BUFFALO - A fist pump from Max Talbot and fisticuffs from Zac Rinaldo.
The entire sequence - with Talbot's one-timer just eeking over the goal line and Rinaldo dropping the gloves on the ensuing, seemingly meaningless faceoff to end the first period - lasted a total of 1.6 seconds of game time.
Last night, those 1.6 seconds were the difference between winning and losing.
Prior to that, the Flyers were trailing, 3-0, as the game appeared to be quickly spiraling out of control.
Instead, the Flyers fed off the raw emotion of Rinaldo's rock-'em, sock-'em bout as they erased their second three-goal deficit in a span of three games. Claude Giroux sent the First Niagara Center faithful into the cold Buffalo night with an overtime breakaway goal to cap the Flyers' wild, 5-4 overtime victory over the Sabres. For the third time in Flyers history, they have climbed out of a three-goal hole twice in one season.
And for the third straight game, Giroux supplied the game-winner. With a four-point effort, his second of the season, Giroux passed Toronto's Phil Kessel for sole possession of the NHL's points lead with 36 points.
But Giroux' moments did not come until after the Flyers rode the momentum swing provided by Talbot and Rinaldo. On the bench, coach Peter Laviolette said Rinaldo was champing at the bit to get a piece of Corey Tropp. What better opportunity than with barely enough time to drop the puck in a location about 85 feet from either net?
"Zac was trying to get out there a couple times," Laviolette said. "He was trying to insert some energy into the game. It was great."
For Rinaldo, this wasn't just any fight. He had brawled with Tropp last year in junior hockey and found out the hard way that Tropp is a southpaw. And it was a big moment in a nationally televised game, a chance for Rinaldo to make his mark - as he has done countless times since training camp - as a bonafide, full-time NHLer.
"I had been trying for a while that period, but it never happened," Rinaldo explained. "I just wanted a crack at him."
The anger was palpable. And Rinaldo's fists acted as the smelling salts for a Flyers team that was just beginning to wake up.
"Zac tosses the mitts, throwing some rights and lefts; that gave us a lot of energy," Scott Hartnell said. "Coming into the locker room, the coach wasn't happy and we weren't happy. [The first period] reminded me a little bit of that Game 7 against Boston 2 years ago, with the timeout. It changes everything."
For a brief, 4-minute span late in the third period, it appeared that the Flyers' effort to come from behind might be for naught. Drew Stafford scored with 1:35 left to knot the game for the Sabres and send it to overtime. But that's when Giroux picked off a pass in the neutral zone and had nearly 10 seconds to drum up a move against Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
"I had a lot of time to think about it, and he was out of his net pretty far," Giroux said. "I was lucky to put it right in the [five] hole. I think we showed a lot of character. Guys just worked their [butts] off. That's the way we want to play."
Prior to that, Giroux acknowledged that Rinaldo's "unbelievable fight" allowed the Flyers to "play their game in the second and third" periods.
"Sometimes I think we're a little bit too cute with what we're trying to do," Laviolette said. "Then, when we flip that switch, there's a certain style that we know that works. We seemed to hit that from the last 5 minutes of the first period, on."
Rinaldo - a 185-pound scrapper - already led the NHL in penalty minutes coming into the game. He now has moved into a tie for third in fighting majors, even though he is not a heavyweight. More importantly, he has helped provide results where they matter most - in the standings.
"I hope my guys fed off my energy and my fight," Rinaldo said. "I'll keep fighting if they keep going our way."
Marc-Andre Bourdon could face a disciplinary hearing today with NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan after his hit on Nathan Gerbe 3:05 into the second period.
Bourdon crushed Gerbe from behind on the boards and was forced to answer Matt Ellis in a fight immediately afterward. Bourdon was handed a 2-minute boarding penalty in addition to his 5 for fighting, but the initial penalty means little. Gerbe did not return to the game.
Shanahan has doled out more than $1 million in fines as a result of suspensions since taking over for Colin Campbell this season. He has been trying to crack down on hits to the head and blindside hits aimed at defenseless players.
The Flyers outshot the Sabres in each of the four periods, holding a 34-24 overall shot advantage . . . Claude Giroux joins Los Angeles' Jack Johnson as the only players in the league with two overtime winners this season. Giroux is tied for the overall NHL lead for game-winning goals (5) with Detroit's Johan Franzen . . . Sergei Bobrovsky could be a prime target to start against Pittsburgh tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. Bobrovsky was 3-1-1 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .926 save percentage against the Penguins in his rookie year. Overall, the Flyers were 4-1-1 against Pittsburgh last season.