Pascal Dupuis was, to be sure, an improbable hero for the Penguins last night.
When a team has the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, among others, in its lineup, guys like Dupuis aren't usually counted on to be difference-makers.
Dupuis was on this night, however, hammering a slap shot past Philadelphia goalie Antero Niittymaki from near the top of the left circle with 10.8 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins (2-1-1) a 3-2 victory at Mellon Arena.
Dupuis acknowledged that he didn't detect a particular opening behind Niittymaki before launching the winner -- "I didn't see anything," he said. "I just tried to put it on net" -- but at least he's in the habit of scoring now and then.
That isn't the case with the guys who contributed the Penguins' first two goals, defenseman Brooks Orpik and fourth-line center Mike Zigomanis.
Orpik's goal was his fifth in 301 NHL games -- his first on the power play -- and Zigomanis' was his 20th in 169 career games, but 14 of those came in 75 games two seasons ago. For them to score in a span of 42 seconds, as they did late in the second period, is tantamount to a baseball team getting grand slams from a couple of relief pitchers in consecutive innings. Or perhaps the same one.
It's no great praise, then, when someone mentioned to Dupuis that he was the most-gifted offensive player to get a puck past Niittymaki.
"Thanks," he said, laughing. "That says a lot."
Orpik, it should be noted, set up the winner when he hit Dupuis with a long lead pass.
"He was wide open," Orpik said.
While the game ended improbably, it began in a fairly predictable way:
With a spirited exchange of punches between Penguins enforcer Eric Godard and his Flyers counterpart, Riley Cote. Both were assessed five minutes for fighting, which means they served about 10 seconds for each punch they threw.
Niittymaki, who got the start because No. 1 goalie Martin Biron played poorly in the previous two games, came up with a big-time stop at 9:10 of the first period, denying Max Talbot on a shorthanded breakaway made possible when Talbot stole the puck from Philadelphia center Mike Richards.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, coming off a 47-save effort during a 2-1 loss to New Jersey Saturday, responded by withstanding an extended Flyers surge while the Penguins were short-handed in the middle of the second period. At one point during that sequence, Fleury lost his stick, but not his composure.
Malkin came within a few millimeters of putting the Penguins in front at 11:39, when he took a cross-ice feed and took a shot from the right side that eluded Niittymaki, but slammed off the left goalpost.
That didn't seem like much of a setback, though, when Orpik threw a wrist shot past Niittymaki from near the top of the left circle at 14:12, while Flyers forward Glen Metropolit was serving a high-sticking minor.
And when Zigomanis, a fourth-line center acquired from Phoenix for considerations Thursday, took a feed from Matt Cooke behind the goal line and beat Niittymaki from inside the right circle at 14:54, the Penguins had a 2-0 lead that looked as secure as it was surreal.
"I don't score very often," Orpik said. "I don't think [Zigomanis] scores very often. So, it kind of got us going."
But, with 43.6 seconds to go before the second intermission, Penguins defenseman Hal Gill was involved in his second own-goal in as many games. This time, a Jeff Carter centering pass to Arron Asham glanced off his stick and got by Fleury.
Then, at 19:37, Flyers winger Simon Gagne deflected a Kimmo Timonen shot past Fleury to tie the game and stun the crowd of 16,965 -- at least the part of it that wasn't wearing orange sweaters -- into silence.
The Penguins, though, insisted they were not particularly deflated while preparing for the third period.
"Sometimes, when a team comes back [like the Flyers did], the team has its heads down," Dupuis said. "But not tonight. We were pretty confident."
And that feeling was rewarded when Dupuis beat Niittymaki high on the glove side to end the game and pull the Penguins out of their modest 0-1-1 skid.
"When you get big goals from everybody, up and down the lineup, it's the sign of a [good] team," Dupuis said. "And, right now, that's what we needed."
Dave Molinari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org First Published October 15, 2008 4:00 AM