Last-second goal gives Flyers electric win over Hawks

Photo: Yahoo Sports

Simply put, the best Flyers hockey game all season. It had all the intangibles; chance after chance, 75 combined shots, amazing goaltending, and last-second heroics. The Flyers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 this afternoon after Chris Pronger scored with 2.1 seconds to go in the game.

The Flyers scored two goals in under three minutes to stun the Western conference powerhouse Blackhawks. The Flyers and Blackhawks played a masterpiece of a game, one that hasn’t been at the Wachovia Center in a long time.

Chicago is a team that makes other teams have to play their best hockey both offensively and defensively. Which means their skating is non-stop and they make you skate, or they’ll beat into the ground.

“We knew we had to match their speed, they have so much speed there and their defensemen are quick,” said Simon Gagne, who broke a scoreless tie at 1:18 of the third period. “They make quick passes, they like to keep the puck, they make moves.

“We knew we had to be safe against their defensemen. … We had a plan. We were a little bit more patient in the neutral zone. We were a little more aggressive and it worked for us.”

It was the most exciting 0-0 game in a long time. Most can’t even recall a time where a hockey was this thrilling being scoreless. There was a 4-on-4 term late in the second-period that gave the Philly fans their money’s worth alone.

Electrifying back-and-forth skating, shooting, passing, goaltending. Reminded hockey fans of the Olympics last month.

“Zero-zero going into the third, great goaltending, it wasn’t like there weren’t any chances, and Leights [Michael Leighton] made some great stops,” Pronger said. “That four-on-four action toward the end of the second got us going and into the right frame of mind.”

Pronger won the game when he snapped a beautiful feathered pass from Claude Giroux past Cristobal Huet with 2.1 seconds remaining. The ‘Wach’ erupted with cheers that shook the building.

“At the end there, there wasn’t much time left, so I just knew I needed to get up there somewhere, maybe look for a rebound or a great pass like I got from G [Giroux].”

“It’s huge. We didn’t want to get this into overtime or a shootout. To get that, it’s huge. We’re chasing teams in the standings and we got teams chasing us. We have to continue to play with that type of desperation to be successful.”

For over 40 minutes, it was a goaltenders duel. Huet and Leighton were matching save for save, both making huge stops along the way. Leighton in all, stopped 39 shots. He was spectacular.

Gagne started the scoring off in the third after he took a pass from Carcillo after he wrapped around the net to find the left-winger for his 13th of the season.

Two minutes later the Hawks tied the game when Kriss Versteeg knocked in a juicy rebound on the power-play after Marian Hossa initially shot the puck.

Hossa would shortly get his. The sniper scored the go-ahead goal with just over seven minutes remaining in the game. The wrist was perfectly placed right over Leighton’s right shoulder. A beauty of a goal.

Although it looked like that would’ve been the nail in the Flyers coffin, an unlikely source came up clutch for the Flyers to tie things up at 2-2 with just over two minutes to go in the game.

Scott Hartnell scored on a swift forehand breakaway that beat Huet on the left-side. Kimmo Timonen and Leighton gained the assist.

The goal was extra sweet for Hartnell, who has a pretty dismal season, including the past few weeks.

“Seems like it’s been forever since I contributed,” he said, smiling. “Kimmo made a great pass to me to catch, them on a change. It feels great to tie it up and then get the winner with a couple seconds left, everyone is still trying to catch their breath.

“It was a big, emotional win for us.”

Then, just minutes later, Pronger netted the game winner.

“Chicago has a great team. They move up and down the ice and possess the puck… they’re fun to watch, said coach Peter Laviolette. “When we’re playing like that, we can do a lot of that as well and it was a great hockey game.”

After Pronger’s goal, it was clearly visible the excitement on the Flyers bench. Even Laviolette joined in the excitement as he was seen jumping around with a smile from ear-to-ear.

“We needed to get back to playing some good hockey,” Laviolette said. “We played well. You’re going to give up chances to Chicago. Everybody does. I thought we did a pretty good job of taking away, defensively, in front of net. We did a better job in front of Michael [Leighton].”

“It was fun,” Gagne said. “We all knew this was a match-up where we’d see where we are as a team. We all knew we’ve struggled lately. You had to be ready. Everybody was ready to play.”

Overall, the Flyers may have played their best game on both ends of the ice. Defensively, they stopped the most of Chicago’s top player. I.e. Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, and Patrick Sharp.

“From the drop of the puck to the end, it was played at full speed. Maybe the quickest game I’ve played all year,” added Gagne.

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