PHILADELPHIA – Chris Pronger was 16 seconds away from enjoying a goal and a Flyers’ victory on his 35th birthday in his first game against the Ducks since they traded him in June.
Teemu Selanne spoiled it all for his former teammate.
Selanne’s second goal of the game tied the game in regulation and he had the only goal in a shootout to lift the Anaheim Ducks to a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
“He comes in so fast on the goalie and changes the angle so quickly that it’s hard for the goalie to react,” Pronger said. “He doesn’t have a hard shot, but he’s got a very accurate, quick release.”
Pronger should know the scouting report. He spent the last three seasons with Selanne in Anaheim and they won a Stanley Cup title together in 2007.
“Fun to play against him,” Selanne said. “You don’t realize how good he is when you play on the same team. He was there like a wall.”
Selanne found a way to shoot past that wall on his second goal. He scored twice in the third and made it 2-2 when he beat Flyers goalie Ray Emery from the post to send the game into overtime.
“It almost looked like he had a twinkle in his eye there at the end like he was going to make something happen,” Flyers coach John Stevens said.
Pronger scored his first goal with the Flyers after spending three years in Anaheim. Mike Richards also scored his NHL-best sixth goal of the season. Both Flyers’ goals came on the power play.
Danny Briere, Richards and Simon Gagne all missed their shootout attempts for the Flyers. Corey Perry was stopped on Anaheim’s first attempt, but Selanne beat Emery again for the winner.
Emery made his first start against the Ducks since he was Ottawa’s goalie in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals.
Selanne ruined what was looking like a happy debut for Pronger against another one of his former teams.
When the Ducks didn’t feel they could sign Pronger to an extension at the end of this season, they dealt the intimidating defenceman to the Flyers in June.
Pronger, who turned 35 on Saturday, talked this week about having a different feeling playing against the Ducks than he has against his other former teams. There’s something about making a deep playoff run and winning a championship that tightened the bond with his ex-teammates that Pronger didn’t necessarily find the first time he played against Hartford, St. Louis or Edmonton.
“Once you get the first hit in, once you get the first shift out of the way, you kind of start settling in and get back to playing the game of hockey,” Pronger said.
Pronger plans not to have to face the Flyers ever again.
Shortly he was dealt as part of a blockbuster draft-night package that sent Luca Sbisa and Joffrey Lupul to the Ducks, Pronger signed a US$34.9-million, seven-year contract extension. The Flyers hope he’s the missing piece to help them win their first Cup since 1975.
Pronger appeared to enjoy his second-period goal against his old team. He fired a straight-on slapper from just below the blue line that appeared to graze Ducks defenceman James Wisniewski before finding the net.
He offered an enthusiastic fist pump and was mobbed by his teammates. Pronger caught the replay from the bench, nodded approvingly and smiled. It’s a scene the Ducks were familiar with – Pronger scored 36 goals in three seasons.
Richards, who had a hat trick against Washington on Tuesday, put the Flyers up 1-0 in the first on a slapper from the circle that shot over goalie Jonas Hiller’s glove.
The Flyers already have nine power-play goals in five games.
Emery was solid again and played more like he did the first two games, even recording a shutout in his Flyers debut. But he allowed five goals in each of the last two games and saw his save percentage dip to 90 per cent.
Emery, who has started all five games, stopped all 21 shots over the first periods and had his shutout spoiled when Selanne scored with 6:42 left in the game.
Selanne would torment him one more time for career goal 583 and send the Flyers on a two-game losing streak.
“We’ve done a lot of really good things,” Pronger said. “There’s certainly no reason to panic.”
Notes: Lupul and Sbisa both played. … This was Emery’s first regular-season game against the Ducks. Emery had a 3.26 GAA against the Ducks in Cup finals. … Richards has scored a point in all five games.