The Philadelphia Flyers have been the hottest team in the NHL since mid-November, losing once in 13 games in regulation while shooting up the Atlantic Division standings.
If the Flyers are going to move past the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon, they might not want this game to go more than 60 minutes.
After a stunning comeback victory in its latest game, Philadelphia will try to erase the memories of two post-regulation losses to the Penguins, who are coming off their best offensive performance in nearly eight years.
The Flyers (15-7-6) have gone 10-1-2 since Nov. 15, and the 22 points they’ve compiled in that span are the most in the league. They’ve moved into a tie with Pittsburgh for second place in the division.
It looked like Philadelphia would drop just its second game in regulation since mid-November on Thursday, but the Flyers wound up with one of the most impressive comebacks in franchise history. They trailed Carolina 5-1 at home after two periods, but scored four goals in the third en route to a 6-5 shootout win.
“What a comeback,” said Scott Hartnell, who broke an eight-game goal-scoring drought with his fourth career hat trick. “After we got the first couple of goals, the atmosphere was crazy. You felt that something special was going to happen.”
As the Flyers were matching their biggest comeback since Feb. 23, 1988, when they wiped out a 5-1 deficit against Detroit and won 11-6, the Penguins (16-9-4) were lighting up the scoreboard on the other side of Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh had totaled six goals in losing its last three games in regulation, but scored more than that in two periods against the New York Islanders on Thursday.
It was the first time two Pittsburgh players scored three goals in the same game since Mario Lemieux and Joe Mullen accomplished it April 9, 1993, against the Rangers. Sykora ended an 870-game streak without a hat trick, the longest in NHL history by a player who had at least two goals in a game - something he’d done 38 times.
“Syk, he waited a little longer than me, but I think we’ll both remember that game we both scored our first hat tricks,” Dupuis said.
Philadelphia’s 10-1-2 stretch began immediately after a 5-4 shootout loss in Pittsburgh on Nov. 13. The Flyers fell behind 3-0 before eventually taking the lead, but Sidney Crosby’s second goal of the game tied the score late in the third period.
Crosby and NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin were shut out in the rivals’ other meeting this season, but Dupuis scored with 10 seconds left in overtime on Oct. 14 to give the Penguins a 3-2 win at Mellon Arena.
But while the Flyers have lost five straight in Pittsburgh, the series has taken a different turn at the Wachovia Center. Philadelphia won all four regular-season meetings with the Penguins there last season, outscoring them 19-7. Flyers winger Mike Knuble had a goal in all four victories.
Flyers center Jeff Carter is among the league leaders with 20 goals and has scored in each meeting this season with Pittsburgh. He’ll often be on the ice against Crosby, who has tormented Philadelphia with 18 goals and 21 assists in 22 career games.
Top goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will be available Saturday for Pittsburgh after missing 12 games with a groin injury, though it’s unclear if he or Dany Sabourin (6-5-2, 2.20 goals-against average) will start.
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