PHILADELPHIA — Claude Giroux scored 1:59 into overtime and the Philadelphia Flyers scored three straight goals in the rain to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on a soggy Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Flyers and Penguins took one of the NHL’s more heated rivalries outdoors and into prime time as part of the Stadium Series showcase. The rink that stretched from 30-yard line to 30-yard line needed a squeegee more than a Zamboni, but nearly 70,000 fans stuck around the home of the Eagles to watch the Flyers play the marquee game on their schedule.
The Flyers gave them a win to remember.
With rain pounding the ice in third period, the Flyers got going. James van Riemsdyk, playing in his record sixth outdoor game, made it 3-2 on a power-play goal with 3:04 left. Jake Voracek tied it at 3-all with 19.7 seconds left, sending what was left of the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
Giroux, the Flyers’ All-Star captain, made sure the game didn’t last much longer. He slipped the winner past Matt Murray, and the Flyers celebrated in the mist. Giroux said he felt “goosebumps” scoring in the clutch in his 800th career game.
“I was able to get a step on their D and squeak in my goal,” Giroux said.
Giroux capped a stunning comeback in what has mostly been a season to forget for the Flyers.
Gritty, the Flyers wildly popular rookie mascot, zip lined in a glow-in-the-dark jersey from the top of the Linc to kick off the party, and later was caught streaking as he scurried away from “security” in a mad scamper toward the tunnel.
As usual, Gritty was a hit.
Wayne Simmonds delivered perhaps the biggest one at the Linc since Brian Dawkins roamed the Eagles’ secondary when he plowed Penguins defenceman Brian Dumoulin into the boards with a shoulder to the head. Dumoulin dropped to the ice while a melee escalated around him and the crowd went wild. Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang appeared to get hurt in the dust-up and the Penguins played the last two periods without their top two blue liners.
Sidney Cosby seemingly bailed out a Penguins team that dropped out of the Eastern Conference playoff standings with the loss. Inside, outside, all around the state, Crosby simply torments the Flyers. He gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead with his 26th goal of the season midway through the first period and had an assist on Justin Schultz’s goal for a 2-1 lead in the second.
Crosby now has 99 career points in 66 games against the Flyers in venues that stretch from the Civic Arena, PPG Paints Arena, Heinz Field, Wells Fargo Center to the Linc.
Crosby has three Stanley Cups — or, one more than the Flyers have in franchise history — and there was plenty of yellow-and-black scattered throughout Philly. The stadium complex parking lots were fit for an Eagles tailgate and fans camped out for a party since early morning. Flyers fans needed an excuse to cut loose — the season has been a disaster and both the general manager and coach were fired only two months into the season.
Gritty had some serious competition for Flyers rookie of the year when the team called up 20-year-old goalie Carter Hart, who won eight straight games to give the Flyers a brief glimmer of playoff hope. Flyers coach Scott Gordon caused a bit of an uproar when he announced Friday his decision to go with Brian Elliott in net over Hart. How could the Flyers bench their blossoming star in their feature game? By Saturday afternoon, critics had their answer: The Flyers said Hart will miss at least 10 days with an undisclosed injury.
Without Hart, Elliott struggled to keep pace with the Pens. Elliott gave up a rough one in the third when Evegni Malkin’s shot popped up and into the net for a 3-1 lead as rain turned into a downpour.
The Pens could have used an umbrella from the Flyers’ scoring barrage the rest of the way.
NOTES: Malkin has five goals in his last five games. … The crowd of 69,620 was the fifth-largest in NHL history. … Simmonds is a top candidate to get moved before Monday’s trade deadline and could have played his last game with the Flyers. … The on-ice mics picked up plenty of profanity from the refs and players during a scrum late in the game.
Penguins play Tuesday at Columbus.
Flyers host Buffalo on Tuesday.
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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press