Flyers get ultimate revenge over Red Wings

Flyers' Erik Gustafsson and Detroit's Darren Helm follow flight of the puck.
Flyers' Erik Gustafsson and Detroit's Darren Helm follow flight of the puck. (STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: March 07, 2012

THE PUCK rimmed around the boards, a weak clearing attempt by the Flyers' defense after a turnover by the Red Wings deep in the Philadelphia defensive zone.

Jakub Voracek glanced once, quickly, to find Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

And then the Wells Fargo Center fell silent.

As Voracek turned his head to corral the puck, it was immediately met by a thunderous shoulder from Kronwall - one that sent Voracek into next week.

Voracek's helmet was jarred loose as his head slammed into the ice. His hands were frozen in the air for a second until he regained his surroundings and somehow tried to get to the bench.

The only problem was that Voracek couldn't find the bench. Finally, a referee blew the whistle so Voracek, with blood dripping from his mouth, could be attended to by a team trainer.

The Flyers' bench was in an uproar, some players half over the boards. Ready to attack.

"I wanted to puke," Danny Briere said. "When you see someone laying on the ice like that . . . I haven't seen a replay of the hit, so I don't know if the hit was targeted or it was a clean check.

"But it's still not fun to see someone laying there on the ice, shaking. It was a bad feeling in everybody's stomach."

Said Kronwall, who was not penalized for the second-period hit: "I haven't seen the replay. The way I felt about it at the time was that he was coming up along the boards and I took a stride forward."

Was it a clean hit?

"That's what it felt like," Kronwall responded. "We will take a look at it and see if there are any circumstances that need to be addressed."

It was among the most gruesome hits in recent Flyers memory, right up there with Eric Lindros' brain-jarring hit by Scott Stevens in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference finals, a brutal elbow from Montreal's Marc Bureau on an unconscious Petr Svoboda on Feb. 1, 1996 at the Spectrum, a long-ago hit on a helmetless Brad Marsh, and even R.J. Umberger's nauseating blow from Buffalo's Brian Campbell in 2006.

And the Flyers used the hit as a rallying cry, as Max Talbot netted a shorthanded goal just under seven minutes later for a two-goal lead. It ended up being the game-winner in a 3-2 victory.

Thanks to another brilliant performance by $51 million man Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers staved off a furious third-period push by the Red Wings to hang on on Mark Howe night.

The Flyers have never lost (4-0-1) on nights in which they have raised a jersey to the rafters.

More importantly, Voracek seemed to be doing better after the game. His only obvious damage was a bloodied lip, which had to be stitched up.

Mentally, though, the hit's impact remains to be seen. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren offered no injury update for Voracek, other than to say he was still being evaluated by team doctors. Usually, a Grade III concussion is accompanied by a loss of consciousness.

Voracek, 23, was unavailable for comment after the game.

Jaromir Jagr also left the game early with an undisclosed lower-body injury.

"You hope he is OK," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It was a tough hit. He took it right in the head. It's frustrating. He's having a terrific year. He's a terrific player for us. It's substantial. You're battling through a lot of injuries and then to take a hit like that, it's tough. You hope he is all right."

Laviolette refused to offer an opinion on the hit. And it's tough to tell how the NHL's vice president of player safety, Brendan Shanahan, will react since Kronwall did not leave his feet to deliver the hit. Even though the head was the first point of contact, Voracek appeared to be slumped down.

In the third period, Bryzgalov was aided by four key faceoff wins in the defensive zone by rookie Sean Couturier after the Red Wings circled like vultures over the vulnerable Flyers. Detroit, skating without Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and goaltender Jimmy Howard, posted 37 shots over the final two periods.

For the first minutes after the Voracek hit, the Flyers tried to get Kronwall to answer the bell. He refused, unwilling to drop the gloves and fight. It was the Flyers', though, who got revenge where it mattered most.

"Everyone wanted to get back at him," Briere said. "But we needed to win, we needed the points. We're in the crunch time of the season."

Giroux update * 

Claude Giroux added another two-point effort, pushing his season total to 77. Giroux took just two faceoffs, passing those duties off to Scott Hartnell. He wore an ice pack on both of his hands after the game. Otherwise, it was a complete game as Giroux added five shots, two hits, two takeaways and three blocked shots.


Contact staff writer Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com or @DNFlyers on Twitter. Read his blog, Frequent Flyers, at philly.com/frequentflyers.

 

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