-- For two teams 10 points apart in the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins
and Philadelphia Flyers
were evenly-matched Sunday.
Pittsburgh emerged a 2-1 winner on a pair of power-play goals, including Matt Cooke
's tip-in game-winner with 1:47 remaining. Backup goaltender Brent Johnson
was spectacular in making 27 saves.
It was a game that featured Jeff Carter's fluke opening goal when he jammed a puck between Johnson's pads and the right goalpost at 5:18 of the first period and a controversial Flyers' non-goal by Mike Richards at 13:23 of the first period that would have given the home team a 2-0 lead.
Instead, Simon Gagne was called for high-sticking Evgeni Malkin
just before Richards' non-goal. Malkin and Gagne also received coincidental minors for roughing on the play. Sergei Gonchar's slap shot on the ensuing Pittsburgh power play found its way through traffic and past a screened Ray Emery to tie the score at 1-1 at 14:33.
The winning goal came on a similar play. Kimmo Timonen
was called for delay of game at 16:50 of the third period when his hurried clearing attempt went off the glass and into the stands. Gonchar took another slap shot and Cooke tipped it between Emery's legs.
"I was trying to create a screen and Gonchar's shot hit my stick," Cooke said. "I didn't see it coming. It hit my stick and went through the five-hole."
"(Gonchar) shoots and you don't even know it's coming," Emery said. "They get good guys in front of the net, and it kind of leaves you guessing back there."
When Carter scored, it was the 15th time in the past 16 games that Philadelphia scored first. They've been strong recently on the power play but they were held to one goal in nine chances and played an undisciplined game -- as did the Penguins, for most of the game.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette wasn't pleased with his team's lack of discipline. They took nine minor penalties. He was also frustrated by the officiating.
"I guess I'm frustrated because for the last month and a half we've been preaching discipline, preaching staying out of the box and our players have bought into that," Laviolette said. "We'll kill the ones we have to take, but going back and looking at that game there are just too many penalties that never happened.
"Simon Gagne didn't high stick anybody. So it turns around and goes the other way. Scott Hartnell
did not, in my opinion, interfere with the goaltender. I don't know if it's a reputation from the past but you know we want to play tough, physical, but we don't need to go to the box. But we're still going there and our players aren't taking penalties."
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma was pleased to get the road win.
"We haven't played a game like this where we played well defensively and kept a team to one goal or less," he said. "This is a tough place to play. They've been playing very well. We're coming off a tough loss so this was a big game for us, starting off a road trip."
Bylsma said he was pleased with the way his team weathered Philadelphia's early onslaught and came back to control the game.
"We talked to our team before the game, attention to detail, and it's something we need to get back to get to our game," he said. "I thought we did get quite a few shots. We got back in control in the second period. We minimized chances against. There were times we could have done a better job managing the puck and that's a big part of how we play. Generally speaking, for a 60-minute game, I thought our guys did a good job in the details. Special teams were a key factor. Our penalty kill did very well and at key times, we won key draws."
Emery made 20 saves and played his best game of the five starts he’s made since returning from early December abdominal surgery, but still took the loss.
"We've played a lot lately, and it seems like every time we play them, it's our second game in two days," Emery said. "We battled and got our share of chances and worked the puck in their zone, but it's frustrating when they come out on top."