PITTSBURGH - When the NHL decided it was more fun to settle a hockey game with a shootout instead of a tie, they were not thinking about the Flyers.
After coming back from a three-goal, second-period deficit to take the lead, a quick turnover by Mike Richards with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the third, followed by a scoreless overtime, sent the Flyers where they do not like to go, the shootout.
And as has happened 12 of the last 20 times, and twice this season already, the Flyers could not produce a goal and lost, 5-4.
"I was just trying to go hard off the boards and if the winger's there, he could chip it out and if not, it could go directly out," Richards said of the third-period play. "I don't know if it hit a skate or a shin pad, I don't know but it was just a poor play by me."
The puck, as the Flyers luck would have it, ended up on Sidney Crosby's stick and behind Marty Biron at 17:27 in the third period. Biron made four saves in the shootout before rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski went backhand-forehand and won the game in Mellon Arena last night.
And so the Flyers, so bad at the shootout, settled for a single point and had to look to the fact that they were getting blown out on giveaways and turnovers before the second period was 4 minutes in, took a timeout and got four unanswered goals - two of them shorthanded by Simon Gagne.
John Stevens called the timeout right after Crosby scored his first at 3:51 in the second period.
"It was a good hockey game and I thought our guys played hard other than a couple of mental mistakes," the coach said. "On the road, you get three out of four points that's a good thing. The unfortunate thing is we gave them two points and that's a team in our division.
"The positive thing is we have three out of four points and we look to continue as we head into Montreal [tomorrow night]."
Asked what he told his team during the timeout, Stevens said he told them the mistakes were killing them.
"I said, 'We're not playing that bad. The three goals they have, we've almost given them. We had the puck and we got beat one-on-one, we turned the puck over and it ended up in our net. Let's keep going and see what happens.' "
What happened hasn't happened since Brian Propp scored two shorthanded goals in a period in 1985. The only other player to do it before Gagne and Propp was Bill Barber in 1978.
"I don't want to say we were playing bad, but we were easy to play against in our zone again," Gagne said. "They capitalized and scored three goals. After the timeout, we played better. Sometimes you need a little timeout like that to get you going.
"Especially against teams with four forwards on the power play. They're going to take some chances. As a [penalty kill], we've been doing a great job against those teams all season long and it's working for us."
Pittsburgh earned the lead, outskating and outworking the Flyers throughout the start. Andres Nodl turned the puck over in the offensive zone, Matt Carle missed a poke check and Matt Cooke finished off a passing play with Tyler Kennedy and, just like that, Pittsburgh was up 1-0.
The score jumped to 3-0 in the second period as both Evgeni Malkin and Crosby danced through and around the Flyers' defense and lifted backhanded shots into the net.
Malkin scored even-strength and got around Carle. Crosby scored on the power play by splitting Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, who also drew a hooking call on the play.
Stevens called a timeout to talk things over on the bench.
It didn't seem to change the tempo of his team, but just when it seemed as if Pittsburgh would go off on one of those really lopsided nights that seem to happen frequently in Mellon Arena, the Flyers scored two quick goals to pull within one.
Jeff Carter tapped a Scott Hartnell pass in front past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 3-1. Gagne struck next.
While killing a penalty, Gagne blocked a dump attempt and then skated his way past Goligoski, got to the net and went forehand to back and put the Flyers within one.
It was his ninth goal of the year, and his league-leading third shorthanded. It was also the Flyers' league-leading seventh shorthanded.
"It was a race for the puck," Gagne said. "I kind of got hooked a little bit at first, but I kept going and kind of beat that guy [Malkin] to go one-on-one with the goalie. The puck went to my forehand, and sometimes you want to shoot it, but I was able to get it to my backhand. Sometimes then I like to go up, but I just put it on the inside."
Then he did it again.
The Flyers broke up a scoring attempt with Luca Sbisa in the box and came back down ice three on one. Mike Richards had the puck on one wing, Lasse Kukkonen was in the middle and Gagne was on the opposite wing.
The Penguins had Malkin backing up on Fleury. Richards passed to Gagne, who blew a wrist shot into the net, tying the game 3-3.
"It was a nice play by Richie," Gagne said. "We were three-on-one, which gave Richie a lot of options. As the goalie, you have to look for everything I just tried to go top shelf on the short side. It's always great when those go in."
It was the kind of turnaround that could only be made better with a go-ahead goal. And that they got when Joffrey Lupul tipped a puck shot by Timonen into the air and over Fleury's left shoulder on the power play.