PHILADELPHIA--With lacklustre performances in two of their first three games, the last thing the Philadelphia Flyers wanted to do was come out and blow a tire against the winless Pittsburgh Penguins.
After building a 4-1 lead and holding a 20-5 shot shot-differential early in the second period, the Flyers found themselves scrambling to steal a 6-5 victory on Mike Rathje's first goal of the season at 3:17 of the overtime period.
Following the Flyers disappointing 4-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs, forward Simon Gagne promised that the fans would see a different team on the ice.
Jumping out to 2-0 and 5-1 leads midway through the game, the 19,566 fans at the Wachovia Center sensed an easy Flyers victory.
With the Penguins Lyle Odelein in the box for high-sticking just 2:36 into the game, the Flyers Keith Primeau ended a 1-for-19 drought on the powerplay to open the night's scoring at 3:45 of the first period, going left-to-right on Pittsburgh backstop Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury, the number one overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, stopped 16 of 20 shots before being replaced by Sebastien Caron at 4:07 of the second period.
After the teams traded goals late in the first period, Simon Gagne, who had a career-high four points, put the Flyers on top 4-1 with two goals in the first four minutes of the second period.
Peter Forsberg found Gagne at the side of the Penguins net and Gagne lifted the puck over Fleury at just 97 seconds into the period.
The two teamed-up to make magic again less than three minutes later on a mirror-image of Gagne's first marker.
"It helps a lot to play with a player like (Forsberg)," said Gagne during the second intermission. "It's amazing the way he finds me on the ice. Every time he has the puck, I have the feeling he is going to give it to me and that's exactly what happened again tonight."
The Flyers went up 5-1 when Derian Hatcher tried to feed Gagne for the hat-trick, had his pass ricocheted off the skate of Pens defenceman, Rik Jackman past Caron.
The Penguins made things interesting with two goals midway through the second period, closing the gap to 5-3, but the game, at that point, was still controlled by the Flyers.
After watching themselves implode in the third period in losses to the New York Rangers and the Maple Leafs, the Flyers wanted to make sure they wouldn't squander another game.
And that's exactly what almost happened.
With Rathje and Kim Johnsson in the box, Dale Tarnstrom banged home a pass from Mario Lemieux at 5:20 of the final period.
Forsberg, who finished with four points on the night, captivated the Wachovia Center fans and even some of his own teammates with his play-making skills tonight.
"I have never seen a guy in open ice make moves like that," said Primeau. "There are a handful of guys in the world who can do that and (Forsberg) is one of them."
In fact, Forsberg's moves were so spectacular that even his own teammates stopped to watch the action on the Wachovia Center matrix board.
Unfortunately, one of them was goaltender Antero Niittymaki who was helpless on a Maxime Talbot toss towards the Flyers net from behind the red line.
"I was watching the replay (of a Forsberg move on the Wachovia Center matrix board), and saw the face-off," said a humbled Niittymaki. "I looked up and the next thing I knew, the puck was in the net."
Hitchcock, in his post-game press conference was less than amused. When asked what he saw on the game-tying play, Hitchcock retorted, "A lot more than (Niittymaki). "
When a member of the Philadelphia media commented that Niittymaki didn't look ready, Hitchcock quipped, "No s--t, he wasn't ready. Those things happen. He was sweeping the snow away and (the puck) went in."
"Four-goal leads are not safe anymore," said a somewhat perplexed Primeau. "There wasn't a huge momentum shift in the game, (Pittsburgh) just scored some goals and then it was 5-4, then 5-5."
Added Hitchcock, "What are you going to do? It's the new NHL."