The Flyers played host to the Atlanta Thrashers Friday night for their 35th time at home in franchise history. With a rematch already set for this coming Thursday, Philadelphia blew a 3-0 lead after two periods, and fell by a score of 5-4 in overtime.
In only the second meeting of the season between the two clubs this season, the Flyers looked to bounce back from two unconvincing wins against struggling teams, that followed a four game slide. The number one team in the Eastern Conference entering play looked to shrug off being out scored 18-12 in their last five games.
“We go on the road for a week so we definitely want to get those two points and have a big effort at home,” Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said before the game.
After a rocky start where Philadelphia had trouble connecting on quick break out passes, Hartnell’s line capitalized first for Philly at 14:11 of the opening period. Daniel Briere would center a pass for Hartnell in the high slot. The pass would draw the Atlanta defense out of position, and Ville Leino stood open on the back door, received a crisp pass from Hartnell, and tallied his 15th of the season to put the Flyers ahead 1-0.
With momentum for the Flyers at intermission and going into the middle period, Leino would not stand alone on the score sheet for a whole lot longer. Just 4:21 into the period, Mike Richards slid a pass across to defenseman Kimmo Timonen for an easy lay up into a wide open net.
The Flyers’ lead was quickly doubled to two goals on their first shot of the stanza.
Through the first 30 minutes of regulation, Thrashers’ netminder Ondrej Pavelec saw only seven shots on net, but with all being quality scoring opportunities. In Sergei Bobrovsky’s bid for a shut out, many of the 14 shots he stopped in the first half of regulation were from the outside of the face off circles, along the boards.
In search of a complete 60-minute effort, the Flyers eventually tacked on a power play goal to open their lead to three with 5:38 remaining in the second period. With the power play set up for the Flyers in the offensive end, after tape-to-tape puck movement, recent trade acquisition Kris Versteeg fired a shot on net that was originally denied by Pavelec. But, the rebound was laying right on the door step of an open net for Leino, who potted his second goal of the night.
In effort of shrinking a three goal disadvantage, the furious Thrashers began advancing more great “A” chances on net. The Flyers’ defense began coming to life late in the period, keeping tight and not allowing any second chances for Atlanta on rebounds.
But thanks to a power play goal, a five-on-five goal and a shorthanded goal, the Flyers held 3-0 advantage through 40 minutes.
At the start of the final stanza, it was a surprise when Pavelec was replaced by back-up Chris Mason to finish the game. Pavelec finished the game yielding three goals on twelve shots. Head Coach Craig Ramsay could have very well made the goalie move to try to shake up his team in the late going, and try to brew a comeback.
But just 1:09 into the stanza the Thrashers responded when Evander Kane put his team on the board on a great individual effort bulldozing through the defense, and sliding a shot underneath Bobrovsky. Minutes later defenseman Zack Bogosian scored on a shot from the point that deflected in past Bobrovsky, to cut the lead suddenly to a slim one goal.
But, it would appear to be a night that Leino will remember for a long time. On another power play, Leino unleashed a one-time shot past Mason to complete the hat trick.
Like a team that never stops playing, Atlanta would again cut the lead to 4-3 on a power play goal with just under three minutes remaining when Tobias Enstrom unleashed a bullet to the top shelf of the net.
With just 44.6 seconds remaining in regulation, Andrew Ladd tied the game for Atlanta as he found a loose puck wide open in the face off circle left to Bobrovsky to force overtime.
Coming from three goals down to tie the game at four goals a piece, Atlanta had all the momentum in the world going into a 4-on-4 overtime period. And it didn’t take long for the Thrashers to come away with the victory.
Just 1:17 into the extra session, defenseman Ron Hainsey tipped the puck past Bobrovsky on a two-on-one rush to put the finishing touches on the Thrashers’ heroics.
The Flyers will now have to redeem themselves on the road in Florida, Atlanta, and Dallas within the next week.