PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers picked up right where the two rivals left off in the playoffs last season.
Jakub Voracek scored the go-ahead goal with 1:31 remaining in the third period to cap his first career NHL hat trick, leading the Flyers to a wild 6-5 victory over the Penguins on Wednesday.
“It was a great game for the players, the fans, for everybody,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was good playoff-type hockey.”
It was the kind of wide-open, back-and-forth, playoff-type hockey the two teams displayed during their Eastern Conference quarterfinal round series last season. The Penguins and Flyers combined for 45 goals through the first four games of the series, a best-of-seven set Philadelphia won in six games.
Pittsburgh took a two-goal lead Wednesday before Philadelphia scored the next four goals.
The Flyers had leads of 4-2 and 5-3 in the third period, only to watch as the Penguins rallied, tying the game with 2:03 remaining.
Voracek’s third goal came 33 seconds after Pittsburgh’s Brandon Sutter tied the game on a wraparound.
Voracek, who had a career-best four points Monday against the New York Islanders, threw a shot from behind the goal line, which bounced off Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun and into the net.
“I didn’t want to turn it over or do something stupid, so I just tried to throw it to the net,” Voracek said.
Voracek’s first goal of the game came on the power play, giving the Flyers a 3-2 lead with 9.9 seconds left in the second period. His second, the 200th point of his NHL career, put Philadelphia ahead by two goals 18 seconds into the third period.
Wayne Simmonds had two goals and an assist and Nicklas Grossman also scored for the Flyers.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made 27 saves for his eighth victory.
Evgeni Malkin and James Neal scored power-play goals, while Sutter, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Niskanen also scored for the Penguins, who had a three-game win streak end.
Penguins defenceman Paul Martin also had three assists.
Captain Sidney Crosby, with 25 points, is tied with Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek for NHL scoring lead after getting an assist.
Vokoun, making his first start since a home loss against New Jersey, stopped 26 shots.
“It’s unfortunate,” Crosby said. “We had a good start and didn’t find a way to hold the lead.”
The Flyers capped a season-long six-game road trip with two victories. Philadelphia, which routed the New York Islanders 7-0 Monday, struggled early on the road trip, dropping three of its first four games before recovering with two wins.
“Anytime you finish a road trip with two big wins it’s huge,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who had two assists. “It was good to get a couple wins in a row again.”
The Flyers, despite playing 12 of their first 18 games on the road, appear right at home in Pittsburgh, where they won for the eighth time in 10 games. Philadelphia is also 6-1 at Consol Energy Center since it opened in 2010.
Philadelphia appeared to put the game away after Simmonds’ second goal of the game, which hit off Niskanen’s stick and went into the net, to make it 5-3 at 7:36 of the third.
But the Penguins rallied thanks in part to back-to-back 5-on-3 power plays. Neal’s power-play goal at 12:46 made it 5-4 and the Penguins appeared to initially tie it with 5:39 left, but a would-be power-play goal from Chris Kunitz was kicked past Bryzgalov.
Sutter got it done, tying the game with 2:03 remaining.
“We stuck with things and earned the breaks we got, and we were able to tie the game,” Crosby said. “We had the right mentality, sometimes it’s a little too late.”
Niskanen gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 5:07 of the first, the 14th time in 17 games Pittsburgh scored the opening goal.
Defenceman Kris Letang’s shot deflected off a Philadelphia skate to Niskanen, who ripped a hard shot past Bryzgalov.
Laviolette called a timeout after the goal in an attempt to spark his sluggish team, which had just two shots on goal to that point, but it worked in the Penguins’ favour.
Flyers forward Harry Zolnierczyk was whistled for boarding 13 seconds later, putting Pittsburgh’s No. 2-ranked power play on the ice.
Malkin nearly converted seven seconds into the advantage, as Bryzgalov gloved a shot against the post, but the play was ruled inconclusive after an extra look by officials.
Malkin scored later on the power play at 7:15 of the first, slamming Martin’s rebound off the end boards inside the post. It was the ninth straight game the Penguins scored a power-play goal.
The Flyers settled down, scoring twice in the span of a minute to tie the game.
Grossman got the first one, firing a loose puck across the line after a wild net-mouth scramble that had four Penguins piled in the crease, desperately trying to prevent a goal.
Letang tried his best to keep the puck out of the net, stopping the initial shot at the goal line, but it eventually popped out to Grossman, who scored the Flyers’ opening goal 11:49 of the first.
Simmonds scored a minute later, taking a Danny Briere pass and powering his way to the top of the crease where he slid a shot past Vokoun.
Then things got heated between the cross-state rivals and the penalty box quickly filled with three players apiece less than a minute after the tying goal.
Penguins defenceman Deryk Engelland went off for roughing, Flyers forward Brayden Schenn for cross-checking, and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were also issued while Tanner Glass and Simmonds had a fight.
“I think we got too emotional in the game, too involved with the extra curriculars,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
The teams played a clean second period, combining for just three penalties, but the last one, an elbowing call against the Penguins’ Craig Adams, resulted in Voracek’s go-ahead goal with 9.9 seconds left in the period.
Voracek scored his second of the game 18 seconds into the third period, taking advantage of a miscommunication between Vokoun and Martin behind the net. Braydon Coburn’s shot after the turnover bounced to Voracek, who made it a two-goal game.
Kennedy cut the deficit to one goal at 5:29, putting the rebound from Martin’s point shot behind Bryzgalov before Simmonds’ scored his second of the game at 7:36.
“Obviously we started off pretty rocky, and kind of finished pretty rocky, but I think in between we played a pretty solid game,” Simmonds said.
NOTES: Flyers forward Matt Read left the game with an upper-body injury. … The rivals meet again March 7 in Philadelphia. … Both teams play next at home against Florida. The Flyers host the Panthers Thursday, while the Pittsburgh welcomes Florida the following night.