PITTSBURGH – Finally beating the team that regularly torments them is enough to convince the Philadelphia Flyers they’re beginning to turn around a season that’s been a disappointment to date.
James van Riemsdyk and Jeff Carter scored two goals each, Matt Carle had a goal and two assists, and the Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time in four games this season, winning 7-4 on Thursday night.
Chris Pronger added a goal and an assist as the Flyers took leads of 2-0 and 5-2 during their second victory in as many nights and their sixth in eight games. The seven goals were a Flyers’ season high and gave them 13 in two nights, as they were coming off a 6-2 win over Toronto on Wednesday.
“They are one of the top teams in the NHL and we’ve had our struggles with them,” said Arron Asham, who set up both of van Riemsdyk’s goals. “Coming in here and stealing two points was huge. It’s a stepping stone for us and we’ve been playing some great hockey the last couple of weeks. We want to keep it going.”
The Penguins don’t. They won the first three games of the season series and 10 of 13 against the Flyers – and that didn’t count last season’s Eastern Conference playoff series victory. Pittsburgh had eliminated Philadelphia in the playoffs the last two seasons, and the Flyers came in an unusually low 10th in the conference standings.
“If you look at the last few times we played them, it’s not much of a rivalry,” said Carle, referring to the Penguins’ back-to-back wins on Dec. 15-17. “It’s nice to come in here and get a big win.”
Sidney Crosby scored twice for the Penguins, his 25th and 26th goals, but the Penguins gave up too many odd-man rushes and weren’t strong enough in net to win. They lost their seventh in nine games and now begin a five-game road trip that winds up with a three-game western Canada swing.
“We hurt ourselves with mistakes, mistakes we can’t expect to get away with it,” Crosby said. “With seven goals, they capitalized a lot. … It’s not a lack of effort, but it’s not something we can accept.”
The Flyers chased slumping goalie Marc-Andre Fleury less than two minutes into the second period when Pronger scored from just inside the blue line, putting them up 4-2. Fleury angrily threw his stick down the runway that leads to the dressing room as he left the ice and was replaced by Brent Johnson, who gave up van Riemsdyk’s second goal of the game 74 seconds later to make it 5-2.
“They didn’t miss their opportunities,” Penguins forward Bill Guerin said. “It’s tough to play from behind in this league.”
Fleury allowed four goals on 15 shots while losing his fifth in a row, with Carter and Carle scoring as Philadelphia converted both of its power plays. The Flyers are 5 for 8 with the man advantage in their last two games.
Flyers goalie Michael Leighton made 35 saves to beat Pittsburgh for the first time in four career starts.
Crosby, held to two goals in his previous nine games, scored midway through the second to get the Penguins back within two goals, but Carter later got his 16th of the season and second of the game to restore Philadelphia’s three-goal lead at 6-3.
The Penguins’ NHL-worst power play went 0 for 3. The Penguins have 27 goals on a league-high 187 power plays (14.4 per cent).
Evgeni Malkin, last season’s NHL scoring champion, was held without a goal for the seventh consecutive game although he had two assists. He had five goals and seven assists in his previous eight games against the Flyers.
NOTES: Penguins D Sergei Gonchar (foot) sat out a fourth consecutive game and F Ruslan Fedotenko didn’t play because of an undisclosed injury. … Penguins assistant coach Mike Yeo, hospitalized last weekend during a Florida road trip, watched from the press box. … Carter also scored twice against the Penguins on Oct. 8. He has five goals against them this season. … Mike Richards added an empty net goal, his 19th tally, with 32 seconds remaining. He has at least one point in six of seven games. … Carle hadn’t scored since Oct. 31 against Carolina. … Van Riemsdyk had been held to two goals in 23 games before scoring against Toronto.