PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Cooke has played 863 regular-season games in the NHL.
Some have been pretty good.
A lot have been forgettable.
A few have been regrettable.
But it is unlikely that any of the others yielded a performance quite the equal of the one he turned in Saturday afternoon in the Penguins' 6-4 victory against Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center.
Cooke scored two goals -- one of them the Penguins' first three-on-five goal in more than 24 years -- and assisted on another to complement the four shots and two hits he contributed.
If it was not the finest game of his career, it surely was a medalist.
"I've had a few games that have been good," Cooke said. "I've had a couple of two-goal games -- this is the second one this year -- but this is pretty sweet. Especially to have it happen against Philly."
The victory was the Penguins' first in three games against Philadelphia this season, and it hoisted them into a tie with the Flyers for fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers, meanwhile, again failed to win consecutive games, something they have not managed since Jan. 10-12.
Cooke's three-on-five goal -- the Penguins' first since Mario Lemieux scored one in Los Angeles Feb. 13, 1998 -- was the most remarkable moment in a second period that might go down as the wildest 20 minutes of the Penguins season.
And maybe of a lot of their seasons.
Referees Stephane Auger and Paul Devorski handed out 12 minutes in penalties in the middle period, including 10 to the Penguins, but the only special-teams goals scored then were a couple the Penguins got while short-handed.
"That second period was something different," Penguins forward Dustin Jeffrey said. "All the penalties, power plays and short-handed goals, you really don't see that kind of stuff too often."
That there would be power plays should not have surprised anyone because, like most Penguins-Flyers games, this one had a fairly nasty edge.
It started with a punishing Deryk Engelland hit on Flyers center Claude Giroux early in the first period and included a nasty-looking slash by Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk to the left wrist of winger James Neal.
There also was a hit from behind by center Jordan Staal on Braydon Coburn of the Flyers midway through the second period that earned Staal a $2,500 fine from the league office.
Staal received a minor penalty for that; the Flyers presumably were hoping for more, and, if Staal had received a major penalty and game-misconduct, he would not have been around to score the short-handed goal that tied the score, 2-2, at 15:14.
That goal was largely overlooked, however, because of what followed.
The Flyers ended up with a two-man advantage for 87 seconds, but the Penguins needed only 86 to get the goal that put them in front, albeit briefly.
Cooke, who had opened the scoring at 3:17 of the first period, fought through a Kimmo Timonen hook to beat goalie Ilya Bryzgalov from close range at 16:57 to put the Penguins on top and to scrawl his name alongside Lemieux's in the franchise record book.
"Matt makes an unbelievable play," said winger Pascal Dupuis, who viewed the play from the penalty box, where he was serving a tripping minor that preceded a hooking call against Brooks Orpik.
Cooke and Staal put the Flyers into their own record book, as well: This was just the second time Philadelphia has allowed two short-handed goals in under two minutes; the first was in a 12-0 loss to Chicago Jan. 30, 1969.
The short-handed goals gave the Penguins a 3-2 edge, but the Flyers pulled even when Engelland lost his balance, and the puck, in front of his net, allowing Eric Wellwood to pull Philadelphia even before the second intermission.
By then, the Flyers had replaced Bryzgalov, who allowed three goals on 13 shots, with Sergei Bobrovksy.
An understandable move, to be sure, but not an effective one.
Jeffrey knocked in a rebound just 37 seconds into the third period to put the Penguins in front to stay, and Dupuis and Neal (his 30th) added insurance goals. Wayne Simmonds of Philadelphia scored in the waning seconds of regulation, but the outcome had been settled long before that.
Thanks, in large part, to what just might have been Matt Cooke's finest day in the NHL.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published February 19, 2012 5:00 AM