R.J. Umberger scored the tying and go-ahead goals 2 1/2 minutes apart, capping a three-goal rally in the third period and lifting the Flyers to a stunning 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. “The whole key is that you keep playing, stick with it, get pucks deep and don’t give up hope,” said interim coach John Stevens, 4-6-1 since replacing Ken Hitchcock on Oct. 22. “I thought our guys showed a lot of resolve, and it was a huge win for us.”
The Flyers came to Southern California with the NHL’s worst record, but defeated Anaheim and Los Angeles on consecutive nights. They scored five goals on their first 11 shots in Wednesday’s 7-4 win over the Ducks. It’s the first time they have won back-to-back games on the same road trip since January, when they went 7-1.
“(Wednesday) night was our gutsiest effort of the season, until tonight,” forward Mike Knuble said. “We’re extremely happy. We’ve been a little bit fragile at times this year, as far as getting behind and feeling like we’re out of it. But tonight we stuck with it. It was a fun game to play in.”
Alexander Frolov gave the Kings a 3-1 lead with 10:36 left, scoring his second of the game at the end of a 2-on-1 break with Craig Conroy. But the Flyers capitalized on two giveaways in the Kings’ end to pull even.
Knuble knocked the puck off the stick of defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky and it bounced right to Simon Gagne, who beat Dan Cloutier from close range with 6:47 remaining. Just 40 seconds later, Umberger stole the puck from Dustin Brown at the top of the left circle, whirled around and beat Cloutier as Flyers forward Mike Richards provided a screen.
“You don’t like to give up a two-goal lead in your own building,” Kings coach Marc Crawford said. “You should be able to close it off – especially with the group that we’ve got. We didn’t, and we have ourselves to blame for it.”
The Flyers completed their improbable comeback when Richards’ centering pass caromed off the left skate of Kings defenceman Mattias Norstrom and right to Umberger, who swept his sixth goal past Cloutier with 3:37 left.
“To win back-to-back games is a big building block for our team, and I think we are starting to come around,” Umberger said. “We’re getting good play from everybody. We knew we’d get our chances, and we just persevered and made it through.”
Geoff Sanderson extended his goal streak to three games and assisted on Umberger’s third career game-winner, helping the Flyers win consecutive games for the first time this season after six straight losses. Richards had three assists.
Brian Willsie gave the Kings a 2-1 lead with 17:23 left in the third. They appeared to have another goal 59 seconds later when Mike Weaver shrugged off a check from Joni Pitkanen in the left circle and made a centring pass that deflected into the net off Flyers defenceman Alexandre Picard. But the goal was nullified by a delayed penalty against Philadelphia.
Los Angeles killed off three Flyers power plays before Philadelphia opened the scoring with 1:04 left in the first period on Sanderson’s wraparound goal off Cloutier’s left skate. Frolov tied it 2 1/2 minutes into the second.
The Flyers, who gave up an average of 39 shots the previous three games, limited the Kings to just three in the first 14 1/2 minutes. One was a breakaway by rookie Anze Kopitar, who was denied by goalie Antero Niittymaki at 13:19 of the opening period.
“It took us a while to get going,” Norstrom said. “We finally started playing better in the second period and started to take over the game early in the third. But we have to learn how to finish games off. We can’t relax. We played well for about 15-16 minutes of that period, and after that we gave them the game.”
Notes: This was the second time the Flyers beat Los Angeles and Anaheim on the road in consecutive nights. They also did it Jan. 2-3, 2003. … Former Flyers goalie Ron Hextall is the Kings’ assistant general manager. He spent the previous four years as Philadelphia’s director of pro hockey personnel.