Thursday, February 03, 2011

Leino lifts Flyers over Predators as Clarke is honored again

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Some nights, you need a little extra inspiration to get through the dog days of an 82-game journey.

With the surprising Nashville Predators in town, ranked fourth in the Western Conference playoff picture, it could have easily been a mid-Winter trap game against an opponent scratching and clawing for every point they can get.

The stakes are even higher due to the vagaries of the NHL schedule, which only permitted one matchup between the Preds and the Flyers this season.

Enter franchise icon Bob Clarke. Enter budding star Ville Leino.

Clarke was honored yet again by the team he virtually defined, receiving the banner which hung from the rafters at the Spectrum which bears his retired Number 16, while Leino scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner with just over three minutes remaining in the third period, as the Flyers edged Nashville Predators, 3-2, at Wells Fargo Center.

Jeff Carter added the other goal and recorded a pair of assists for the Flyers, who bounced back from Tuesday's 4-0 shutout loss at Tampa Bay and have now won seven of their last nine games overall. Sergei Bobrovsky posted 26 saves en route to the win for Philadelphia, which is beginning a four-game homestand.

Marcel Goc and Joel Ward each lit the lamp for Nashville, which is winless in its last four games (0-3-1). Anders Lindback allowed three goals on 29 shots in the loss.

Leino's game-winner showed flashes of a forward from a previous generation -- Denis Savard -- who claimed the Savardian spin-a-rama for himself from originator Serge Savard of the Montreal Canadiens.

Taking the puck in front of Lindback off a dish from Claude Giroux, Leino shook off a defender, whirled around and lifted a backhander home with 3:14 left in regulation to give the Flyers their third and final lead of the game.

It was a fitting and thrilling end to another victory for the Eastern Conference leaders, who opened up a three-point edge over idle Pittsburgh (73-70) for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

There was a fitting start to the contest as well, as Clarke was once again the center of attention at the face-off dot to receive his banner. Having played from 1969-84 for the Flyers, his iconic 16 was raised to the roof in November of that year, the third player so honored in franchise lore.

The 61-year-old Manitoba native also served as general manager for the club from 1984-90, then vice president and general manager from 1994 until his resignation in October, 2006.

His gritty spirit was needed in a tightly-contested tilt from start to finish.

Carter got things going with his 24th goal of the season just after the midway point of the first period, when he skated into the left circle and whipped a wrister past Lindback. The lead lasted all of 59 seconds as Goc converted a Cody Franson feed to tie the score.

In a scoreless second period, Lindback made 13 saves and Bobrovsky halted eight chances. The best action in the middle 20 minutes came when Dan Carcillo and Kevin Klein dropped the gloves with 59 seconds to go -- but each player held onto each other's jersey for dear life and managed to sneak in some punches before being broken up.

Leino then put the Orange and Black ahead by 2-1 on a power play five seconds shy of the seven-minute mark of the third period, as his chance from the right post managed to sneak past Lindback.

Again, the Preds responded as Ward hit the net on a Nashville advantage at 10:18, alone at the right side to shove home a Martin Erat pass.

Notes: Leino notched his first career two-goal game...This was Carter's 13th multi-point effort of the season...He has notched four goals and seven points in his last four games...Bobrovsky's start was his 35th of the year, tying his career-high in professional appearances in one season...Clarke still leads the Flyers with 1,210 points...On this date 15 years ago, Eric Lindros posted a hat trick in a 7-3 win at St. Louis...On this date in 1990, Mike Bullard tallied the winner late in OT as the Flyers were outshot 52-23 but beat the Minnesota North Stars, 7-6.

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