Friday, October 9, 2009

Bite allegation overshadows Flyers' late-game rally falling short news services

PHILADELPHIA -- Alex Goligoski's easy goal helped the Pittsburgh Penguins take the first bite out of the Philadelphia Flyers' 2009 season 5-4 Thursday night, but it was an alleged chomp that raised the rivalry between the two clubs to a whole new level.

In the final moments of the third period, Flyers captain Mike Richards charged the Penguins' net and collided with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. After Richards dislodged the net from its moorings with 1.2 seconds remaining, Flyers forward Scott Hartnell and Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang became entangled and fell to the ice.

Shortly after, Letang left the scrap holding his hand and raced off the ice, claiming to the referee that Hartnell had bit him on his hand.

There was no clear video evidence from the broadcast footage of the purported bite, but Hartnell was given a 2-minute minor for roughing.

NHL vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell was expected to talk to Hartnell about the incident some time Friday, a source with knowledge of the situation told's Scott Burnside.

The Penguins told reporters they should ask Hartnell about it, too.

"Our response is, ask Hartnell," Penguins GM Ray Shero told via text message Thursday night. "He knows what happened."

Letang had a similar reaction.

"My answer is going to be ask him. He knows what he did. Go ask Hartnell," Letang was quoted as saying to Penguins beat writer Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"It's a first for me," Letang later added, referring to the alleged bite. "I want to be certain you go ask him."

When pressed whether he bit Letang, Hartnell was evasive.

"A lot of stuff happens on the bottom of the pile," Hartnell was quoted as saying to Tim Panaccio of "He had his hands in my face, doing the face wash, and we were rolling around. I can't say what happened."

Hartnell was asked if he had ever been accused of biting. "Not ever, really," he said.

The fight marred the teams' first meeting since the Penguins overcame a 3-0 deficit to eliminate the Flyers with a 5-3 victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Goligoski and Bill Guerin scored midway through the second period to help the Pittsburgh Penguins hand the Philadelphia Flyers their first loss of the season, 5-4 on Thursday night.

Guerin scored on a breakaway off a cross-ice pass from Chris Kunitz to break a 2-2 tie at 5:26 of the period. The Penguins never trailed after that.

Goligoski, who also had an assist, made it 4-2 at 8:08 when Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn, pressured by Ruslan Fedotenko, failed to clear his dump-in and the puck bounced into the net off goaltender Ray Emery's skate. Goligoski was credited with the goal since he was the last Penguin to touch the puck.

"It certainly was the easiest goal of my career considering that I didn't even touch it," Goligoski, a second-year defenseman, said.

"It was kind of just a weird play," Coburn explained. "I was trying to go behind the net to Kimmo Timonen and the puck just popped out and hit somebody in the leg or something."

Evgeni Malkin, who also had an assist, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy scored for the Penguins, who were coming off their first loss of the season, 3-0 to Phoenix on Wednesday.

Goligoski, who was Pittsburgh's second-round draft choice in 2004, said he really enjoys playing against the Flyers.

"It's always a more intense game and Philadelphia's always a lot of fun to play against," he explained. "The crowd is always into it and these games always seem to be a lot different."

Danny Briere and Jeff Carter both scored twice for the Flyers, who missed a chance to start the season 4-0 for the first time since 1995-96.

Carter's second goal came with the Flyers skating with the extra attacker with 41 seconds left.

"They're the Stanley Cup champions and you want to try to put your best foot forward and beat them," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "We've got work to do."

The intensity level remained the same as last season when the teams finished 2-2-2 with the Flyers holding the edge in goals, 21-20, and shots, 168-166.

"It's pretty typical for our two teams," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby explained. "We've all kind of become accustomed to that. With the history of playing each other in the playoffs, that adds to it, too. It's always an intense, emotional game."

And the alleged bite will only add to the rivalry.

"It sets up the whole season," Letang told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We have [five] more games to play against them and we know they're about doing stupid things like that at the end of the game."

Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury had 30 saves to improve his record to 3-0. He preserved the lead midway through the second period when he stopped point-blank shots from Mike Richards and Mika Pyorala.

Emery, who lost for the first time, made 20 saves.

Carter scored from the slot with the Flyers skating with a two-man advantage at 16:59, but Kennedy redirected Matt Cooke's shot at 8:37 of the third period to make it 5-3.

Malkin put the Penguins ahead on a power play 48 seconds into the game when he threaded a long one-timer through traffic from inside the blue line.

Briere tied it at 11:53 when he poked in a pass from Coburn, but Pittsburgh regained the lead 28 seconds later on a breakaway by Staal, who went backhand to forehand and scored.

Briere scored again from the side of the net to tie the game at 2:37 of the second period when his shot nicked off Cooke.

"Every time you play Philadelphia it's a statement game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's the rivalry that we have. I know that they were coming in to make a statement as well and we responded well from last night."

Game notes
Pittsburgh played in its second of five games within an eight-day span, and the first of a four-game, seven-day trip. ... The Penguins are 16-7-0 in their last 22 games against the Flyers. ... Goligoski's goal was his first in 17 games dating to Dec. 22, 2008, against Buffalo. ... Kunitz and Philadelphia D Chris Pronger received 10-minute misconducts for their role in the third-period melee.

Information from The Associated Press and's Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside was used in this report.

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