Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wild finish in Pittsburgh ensures Flyers' playoff meeting with Rangers

Pittsburgh, PA -- Mark Streit's errant pass hit the back of the net with 2:50 remaining in overtime and lifted the Philadelphia Flyers over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3, at CONSOL Energy Center.

Streit skated up the right wing, in a 2-on-2 with Sean Couturier trailing on the opposite side. He attempted to backhand the puck across ice, but the disc deflected off a Pens defender's stick then found its way through Marc-Andre Fleury for the game decider.

"It was another big game, it's always a big rivalry," Streit said. "It was like to the point where I really couldn't believe it. We got the lead twice and then they scored and it was up and down and you're like, 'Wow, great, we got it,' and five seconds later they tie it up. So, it was a crazy game, but great for the fans. We got a little lucky at the end, but that's how it works sometimes."

Jakub Voracek netted the first two goals and Claude Giroux the other in regulation for the Flyers, who locked up the third seed in the Metropolitan Division and are heading to a first-round matchup with the Rangers.

New York completes its regular season in Montreal later Saturday, while Philadelphia hosts Carolina on Sunday afternoon. If the Flyers maintain third spot, it will mark the first time since 1982 the Blueshirts enjoy home-ice advantage against their long-time rivals.

Steve Mason departed the game after two periods with an upper-body injury after stopping 21-of-22 shots, and was denied a career-best 34th victory in his 300th career game. Ray Emery picked up the win despite allowing two shaky goals over 22:10 of action.

James Neal totaled a goal and two assists for the Penguins, while Jussi Jokinen also tallied and Kris Letang sent the game to the extra session on a late marker.

Fleury ended up with only 17 saves in defeat as Pittsburgh, which ends its regular season by hosting Ottawa on Sunday, will take on Columbus in the first round.

"I think just to follow up this performance from today. As a whole, we want to feel good about our game," Pens captain Crosby said. "I think there were some things from today that I think were good. For a game that doesn't move us anywhere, it didn't have a lot of bearing on us, we came with the right attitude, the right mindset."

Voracek appeared to be walled off along the left-wing boards near the blue line, then spun towards the slot and threw a pass into the middle of the ice where Giroux calmly redirected it home with 1:15 to play to give the visitors a 3-2 lead.

Fleury was summoned to the bench from the ensuing faceoff, and Letang followed up a Neal miss at the left pipe and stuck a backhander off the right post with 36.8 showing

Emery then stood firm to deny Letang on a shot in close just over a minute into OT.

"I'm just trying to get back into it," Letang said about getting up to speed after a 10-week absence recovering from a stroke. "The result is disappointing, but I think we played a good game overall. "I think if we go into the playoffs that way, we're going to win games."

Jokinen opened up the scoring two minutes after the drop of the puck, as he converted a Neal pass from between the circles to finish off a 3-on-2 break.

The Flyers' first best chance of the first period came when Streit was set up by Giroux in the slot but clanged a shot off the post inside of five minutes remaining.

Voracek eventually evened the score, on a weaving rush from the right wing into the slot, where be beat Fleury through the pads with a low shot at 17:09 to cap a power play.

Pittsburgh was given a lengthy 5-on-3 after Mason and Adam Hall were whistled for infractions 26 seconds apart but failed to convert. Mason stopped three shots on the two-man disadvantage and his defense checked away the remaining one-man edge.

Despite a 15-4 shot disadvantage, Philly ended up leading 2-1 with 5:22 left, as a fluttering shot from the left-wing boards by Giroux hit Scott Hartnell in the crease, trickled through Fleury and was tapped over the line by Voracek.

The Czech winger recorded his fifth multi-goal effort of the season and 11th in his career, surpassing his previous high of 22 goals set during last year's truncated schedule.

"It's a typical Penguins game I think," Giroux said. "I think in the second period, they played a good game and we were waiting to see what they're doing and we kind of snapped out of it and started playing a little bit better."

Neal managed to sneak one through the crook of Emery's arm from the right circle with 5:07 left in regulation and the hosts evened the score at 2-2.

Notes: Philadelphia won four of five in the season series ... Voracek and Giroux each finished with three points, while Hartnell was credited with a pair of assists ... Including the postseason, the Flyers improved to 11-2-1 all-time in the Penguins' new arena, which opened in October of 2010 ... Until Crosby's assist on Neal's marker, he had endured nine scoreless periods over parts of four games against Philly dating back to November ... With nothing on the line, the Penguins sat defenseman Brooks Orpik and forward Chris Kunitz ... In anticipation of the upcoming playoffs, the Flyers rested defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Nicklas Grossmann, inserted Erik Gustafsson and Hal Gill into the lineup after a 45-game absence as a healthy scratch.
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