In a game that displayed exciting end-to-end action, heartache would be the overlying theme of the night as the Winnipeg Jets fell to the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 5-4 in overtime.
If you were making a checklist of what the greatest hockey games require to fit that bill, most of those qualities were found in tonight's game: A see-saw battle of goal scoring. At times fantastic goaltending. Late game drama. Two teams with animosity for each other. All of these elements factored into a story-line that required an extra chapter to provide it's conclusion.
Unfortunately for the Jets and their fans, the final chapter would not contain a happily ever after.
It didn't take long for the fireworks to start as Dustin Byfuglien ripped a power play goal through the pads of Ilya Bryzgalov midway through the first period to give the Jets a 1-0 lead.
Only a handful of minutes later, Claude Giroux took a gorgeous indirect pass from Scott Hartnell and wristed the puck into a wide open net for his 23rd goal of the season, tying the game at one.
Soon after the second period commenced, Winnipeg defenseman Tobias Enstrom took an ill-advised interference penalty. Merely seconds into the power play - let alone seconds into the period - Scott Harntell struck again, this time collecting a rebound and firing a shot past Ondrej Pavelec to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
As has been the case all season, the Flyers and Jets would spend the next forty minutes abandoning defensive systems for a more run-and-gun style of game.
Jets' captain Andrew Ladd would pot a pair of mid-period goals - one of which was on the power play - to re-establish Winnipeg's one goal lead. Winnipeg's marginal lead would not hold and the story continued to stick to the script. Max Talbot scored on yet another Ondrej Pavelec rebound, ironically enough knotting the game at 3-3 heading into the third.
Winnipeg would be awarded their own early power play after Daniel Briere was given two minutes for tripping defenseman Johnny Oduya. The Jets would finish the evening 3-3 on the man advantage after Evander Kane threw a puck towards the net that deflected off the outstretched glove of Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov and found it's way into the back of Philadelphia's net giving the Jets their third lead of the night.
The final chapter of the Jets/Flyers saga had been written and ended with a large exclamation point - or so it was thought.
Philadelphia continued to pepper Pavelec with shots, registering eighteen in the final frame as compared to Winnipeg's five. Pavelec continuously baffled Flyers shooters, including a highlight of the night save on Jaromir Jagr to preserve Winnipeg's lead.
However, there would be a caveat to tonight's story. An epilogue that turned the whole story on its head.
With only ten seconds remaining, Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk drove wide of Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom, circled into the corner and threw a pass in front of the net directly on the tape of Wayne Simmonds who eluded the defense of Dustin Byfuglien, pushing a shot past a stunned Pavelec to tie the game at 4-4.
The Jets were staggered, but had one last chance to prove their mettle in overtime. Though they started off sluggish, Winnipeg started to show signs of life towards the conclusion of the extra period.
Then with under a minute remaining, Ron Hainsey turned a puck over at the Jets blue line. The puck would find its way onto the stick of Daniel Briere, who out-battled Johnny Oduya and fired a pass to Jaromir Jagr who was wide open in the slot. Jagr would deftly snap a shot that caught Pavelec by surprise, winning the game for the Flyers in overtime.
With the point, Winnipeg now draws into a tie for the division lead with the Florida Panthers - whom albeit have played four less games.
The Jets will host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday in an attempt to return to their winning ways. They continue to share eight place with the Toronto Maple Leafs who also lost in overtime to the New Jersey Devils tonight.
Though disappointed wit the loss, Winnipeg should take solace in the fact that their season series with the Flyers is now complete, in which they were able to post a 3-0-1 record against one of the Eastern Conference's better teams.
This serves as a comforting foot-note at the end of an otherwise tear-jerking conclusion to one of this seasons greatest match-ups.
First Period: 12:31 Winnipeg PP Goal, Dustin Byfuglien (9) (Tim Stapleton, Bryan Little); 15:50 Philadelphia ES Goal, Claude Giroux (23) (Scott Hartnell, Matt Carle)
Second Period: 01:09 Philadelphia PP Goal, Scott Hartnell (28) (Wayne Simmonds, Kimmo Timonen); 07:52 Winnipeg PP Goal, Andrew Ladd (18) (Blake Wheeler, Tim Stapleton); 08:56 Winnipeg ES Goal, Andrew Ladd (19) (Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien); 11:14 Philadelphia ES Goal, Maxime Talbot (17) (Andrej Meszaros, Nicklas Grossman)
Third Period: 04:57 Winnipeg PP Goal, Evander Kane (23) (Tim Stapleton); 19:50 Philadelphia ES Goal, Wayne Simmods (22) (James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux)
Overtime: 04:16 Philadelphia ES Goal, Jaromir Jagr (16) (Daniel Briere)
Shots: Winnipeg 26, Philadelpha 55
Three Stars: 1. Ondrej Pavelec 2. Andrew Ladd 3. Scott Hartnell
Thoughts from the Tarmac
- Winnipeg's power play went 3-3 today with goals from Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane. The Jets have now scored on their past 5 power plays and have gone 5/13 in their past four games.
- Andrew Ladd registered his eighth two goal game of his career. By contrast, Jaromir Jagr has one-hundred seventeen of them.
- Tonight the Jets had the opportunity to post their nineteenth win of the season which would equal highs posted over the past five years. The career record for home wins in a season is twenty-three. With eleven home games remaining, the Jets still have a solid chance at breaking that record.
- Point of contention in tonight's game would be the lack of Winnipeg's forecheck in the third period. After taking a one goal lead, the Jets were again content to sit back and let their opponents dictate the pace. Philadelphia finished the period with eighteen shots and fifty-five on the night, which doubled Winnipeg's shot output.
- Congrats to Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) for recently setting a new career high in points with 46. His previous high was 45 in 2008-09, his first season with the Bruins.
- Johnny Oduya and Ron Hainsey had a tough night and the stats tell the whole story. Combined -6 plus/minus. Corsi -33. Fenwick -27. Not a good showing with scouts in the house.
- While the Jets powerplay was the story tonight, Philadelphia still managed to go 1-3. Heading into the game, the Flyers had the fifth ranked power play in terms of efficiency and had drawn the most penalties in the league with 256. The next closest team was the Detroit Red Wings at 223 penalties drawn.
- Since HBO 24/7 Rangers v. Flyers ran it's course, Philadelphia has been a marginal team. With their overtime win tonight, they have only managed to go 13-12-4 in their last twenty nine games, a stretch which has seen them fall from first in the conference to fifth.
- Philadelphia's addition of defensemen Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina seems to be working nicely so far. Kubina finished with a Corsi of 18 and a Fenwick of 13. Grossman finished with an assist and 16:08 TOI.
- The duo of Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell continued to dominate the Jets tonight, combining for four points (2G, 2A). At the conclusion of the season series, the pair has scored thirteen points in four meetings with Winnipeg this year (Hartnell 7, Giroux 6).
- With tonight's game tying goal, Wayne Simmonds now has nine (!) goals in his last ten games.