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Penguins top Flyers 2-1 in shootout

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- No matter how well Philadelphia Flyers rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky played, Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal said no one on the Penguins' bench ever got frustrated.

"We knew we were doing a lot of good things, getting good opportunities," he said. "It felt like we were pushing for a win."

Chris Kunitz led the effort, setting up the Penguins' lone goal in regulation and then scoring the game-deciding goal in the shootout as Pittsburgh took a tight-checking 2-1 decision from the Philadelphia Flyers here at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.

Bobrovsky was outstanding in a losing effort, stopping 30 of 31 shots, but allowing Alex Kovalev and Kunitz to score in the shootout. Mike Richards had the Flyers' only goal, as Philadelphia was held to just 20 shots, tying their lowest total of the season. Danny Briere scored in the third round of the shootout for the Flyers, but Kunitz zipped a wrister past the Russian rookie in the fourth round for the winner.

The shootout was the Flyers' fourth straight, tying an NHL record. Philadelphia has lost three of those shootouts, and they're now 4-0-4 in their last eight games. The single point they gained pushed their lead atop the Eastern Conference standings to two points on Washington. The Penguins now are just four points back in the conference and Atlantic Division races.

Despite the absence of stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have no interest in settling for second place.

"It was a great game," Penguins All-Star defenseman Kris Letang said. "We want to finish first. We just don't want to just strive to have good games. We want to finish first, we want to get in the playoffs on a strong note."

They played a dominant defensive note Thursday, holding the Flyers without a shot through the first 13 1/2 minutes of the third period and limiting them to five shots over the last 25 minutes of regulation and overtime.

"I thought we were very good defensively," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Thought everyone was strong coming back, thought the 'D' was good in the 'D' zone. It allowed us to go the other way as well and play a pretty solid, pretty hard-fought game."

While Bylsma was happy with his team's effort, the Flyers were an extremely sour bunch. Coming on the heels of what they thought were solid efforts in a win at Dallas last Saturday and a shootout loss to Washington on Tuesday, one of the most common words used in the locker room was "embarrassing."

"They did everything better than us in our building, so that was embarrassing," said defenseman Andrej Meszaros. "We talked about after the second (period) to come out hard, and we just couldn't get it going."

"We are lucky to get one point out of this," added defenseman Kimmo Timonen. "… Today we thought we could skate through and it would be an easy game, but there is no easy game in this League. They outworked us and won all the 1-on-1 battles. If you don't work, you're in trouble."

Coach Peter Laviolette was in no mood to disagree with his players.

"We were not sharp tonight," he said. "We got beat in most areas. … I think Pittsburgh played a really good game defensively. They checked quick, their stick was on the puck, they forced lots of turnovers, so you have to give them credit, but we were not on our toes and able to generate like we did against Washington. So even if they checked the way they did tonight we still should have been better than what we were and that's not good enough. Not in any areas."

The Flyers scored the game's first goal with 4:42 left in the first period. James van Riemsdyk carried the puck down the wall on the left side, holding off Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland along the way. He threw the puck in front for Richards, but Matt Niskanen got to it first. However, Niskanen's clearing attempt hit Richards, popped in the air and landed behind Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the Philadelphia captain's 21st of the season.

A penalty on the Flyers' Andreas Nodl with 21.8 seconds left in the first period allowed the Penguins to tie the game 61 seconds into the second. Kunitz carried the puck down the left wall, went around Meszaros and sent a pass across the zone to Kennedy, who ripped his 18th of the season over Bobrovsky's glove.

That was the only puck to get past the Philadelphia rookie netminder over 65 minutes.

"If it weren't for our goaltender we wouldn't have gotten any points tonight," Laviolette said.

Bobrovsky more than made up for his effort Tuesday against the Capitals, when he was pulled 1:22 into the second period after allowing three goals on nine shots.

"We all said and thought that he had played great in Dallas, had an off night (against Washington), everyone acknowledged it, and he came back tonight and he was a difference-maker," Laviolette said. "He was a real bright spot for us tonight."

Bobrovsky saved his best for overtime, when he twice robbed Letang, stopping him once with the handle of his stick and then gloving a slap shot from the right circle.

"I'm not happy because we lost, but I'm happy that I made a lot of stops," Bobrovsky said through a translator.

"He played really well," Letang said. "We were close. I hit the crossbar in the third, had a few chances in the overtime. He played really well. He looked like he was in place every shot, seeing every puck."

But the Penguins kept at it and were rewarded with the victory, their seventh in their last nine trips to Philadelphia. After games Friday against the Devils and Sunday against the Panthers, they'll see the Flyers back in Pittsburgh next Tuesday.

"We see them again very soon. We know coming into this building we wanted our best effort," Staal said. "It's a good feeling coming into this barn and getting two points. Hopefully we can do the same when they come into our building.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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