PHILADELPHIA – He got the goal on his 35th birthday, and he had the lead, but Chris Pronger wasn’t able to get the win Saturday. Playing against the Anaheim Ducks, the team that traded him to Philadelphia this summer, Pronger scored his first goal as a Flyer before watching his team cough up a late two-goal lead and lose in a shootout, 3-2.
Philadelphia played a sound overall game through two periods, but left room for 39-year-old Finnish winger Teemu Selanne to single-handedly pull the Ducks back from defeat with two goals in the final 6:44 of the third period and the only goal in the shootout. And even at 39, Selanne doesn’t need much room to make a difference.
“He’s an opportunistic guy,” said Flyers coach John Stevens of Selanne. “He always seems like he’s in control. It almost looked like he had a twinkle in his eye there at the end thinking he was going to make something happen.”
Rebounding from allowing five goals apiece in their last two games against Washington and Pittsburgh, the Flyers’ defense was in control through two periods. Pronger spearheaded the charge, playing over 31 minutes on the ice in his best game as a Flyer. He was confident and comfortable moving the puck out of his own end, hit hard when necessary and even managed to get on the board with a blistering second-period slapshot that put Philadelphia up 2-0.
“It’s a 2-0 hockey game, two points has to be in your pocket,” Stevens said. “We should push that team further away and make them react to us. I thought we let them hang around.”
It was a night for the over-30 crowd and Selanne made sure to spoil his former teammate’s birthday party. The right winger showed all of the speed and quickness that made him a star in his younger years, bursting across the blue line while the Flyers were caught changing lines and beating goalie Ray Emery, who made 31 saves in the loss.
That goal with just under seven minutes left breathed new life into a Ducks team that was badly outplayed through two periods but reversed that trend in the third period and overtime.
“It’s obviously frustrating, especially going into the third with a two-goal lead,” said Emery. “I thought I should have had the goal that kind of gets them back in the game there. He makes a good shot, but that kind of allows them to scramble at the end and gave them a chance to tie it up.”
In the game’s closing seconds the Ducks pulled goalie Jonas Hiller for an extra attacker, hoping to produce a score and send the game to overtime. Thanks to Selanne they were able to do just that. Mike Richards tried to clear the puck during the last-minute scramble, but Corey Perry leaped to glove it down and hold it in before sending a pass along the right wall to Scott Niedermayer.
Philadelphia blueliner Kimmo Timonen played off Niedermayer, leaving the veteran time to thread a needle through the defense to Selanne, knifing toward the far post for the easy put-in with 16 ticks remaining.
“He made an unbelievable pass through a couple people,” said Richards, who scored Philadelphia’s first goal on a power play. “We had him contained in the slot there. Maybe we should have had a guy on Teemu back-door, but it still had to get through a lot of people to get there.”
As Stevens said, it looked like it was Selanne’s night. The only thing left to do was score the game-winner in overtime to finish the hat trick, which he nearly did in a well-paced extra session. Selanne had his chance in the shootout, though, scoring the only goal and delivering a victory to the Ducks.