Skating to a boo nearly every time he touched the puck in the city where he delivered two Stanley Cups and countless indelible memories, Jagr offered his own dirty gesture to Penguins fans by leading the Flyers to an intense, 4-2 victory last night in his first game in Pittsburgh in nearly 4 years.
The win, which snapped the Pens' four-game streak, kept the Flyers undefeated (4-0-0) at the palatial Consol Energy Center.
Capping off their 2011 calendar with a win, to improve to a sparkling 9-3-1 in the hotel-heavy month of December, the Flyers pulled into a tie atop the Atlantic Division standings with their next opponent, the New York Rangers. That sets up a meeting outside on Monday afternoon with first place possibly on the line.
"I thought it was a real big effort by our guys," coach Peter Laviolette said. "This was a big win. I will tell you that I am pretty proud of the guys for the month of December and where we sit right now. At this point in the season, you wish you were 36-0, but that's not realistic. We've put ourselves in a good position.
"The guys in that [locker] room work hard every night. And they worked hard to get that win."
Sergei Bobrovsky and the Flyers also continued their dominance of the Penguins over the past two seasons, as they improved to 6-1-1 vs. their one-time Kryptonite since October 2010.
Bobrovsky, starting in place of Ilya Bryzgalov, is 4-1-1 lifetime against the Pens and has won all four games played at Consol.
Claude Giroux, the NHL's leading scorer, said he thinks the Flyers are "starting to like to come here" because they "always play the way we should."
"I remember my first couple years, coming in here, you knew it was going to be a battle and you're going to get hit every time," Scott Hartnell said. "We've learned how to play against them. It's nice, after a couple losses, to come in here and get a big win."
Hartnell, though, and the rest of his teammates were thrilled to watch Jagr salute the crowd in Pittsburgh - even if it meant getting a little profanity in return.
"How can you not root for a guy like that, who has had such a storied career and won two Stanley Cups here?" Hartnell asked. "I think that provided a little extra motivation for him. He wanted to get that goal. What a goal it was."
Jagr, 39, said it was "definitely one of the prettier goals I've scored." He nearly had two tallies. In the first 10 minutes of the game, he worked a give-and-go with linemate Giroux but his shot - with an empty net - passed right through the goalmouth past Marc-Andre Fleury.
Jagr wasn't the only former Penguin to contribute. Earlier this season, Jagr pulled aside Max Talbot and told him that he was the Penguins' biggest missed signing last offseason. Coming from Jagr, the ninth all-time scorer in league history, that meant something. Both players jumped ship to Philadelphia on July 1.
Last night, Talbot iced the game with an empty-netter, becoming the seventh Flyer to hit double-digit goals this season. And it paled it comparison to his role on the ice. It was Talbot who Laviolette sent on the ice in the final 2 minutes to kill off the last seconds of a Penguins power play in a 3-2 game.
"It felt really good to get a win here," Talbot said. "But I don't think this was a personal thing tonight This was more of a team thing. It's not me and 'Jags,' it's the Flyers. I'm just glad we got the two points."
Talbot, though, had already gotten his moment against the Penguins on Dec. 8 in South Philadelphia. Last night was about Jagr and returning to a place where he was suddenly no longer welcomed.
"I've [saluted] since my first goal here in Philadelphia," Jagr said. "I don't know how many games I'm going to play. Every game could be my last game. You've got to enjoy every moment."
For the fifth time this season, the Flyers avoided losing three straight games . . . Jaromir Jagr now has 37 points in 38 career games against Pittsburgh . . . Claude Giroux's two assists moved him three points ahead of Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who also had an assist, in the NHL's overall points race . . . Kimmo Timonen scored his first goal of the season . . . Last night was the Penguins' 227th straight sellout. It is easy to forget that the Penguins threatened to leave Pittsburgh within the last 10 years . . . In his first game since Dec. 17, Sean Couturier collected two assists for his first career multi-assist contest.
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