PHILADELPHIA – Mike Richards scored twice, Chris Pronger had a strong game in his return from a broken foot and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Ottawa Senators 6-2 in a fight-filled game Thursday night.
The Flyers lead the NHL with 31 wins and the Eastern Conference with 67 points a year after they lost in the Stanley Cup finals to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The game turned nasty in the third period with the Flyers in control. There was plenty of pushing and punching after a quiet first two periods. The ice was littered with helmets and sticks — there were two simultaneous fights late in the game that surely would have made the old Broad Street Bullies proud.
The teams combined for 126 penalty minutes; Ottawa had 15 penalties for 69 minutes and the Flyers 13 for 57.
Richards and Daniel Briere made it 2-0 only 4:14 into the game, sending Senators goalie Brian Elliott on the way to his 10th straight loss. Scott Hartnell and James van Riemsdyk each scored in the third to break open a one-goal game.
Tempers flared after the two quick goals in the third and Jeff Carter, not known for fighting, exchanged blows with Ottawa's Jesse Winchester. Carter and Winchester each got 5 minutes for fighting.
The penalties were being announced when the Flyers scored again, this time from Andrej Meszaros for a 6-2 lead. The public address announcer then resumed rattling off a lengthy list of players who were sent to the penalty box in the scrum that was highlighted by the Carter-Winchester brawl.
There was the bout, the rout, then Elliott was subbed out after allowing six goals. Elliott, who has two career shutouts against the Flyers, hasn't won since Dec. 26 vs. Pittsburgh.
The dustups continued. Briere pushed and shoved and was sent to the penalty box for holding his stick while getting rough; Claude Giroux mixed it up with Ottawa forward Nick Foligno, and then two fights broke out at the same time: Hartnell vs. Jarkko Ruutu and Philadelphia's Jody Shelley vs. Chris Neil.
By then, the Flyers had built enough of a cushion for rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. He was cruising until the second period when he had a brief lapse that let Ottawa pull to 3-2. Milan Michalek scored on a short-handed breakaway and Foligno followed less than 90 seconds later with a rebound to make it 3-2.
When the Senators couldn't score any more, they dropped their gloves.
The crowd started chanting "Goalie fight!" because the two netminders were about the only two players left who hadn't fought.
Philadelphia has skated to the top of the standings without Pronger, who was back on the blue line five weeks after breaking his right foot. Pronger, the 2000 NHL MVP with St. Louis, was injured Dec. 15 against Montreal and missed 13 games. He started against Ottawa and was paired with Matt Carle.
Briere was the topic of a mini-controversy in Philadelphia when he was snubbed from the NHL All-Star game. He got the spot Wednesday when Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla withdrew so he could spend time with his grandmother.
The Flyers made quick work advertising Briere All-Star gear before the game and he wasted no time showing why he was worthy of a spot. He opened the game with a slap shot only 2:03 in for his 25th goal, and has scored a point in eight of his last nine game.
Richards followed with a goal and he scored a power-play goal in the second to make it 3-0.
Notes: The Flyers won their 999th home game. They will become the first expansion-era team to hit 1,000 when they reach that milestone.