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Flyers-Pens rivalry resumes with Crosby back in fold

Friday, 03.30.2012 / 9:32 AM / NHL on NBC Spotlight

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Flyers-Pens rivalry resumes with Crosby back in fold
The Flyers won the first two battles with the Penguins this season but lost the most recent. All three were played without Sidney Crosby, who's back as the intra-state rivals face off Sunday.
The intrastate rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins resumes on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center in the City of Brotherly Love.

One thing is certain, the teams won't be in a good mood as the push for prime position in the Eastern Conference playoff race continues. The Penguins have been surging of late and the return of their captain, Sidney Crosby, and defenseman Kris Letang has certainly provided an added impetus for the stretch run.

The Flyers, meanwhile, are finally reaping the benefits of their big nine-year, $51 million investment in goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The 31-year-old goalie recently established a franchise record shutout streak of 249:43, breaking the former mark of 227:40 set by John Vanbiesbrouck from Oct. 17-27, 1999.

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The game also features two of the League's top point-producers in Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin (39 goals, 85 points) and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux (26 goals, 82 points), who rank No. 1 and 3, respectively, in the NHL scoring race. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos is second with 84 points.

Here's a capsule look at the season series to date:

Dec. 8 at Philadelphia | Flyers 3, Penguins 2 | Game recap

Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell each scored to lift the first-place Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Crosby-less Penguins. James Neal and Evgeni Malkin connected for Pittsburgh, but by that time Philadelphia had already built a 3-0 lead one night after they rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Buffalo Sabres in overtime.

Ilya Bryzgalov made 25 saves for the Flyers and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots for the Penguins.

Dec. 29 at Pittsburgh | Flyers 4, Penguins 2 | Game recap

The game marked the return of Philadelphia's Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot to Pittsburgh, and the duo certainly gave the hometown faithful something to remember. Jagr, who became an NHL star with the Penguins two decades ago, scored a goal and Talbot, who helped Pittsburgh to the 2009 Stanley Cup title, added an empty-netter in the final seconds to seal the win for the visiting Flyers.

The teams combined for just 14 minutes in penalties -- none in the second period. Sergei Bobrovsky earned the victory on 24 saves and Fleury stopped 19 shots.

Feb. 18 at Philadelphia | Penguins 6, Flyers 4 | Game recap

Dustin Jeffrey scored the go-ahead goal 37 seconds into the third period and Matt Cooke scored a pair of goals to give the Penguins their first triumph of the season against their intra-state rival. Jordan Staal, Pascal Dupuis and Neal also scored goals for the Penguins, who not only denied the Flyers on a 5-on-4 and a 5-on-3 on the same power play, but scored twice shorthanded to turn the game around after Jagr's two goals against his former team gave the Flyers a 2-1 edge.

The loss was the sixth for Philadelphia in eight games and Bryzgalov was pulled in favor of Bobrovsky after allowing three goals on 13 shots. When Bobrovsky replaced Bryzgalov at 16:57 of the second, the Flyers' prized free-agent signee skated off the ice to a chorus of boos. Fleury made 27 saves.

"We can be better in a lot of different areas and (goaltending) is one of them," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said after the game.

March 18 at Philadelphia | Flyers 3, Penguins 2 (OT) | Game recap

The Penguins took a 2-0 lead into the third period and were dominating the Flyers, including out-shooting them 10-2 in the second period.

"We didn't play well in the second period," said Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen. "We were standing still, we didn't skate, turned the puck over. … We talked after the second period, we've got a power play coming up, hopefully we can score and get on a role and that's what happened."

Timonen's power-play goal 31 seconds into the third turned the momentum, and then Scott Hartnell scored from the side of the net at 4:47 of the third to tie the game.

Then with 0.9 seconds left in overtime, Hartnell one-timed a Danny Briere pass past Marc-Andre Fleury for the game-winning goal.

The win snapped the Penguins' 11-game win streak and denied them a chance to catch the Rangers atop the conference standings.

April 1 | Philadelphia at Pittsburgh

April 7 | Philadelphia at Pittsburgh

Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie