PHILADELPHIA -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma best summed up the recent history of the rivalry between his team and the Philadelphia Flyers.
"You know about these games, you're probably going to see something a little head-shaking at some point in time," he said.
Chris Kunitz's second goal of the game snapped a 4-4 tie and gave the Penguins a wild 5-4 victory against the Flyers on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers led 4-1 after one period, but the Penguins scored three times in the second to tie it, and Kunitz's goal 18 seconds into the third period held up as the game-winner.
Scott Hartnell missed on a scoring chance in front of the Pittsburgh net when he fell, and the Penguins sent the play the other way. Pascal Dupuis tipped a loose puck at the Pittsburgh blue line past Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen to Kunitz, who fed the puck across to Sidney Crosby to create a 2-on-1 rush. Crosby sent the puck back to Kunitz, and his shot from the right circle beat Flyers goalie Brian Boucher.
"They've had some comebacks wins against us," Kunitz said. "It feels good to do it to them in their building."
Crosby had three assists, Dupuis had a goal and an assist, and James Neal and Tyler Kennedy also had goals for the Penguins. Tomas Vokoun, who relieved Marc-Andre Fleury in goal for the final two periods, stopped all 14 shots he faced.
Jakub Voracek had a pair of goals for the Flyers, and Timonen and Zac Rinaldo also scored as Philadelphia dropped its second straight. Ilya Bryzgalov, who made his League-high 22nd start in goal, was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 16 shots. Boucher relieved Bryzgalov and stopped five of six shots.
Each period saw completely different styles of play, as the Flyers dominated the first with a huge offensive output, the Penguins matched them with their dominant goal-scoring in the second, and then after the Pens got the lead early in the third, they were able to close the game down defensively.
"They did a real good job in the first of managing the puck and coming at us with speed and putting pucks behind us," Bylsma said. "That led to power plays, that led to those opportunities. They put a lot of rubber in the offensive zone. We flipped that going back the other way in the second period. Got on the forecheck, turned over a lot of pucks, played in the offensive zone, got pucks there and turned it back the other way. It's almost three different games of hockey, first period, second period and the third period being different."
While the 4-1 deficit was daunting, Crosby said the one positive was that there still were two periods to play.
"That's not the situation you want to put yourself in, especially on the road, especially here," he said. "They had a lot of momentum. The best thing was it happened early. We still had a lot of time left in the game, we knew that. We still had a lot of work to do, but we knew we had a lot of time. We stayed patient and had a lot better effort in those last two periods."
The Penguins' rally started when Crosby set up Dupuis for a shot from the doorstep after a scramble in front of the Philadelphia net at 5:30 of the second to make it 4-2. Neal made it a one-goal game at 8:13 when his pass from the right corner, intended for Evgeni Malkin in front of the net, bounced off Bryzgalov's leg and into the net.
"Getting back to even there in the second was big for us," Bylsma said.
After the wild swing to open the third, the Flyers thought they tied the game at 7:07 when Hartnell tipped a Timonen point shot past Vokoun. But the referees ruled Hartnell played the shot with a high stick, and replay review upheld the call of no goal.
That was as close as Philadelphia would get, despite putting 11 shots on net in the third and getting a power play midway through the period.
It marked the second straight time the Flyers took a lead in the first and failed to take advantage of it. Against the New York Rangers on Tuesday, the Flyers led 2-1 but then allowed a Ryan Callahan goal in the final minute of the first tie the game. They managed just six shots in the second and then allowed two goals in third to fall 4-2.
After their great start to Thursday's game, they managed just three shots in the second.
"When you have a 4-1 lead, the game is in your hands, big-time," Timonen said. "But what happens in the second period, we go on the ice we're not there for some reason. That's a mental issue to me. … You've got to be mentally prepared to go in there and do your job still if it's 4-1 or we're losing [4-1]. It doesn't matter. The score should never change your game."
"Our second period was not a good period," added Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. "It was the opposite of the first period. In the first we were skating, physical, put the puck behind them and looked to establish our game. In the second period they picked up their game and we stopped working. The second period belonged to them."
The Flyers did everything right to start the game, putting 18 shots on net and scoring four times.
It started when Neal was sent off for elbowing and Voracek scored on the power play at 11:18.
When Neal left the penalty box, he and Hartnell exchanged words and a scuffle broke out. Both players were sent off for roughing, with Hartnell receiving an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Pens capitalized when Kris Letang's pass to Crosby bounced off Nicklas Grossmann's skates to Kunitz for a power-play goal.
Rinaldo's goal off the rebound of a Grossmann shot gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead at 15:06, and they took over the game when Timonen and Voracek scored in the final 1:43 of the period. Timonen's harmless-looking shot from the wall found space between Fleury's right arm and his body at 18:17, and after Neal was sent off for his third minor penalty of the period, Voracek's shot bounced off Sutter and Paul Martin before skidding between Fleury's skates with 7.6 seconds left.
In the intermission, Crosby said no one on his team was worried, as history has proven that anything can and will happen when the Flyers and Penguins meet
"It's been really weird games, lots of goals," Crosby said. "I think when so much has happened, I think any team always believes they're in it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK