’s goal. He played in his fourth game after missing 25 following surgery to repair a torn Achilles’ tendon. … The Hurricanes are 1-1-2 since Maurice replaced Laviolette on Dec. 3.