PHILADELPHIA – Danny Briere, Matt Read and Max Talbot each scored two goals to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to an 8-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in a fight-filled Game 3 in the opening-round series.
Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux also scored to help the Flyers take a 3-0 lead in the combustible best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
The goals might be hard to find on a highlight reel. This one was all about the brawls more suitable for a UFC card. Three players were tossed in the first period. There was a rare fight between superstars when Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby squared off against Giroux.
The Penguins and Flyers talked trash, laid the smack down, and played one wildly entertaining game. The result was still the same. The Flyers rallied from another early deficit to win and put them on the brink of a sweep.
Jordan Staal and James Neal scored twice for a Penguins team pushed to the limit by its hated, intrastate rival. Marc-Andre Fleury was benched after allowing six goals in two periods. He has allowed a whopping 17 goals in the first three games.
NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin (109 points) has yet to score a goal for the Penguins.
The Flyers played a postseason video that billed their run as the "Fight to the Cup." They never expected a first period that would have even left those old Broad Street Bullies with their mouths agape.
Each team had their top defenseman — Pittsburgh's Kris Letang and Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen — tossed. So was Penguins forward Aaron Asham.
But the scene ripped straight out of the pages of Ripley's came when Giroux and Crosby went at it against the backboard.
Crosby ignited the scrum when he twice jabbed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's glove against the ice. Giroux, third in the NHL in points this season, shoved Crosby from behind. Crosby, clearly not caring about his history of concussions, retaliated by shoving Giroux's head against the glass.
While the 20,092 fans dressed in their matching Hulk Hogan-inspired orange T-shirts roared, Timonen and Letang exchanged shots, and Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek and Pittsburgh's Steve Sullivan each were penalized for roughing.
Timonen and Letang were both hit with 5 minutes for fighting and were ejected because they were assessed a major penalty after the original fight had started.
The on-ice violence was just warming up.
Flyers forward Brayden Schenn rammed Paul Martin into the boards, turned around and was shoved to the ice by Asham. Asham jumped a defenseless Schenn and connected with a vicious right to earn the match penalty — a penalty imposed on a player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner. Asham could get suspended for the punch.
As the game wound down, Crosby yanked the back of Scott Hartnell's jersey and the fireworks went off again. Simmonds, Neal and Pittsburgh's Craig Adams also were socked with penalties.
The slugfest on the ice overshadowed the one on the scoreboard.
Staal scored only 3:52 into the game to give the Penguins the first goal for the third straight game. It marked the 13th time out of the last 15 games the Flyers have trailed 1-0. At that point, the Flyers had been outscored 7-1 in the first period in this series.
The Flyers rallied from a 3-0 hole in Game 1, and deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 in Game 2.
They did it again. Talbot tapped a rebound toward Fleury that the Penguins goalie tried to stab at with his glove. The puck trickled by for the tying goal.
Briere scored consecutive goals off a 5-on-3 power play and a one-timer to leave Fleury reeling.
Neal scored the first of his two goals to make it 3-1. Read ended the period when he snagged the puck behind the net, skated around and buried it for a 4-2 lead.
Crosby and Bryzgalov jawed at each other as the teams skated toward the locker room.
Philadelphia's lead stood even as the 108-point Penguins attacked with their offense instead of their fists in the second period.
Neal and Read swapped goals to open the second. Staal knocked in a rebound to help the Penguins close to 5-4.
Simmonds, though, took a perfect entry pass from Braydon Coburn and backhanded in the fastbreak attempt for the insurance goal.
The Penguins were assessed with 46 penalty minutes, and the Flyers 34, through the first two periods.
Fleury, having a series to forget, was replaced by Brent Johnson to open the third. New goalie, same result. Giroux scored 27 seconds into the third on Philadelphia's first shot of the period.
The scoring continued and so did the hard hits. Neal flattened Game 2 star Sean Couturier in the waning minutes and sent the Flyers rookie center to the locker room. Players from both teams — including Schenn and Crosby — had to be separated during a melee along the boards.
Flyers fans serenaded the Penguins with booming chants of "You can't beat us!"
Notes: The Flyers hold a 3-0 lead in a playoff series for the 11th time. ... Johnson made his third career postseason relief appearance for the Penguins. ... The Penguins have lost six straight playoff games.