PHILADELPHIA – Hearing his bench screaming, Chris Pronger knew he had only time for one chance.
He went wide and received a perfect feed from Claude Giroux and placed a shot past a diving Cristobal Huet with 2.1 seconds remaining to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
The defenceman beat Huet to the glove side to cap a flurry of scoring that saw all five goals tallied in the final period.
Forget overtime or a possible shootout.
“That was huge,” Pronger said. “We didn’t want to make this go into overtime or a shootout. “(Scott) Hartnell made a great play to drive the middle to free me up. I think (Giroux) saw when I was crossing the blue line that I was going wide, and was trying to get it somewhere near where I can whack it toward the net. He made a great pass that landed flat and I was able to get it over. I just knew the time was clicking down pretty quick. We have to continue to play with that type of desperation.”
Hartnell tied the game with 2:04 left in the third when he corralled a long pass from Kimmo Timonen pass near the blue line and beat Huet’s stick side. It was his first goal since Jan. 30.
“It seems like it’s been forever since, you know, I contributed,” Hartnell said. “Kimmo made a great pass to me. … It felt great to tie it up there, then get the win like that with a couple seconds left. I think everyone is still trying to catch their breath. It’s a big emotional win for us.”
Shortly after shaking off Hartnell’s game-tying goal, Huet was skating off the ice with a loss.
“It’s something you have nightmares about,” he said. “It’s not a great feeling, obviously.”
Huet and Flyers goalie Michael Leighton had engaged in a sparkling defensive battle through the first two periods, with each stopping what appeared to be sure goals.
Simon Gagne opened the scoring for Philadelphia with his sixth goal in seven games 1:18 into the third, but Kris Versteeg tied the game 1:43 later, after a Flyers penalty by Danny Briere set up a Chicago power play. Leighton stopped Marian Hossa’s shot, but Versteeg poked in the rebound for his third goal in four games.
Hossa gave the Blackhawks the lead after taking a feed from Troy Brouwer near the right face-off circle, and rifled a shot high to Leighton’s stick side with 7:09 left in the game.
“The goaltending was great tonight on both ends,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. “They did their job. That’s why it was a tough ending. It’s a frustrating loss, but we’re excited about tomorrow’s game and we’ll move ahead.”
After a disappointing loss to the Bruins on Thursday night, the Flyers were determined to not make it a losing streak. They kept coming against Chicago, the second-best team in the Western Conference.
“We showed we can play with one of the best teams in the league,” Leighton said. “We just had a really good, all-around game.”
The exciting ending also elicited a smile from Peter Laviolette, the Flyers’ typically stoic head coach.
“It was quick,” Laviolette said.
Gagne explained that the smile may have been the result of the players’ exuberance.
“You don’t see (Laviolette smile too often),” Gagne said. “It was pretty funny when we scored. We all hugged each other and the bench fell on the coaches. Maybe that’s why he was laughing. Everybody was pretty happy to get the two points. We didn’t like the way we were playing lately. Hopefully, this game will put us on the right track.”
NOTES: Philadelphia’s record for scoring a goal with the least amount of time remaining in a game is 0.6 seconds, which has occurred twice: Freddy Meyer vs. Carolina on March 8, 2006, to tie the game the Flyers eventually won in a shootout, and Tony Amonte at Anaheim on Oct. 22, 2003, to tie the game the Flyers lost in overtime. … Jeff Carter has scored in nine of his past 11 games. … Patrick Kane had his point streak snapped at nine. He had four goals and 10 assists during that time. … The Flyers have beaten Chicago eight straight times in Philadelphia. The last defeat came Nov. 9, 1996.