While no Flyers – and only a few Senators – remain from the two teams that clashed on this ice in 2004, the guys last night seemed to have the same idea.
On March 5th, 2004, the Flyers and Senators duked it out to the tune of 419 penalty minutes – an NHL record – after the Flyers had established a commanding lead and the Senators looked to exact revenge in a game that seemed lost.
This game, while not as extreme, was in essence no different.
The goals came in bunches. The Flyers found the back of the net first, cashing in on a pair by Danny Briere and Mike Richards within the first five minutes. Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston called a timeout, settled his troops down, and they held the Flyers for the next 30 minutes.
Right after killing off a two man disadvantage during the middle of the second, the Flyers found themselves up by two skaters with a chance to put the Senators away. Mike Richards snuck a no-look shot under the pad of goaltender Brian Elliott to put the Flyers up 3-0.
But Ottawa wasn’t quite done yet.
A pair of turnovers-turned-fast-breaks led to a Milan Michalek shorthanded breakaway goal and another by Nick Foligno in the final minute, pulling the Senators within a goal going into the third.
“You’ve got to keep the hammer down and keep your foot on the gas pedal,” said Chris Pronger. “For whatever reason, we knocked off again and gave them some momentum. We turned the puck over and stopped moving our feet and you saw the result.”
While the Flyers have struggled lately to put teams away in the third – spotting the opposition a pair of goals in each of the last two games before putting them away for the win – they took care of this one to perfection.
Peter Laviolette said that he understands that the opposition will fight back and score goals against his team, and that they are “going to have to continue to battle and fight.” Last night, they fought to hang onto that lead.
Scott Hartnell put home Danny Briere’s 100th assist in the orange and black to put the Flyers up by two, and then Chris Pronger – freshly returned from foot surgery – sprung Mike Richards, whose perfectly placed shot left a gift-wrapped rebound for James van Riemsdyk to notch a goal to top off a feisty night for the New Jersey native.
Up by the same 5-2 score as the infamous brawl of 2004, Claude Giroux of all people lit the stick of dynamite by blasting Jesse Winchester with a heavy hit. Giroux was immediately jumped and all hell broke loose – Jeff Carter even got in on the fisticuffs as he danced with Winchester.
The Senators’ reaction to Giroux’s hit – deemed clean by the officials – left them shorthanded and at the mercy of an Andrej Meszaros power play tally that chased Brian Elliott in favor of Mike Brodeur.
With even more room to work with on the scoreboard, the Flyers saw no harm in giving the Senators what they wanted – a fight.
Soon after Jody Shelley turned down a bid to drop the gloves from Matt Carkner, Claude Giroux answered the call from Nick Foligno. Paying for the hit he laid earlier, Giroux held his own in the fight as he wrestled Foligno to the ground.
On the ensuing faceoff, things really got interesting. Three bouts broke out at once – Scott Hartnell took on Jarkko Ruutu, Sean O’Donnell went with Carkner, and Jody Shelley dropped Chris Neil. Game misconducts were handed to all except Hartnell and Ruutu.
The win wasn’t perfect – the Flyers let up and allowed the Senators a breath of life going into the final frame – but their deep arsenal of weapons stepped up when the game was on the line and took control for their fourth win in a row, breaking the tie with Vancouver and putting them – at least temporarily – atop the NHL.
“That’s what has given us so much success throughout the year. It’s been different people every night,” said Mike Richards. “We just have a team that really molds well together and creates a lot of options from one line to the next.”
“It doesn’t matter who scores the goal, we’ve just been playing the same way and we’ve had success.”