In a matchup that saw a three-goal deficit erased, two disallowed goals (one a split second after the horn sounded), 27 total first period hits, nearly eight back-to-back minutes in third period Flyer penalties, and a shootout, the San Jose Sharks walked out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 5-4 win Wednesday night.
When teams from different conferences meet up there is usually a slow feeling out process to start the game, but not in this one. The Flyers threw a total of 16 hits in the first period, they activated their defensemen offensively, and fired seven shots on San Jose goaltender (and former Flyers netminder) Antero Niitymaki within the first 10:00.
Late in the opening stanza, the Sharks got on the board first when Ryane Clowe deflected a shot from Niclas Wallin past Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky at 19:55 to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
At the start of the second, Claude Giroux tied the score with his 100th career point. Jeff Carter also got an assist on the goal, which was his 300th career point.
After getting things rolling, Ville Leino and Nik Zherdev added two more goals within 49 seconds of one another.
Scott Hartnell added a fourth goal, his first in 11 games, but after that the Flyers began some penalty trouble that opened the door for the Sharks. The Sharks scored three unanswered goals, including one by their rookie sensation, Logan Couture, for his 13th of the year.
Couture was a 2007 first round draft pick. He’s currently first among NHL rookies in goals(13), shots(93), game-winning goals(4), faceoff percentage (53.8%), and tied for first in power play goals(2) and he’s second in points(19). Couture is one of the fine rookies in contention for the Calder Trophy along with Bobrovsky.
As far as a comeback like this, coming into this game, the Sharks were 0-8-1 when trailing going into the third, while the Flyers had a record of 14-0-1 when leading after two.
“If you can’t hold a 4-1 lead with 13 minutes to go, the rest is, well, it doesn’t matter,” said Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.
With 2:11 left in the third both teams had 30 shots on goal and were tied at 4-4. Neither team was interested in OT, as both had yet to win one this season. The Flyers were 0-2 and the Sharks were 0-4.
It would take more than 65:00 to decide the game. Mike Richards fired a shot in the closing second of overtime. The puck deflected off the skate of Danny Heatley and in past Niitymaki. The Wells Fargo Center erupted and the scoreboard flashed “Flyers Win”, but upon further review, the puck crossed the line a split second after time had run out. After the disallowed goal, Couture and Clowe scored in the first two rounds of the shootout and Nittymaki stopped Briere and Giroux to seal the Sharks comeback.
The Flyers dominated for more than 40:00, but then sloppy play took over, and undisciplined penalties. Briere took a tripping minor at 11:26 that led to a goal right off the faceoff. And at 13:27, he took a double-minor for high-sticking.
“We’ve got to stay out of the box,” Pronger said. “We’ve got to keep skating. We had full control of the game. We were dominating every aspect. We got lackadaisical and started letting them, started playing a little river hockey, and they’ve got players that can put the puck in the net.”
Briere is second on the team in penalty minutes with and only trails Hartnell — who’s played three more games. Briere’s sloppy play and disregard for stick infractions have been costing the team. Earlier in the season he served a three game suspension for an incident with Frans Neilson of the NYIslanders, and his late game penalties cost the Flyers this game.
“It’s always upsetting when you blow a 4-1 lead,” Flyer coach Peter Laviolette said. “It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, it stings. We blew the 4-1 lead because of the penalties.”
With this OT loss, the Flyers are now three points behind their division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are on an 11 game winning streak and have captured first place in the Atlantic division and the Eastern conference for the time being. If they want to catch the leaders they’ll need to turn things around quickly.