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Flyers start home-and-home with shutout of Penguins

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- It took until Game 66 of the season but the Philadelphia Flyers finally feel they put out a full, 60-minute effort.

Matt Read scored two goals and the Flyers opened their weekend home-and-home set against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 4-0 victory Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.

Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Flyers (34-25-7); Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier each had two assists.

Philadelphia's Steve Mason stopped 25 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and the first by a Flyers goalie against the Penguins since Martin Biron on April 6, 2008. It was the Flyers' first regulation home win against the Penguins since Dec. 8, 2011.

The Flyers passed the Columbus Blue Jackets to take over third place in the Metropolitan Division.

"I think we were looking for a game like that a long time ago," Giroux said. "We showed that when everybody follows the game plan, everybody plays 60 minutes, it feels pretty good."

The teams play Sunday in Pittsburgh (12:30 pm ET; NBC, TSN2).

Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 40 shots for the Penguins (44-18-4), who had a three-game win streak end.

It's the fourth time the Penguins have been shut out this season. Pittsburgh entered with the League's top-ranked power play but went 0-for-5 on the man-advantage.

"They were better than us ... all over the ice," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "Special teams. They were more aggressive throughout the game, winning battles and things like that. Just no excuse for that. We've got to make sure we bounce back [Sunday]."

Part of the Penguins' offensive deficiencies can be blamed on injury. Top-line forward Chris Kunitz skated during warm-ups but was kept out with a lower-body injury. He's day-to-day, but coach Dan Bylsma said Kunitz was a possibility to play Sunday.

Pittsburgh also played without forward James Neal, who is out indefinitely after sustaining a concussion Tuesday.

Taylor Pyatt was moved to the top line with Crosby and Lee Stempniak, and Jayson Megna took Neal's spot on Evgeni Malkin's line with Jussi Jokinen.

Despite missing two of their top six forwards, the Penguins refused to use injuries as an excuse for the loss.

"We have had this situation before with our lineup and we have capable guys going in," Bylsma said. "Guys who have done well for us before, and we have to find ways to be able to win and be effective within our roles regardless of who's in there and who's not in there. We weren't able and we weren't ready to do that."

Philadelphia was ready, and it showed almost from the first shift of the game.

"It's a very calming thing knowing the guys are going on all cylinders," Mason said. "Going into this hockey game, we needed the two points more than they did and the guys really went out and earned it. From my standpoint, everything was very controlled, from our breakouts to our backchecking, in-zone play. Everything felt in control the whole game."

Pittsburgh also boasts the League's top-rated penalty kill. But Philadelphia exploited both special team in the opening minutes.

On Saturday, the Flyers unveiled an 8-foot, 1,300-pound bronze statue of Fred Shero on the former site of the Spectrum, where he coached for seven seasons and won the Stanley Cup twice. (Photo: Zack Hill, Flyers PR) READ MORE ›

Hartnell's power-play goal 3:50 into the game started the scoring. With Pittsburgh defenseman Simon Despres in the penalty box for high sticking, Wayne Simmonds passed from behind the Pittsburgh net to Giroux along the wall on the left side. Giroux then sent a short pass to the inside of the left circle, where Hartnell one-timed the puck into the top corner over Fleury's glove for his 16th goal of the season.

Read scored shorthanded at 8:12. The Flyers were killing off a penalty on defenseman Andrew MacDonald when Couturier outraced Jokinen to a puck deep in the Pittsburgh zone. Couturier skated behind the net, avoided Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen and found Read alone at the right hash marks, where he rocketed a shot into the top of the netting.

"They did a lot of what we expected," Bylsma said. "They're a hard forechecking team, they did that right off the hop. They're good at the power play. We gave them that opportunity, they cashed in on it to get a lead.

"We expected them to come hard like that with their forecheck early in the game and they did and we didn't handle it. We weren't able to handle it. And I think you saw in all aspects of the game; we weren't good."

Up 2-0 after 20 minutes, Philadelphia scored two more late in the second.

With six minutes left, Luke Schenn threw a long pass out of the Philadelphia end to Lecavalier, who split defensemen Niskanen and Olli Maata and skated in on net. Niskanen hooked Lecavalier, but the Flyers center used his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame to power through and roof a shot from in close past Fleury for his 15th goal of the season.

In the final minute of the second, Read finished a pretty passing play for his second goal of the game. Crosby beat Giroux on a faceoff in the Philadelphia end and tried to push the puck back to Brooks Orpik, but Couturier tipped it away at the Philadelphia blue line and led a breakout down the right side. Couturier dropped a pass into the middle to Giroux, who faked a shot and sent it back to Couturier. He quickly passed it across to Read, who simply had to tap the puck into an open net to score his 18th of the season with 16.8 seconds left.

The Penguins tried to push to find some offense in the third but a determined Flyers effort held them to seven shots.

"I like the way we played the third period," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "We were very composed, good with the puck. Did the right things, got it in deep."

Each team likely will have a short memory when they meet again in less than 24 hours.

"It gives us confidence, for sure," Berube said. "They know we have to go there [Sunday] and win another game. We're going to get a better game out of them. They're going to come out hard."


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