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Brawl signals rough series ahead between Penguins, Flyers

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette flung a broken stick at the opposing bench and then called Penguins coaches "gutless" in a closing scene Sunday sure to add anger to an already emotional rivalry.

Also tossed around were taunts, hip-checks, accusations and ultimately punches during a 6-4 loss by the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

Fourth-line center Joe Vitale sparked a 10-player brawl - and Laviolette's tirade - when he leveled Flyers star Danny Briere with 1:03 left and the Penguins trailing, 6-3.

"It was a gutless move by their coach, and, you know, just gutless," said Laviolette, upset that Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and assistant Tony Granato sent Vitale, Craig Adams and Arron Asham — a hard-hitting line — onto the ice for those final seconds.

Vitale's neutral-zone hip-check was not penalized, and his teammates praised his effort.

"I'm sure their coach doesn't like seeing a top player on their team get hit like that, but it's a clean hit," center Sidney Crosby said. "Maybe you shouldn't have put (Briere) out there."

There were 52 penalty minutes assessed for the brawl, including 12 for Asham, who roughed up Brayden Schenn. Schenn had cross-checked Crosby earlier in the period.

With gloves littering the ice, the Flyers' Scott Hartnell posed hand-to-ear in the mold of Hulk Hogan, a somewhat fitting gesture for this no-holds-barred finish.

"There are emotions in games, and sometimes they get overboard," Hartnell said. "Lavy lost it there for a sec. It was a good battle."

It's not over.

The teams play again Saturday in Pittsburgh and likely will meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Saturday's finale could decide who has home-ice advantage.

"It's going to be a pretty interesting series," Flyers forward Claude Giroux said.

While the teams fought, Laviolette took Max Talbot's stick and smashed it over the glass, sending a broken piece into the Penguins bench, Bylsma said. Laviolette and Granato, former teammates on the 1988-89 Rangers, shouted at one another, and both were ejected.

"If that's how they're going to respond, then we're going to respond the same way," Crosby said. "That's the way it works."

There were other hits besides Vitale's, including Schenn's that leveled Crosby near the benches with a cross-check from behind.

"It's clearly a cheap shot," Bylsma said, "clearly a guy targeting a player. That was well after the whistle."

Crosby also called it cheap.

"If that's a sign of what's to come," he said, "then we're going to be in for a pretty tough playoff series."

Dropping the gloves

Here is a breakdown of Sunday's third-period brawl:

Flyers involved: Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Pavel Kubina, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Danny Briere, Zac Rinaldo, Jakub Voracek

Penalties: Unsportsmanlike conduct (4), fighting, roughing, misconduct, delay of game (bench)

PIM: 27

Penguins penalized: Deryk Engelland, Arron Asham, Craig Adams, Joe Vitale, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen

Penalties: Unsportsmanlike conduct (4), fighting, misconduct, delay of game (bench)

PIM: 25

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