PITTSBURGH -- After a tumultuous week in which their general manager, an assistant general manager, and an assistant coach were fired, the Flyers were happy to return to the ice Saturday night and get their collective minds on hockey.
In their first meeting since they lost to Pittsburgh in last season’s opening playoff round, the Flyers played with the “sandpaper” that former GM Ron Hextall thought was lacking. They played a physical game, and Wayne Simmonds even fought a player who was five inches taller and 70 pounds heavier.
Most important, they finally beat their bitter rivals.
Dale Weise scored the Flyers' first shorthanded goal of the season to snap a 2-2 tie early in the third period, sparking a 4-2 win over the Penguins at noisy PPG Paints Arena.
With 19 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third period, Weise took a pass from Scott Laughton and scored on a breakaway for the first shorthanded goal of his career. Andrew MacDonald (career-high three points) collected his third assist of the night on the goal.
Anthony Stolarz stopped 30 of 32 shots to register his first NHL victory since Dec. 11, 2016, a 1-0 win in Detroit, and Jake Voracek added a late empty-net goal.
Stolarz denied Derek Grant on a shorthanded breakaway with 12:17 left, protecting the 3-2 lead.
“We knew it was going to be like this, especially how our season ended last year against these guys," Flyers right winger Travis Konecny (goal, five hits) said of the chippy game. “I feel like whenever we play them, they think they have this swagger over us, so it’s just not going to happen anymore.”
The Flyers lost all four regular-season games against Pittsburgh last season, then were eliminated by the Penguins in six playoff games.
It took the Penguins (10-10-5) 39 seconds to take the lead. Sidney Crosby, on a two-on-one with Jake Guentzel, sent a one-timer past Stolarz for his fifth goal in the last three games. Defenseman Ivan Provorov was caught up ice, creating the odd-man rush.
A little over a minute after Crosby’s goal, Simmonds tried to ignite the Flyers by challenging 6-foot-7, 255-pound defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to a fight. Simmonds (6-2, 185) got pounded early, then rallied and got in several right-hand blows but lost the decision. Simmonds went to the locker room for repairs to his bleeding face, but he returned a short time later.
Inspired, the Flyers (11-12-2) tied it at 1-1 when Konecny took a stretch pass from Robert Hagg and scored on a breakaway with 14:18 to go in the first. It was Konecny’s eighth goal and his fifth in the last six games.
“That kind of set the tone for our team,” Weise said of the fight.
“That’s a huge guy over there and I think it really rallied the boys to see him go up against a guy that big,” MacDonald said.
It was Simmonds' first fight of the season.
“It’s been tough for me to get one of them in. Just trying to help the team. I was glad he said yeah [to the fight]," Simmonds said, adding Oleksiak turned down fight requests in last year’s playoffs.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan was asked if Oleksiak should have turned down Saturday’s request because the Flyers said it energized them.
“He did the right thing. It gave us life, too,” Sullivan snapped. “So, for me, they can talk about it all they want to. Jamie did a great job sticking up for his team.”
Pittsburgh regained the lead as Riley Sheahan streaked around Shayne Gostisbhere -- who had a league-worst minus-15 on the season at that point -- and went in alone, beating Stolarz to the short side to put the Penguins ahead, 2-1, with 14:11 left in the second.
Claude Giroux quickly knotted the score at 2-all. Taking a perfect right-circle feed from Voracek, Giroux scored on a one-timer from deep inside the left circle for his ninth goal.