Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their regular-season finale.
1. TERRIFIC PERFORMANCE IN A TOUGH SITUATION
Late in the first period, the Pens lost goaltender Matt Murray when Brayden Schenn knocked his helmet off as he drove to the net. Murray stayed down and after talking to the trainer for a few minutes, left the game and did not return. He was replaced by Jeff Zatkoff, who was skating into a tough situation. He hadn’t seen game action since Feb. 20 and was going into the net cold against a Flyers team pressing to secure a playoff spot. Credit to him for going in and doing a terrific job. Zatkoff was seeing the puck well and produced a number of big stops, especially during a five-minute power play in the 3rd. The Flyers were crashing his crease and making a lot of contact, but he stayed strong. He also came up a few pretty saves on shots from far out. There was nothing he could do on the goals, as both were the result of perfect tips from Wayne Simmonds.
2. SECOND LINE KEEPS PRODUCING
All three members of the Pens’ second line factored into their only goal. Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino in particular connected for a few pretty passing plays. The way they were reading and reacting off each other was fun to watch. It’s crazy to think that none of them were on Pittsburgh’s roster last season, as they’ve all become huge parts of the team and have heated up at the right time heading down the stretch. In their 15 games together with Evgeni Malkin out, they’ve combined for 17 goals, 26 assists and 42 points.
3. HEADS HIGH
I thought overall, the Pens played a decent game despite the loss. They had a few defensive breakdowns and probably didn’t create enough in the offensive zone, but overall, it was a solid performance considering the circumstances. And the guys who either took on bigger responsibilities or got slotted into the lineup played well, particularly Oskar Sundqvist – who stepped into first-line center duties with Sidney Crosby being held out of the game and held his own between fellow Swede Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz – and Derrick Pouliot, who showed some impressive patience and poise with the puck playing in place of Kris Letang. So even though the Pens’ win streak ended at eight games and they missed a chance to hurt the Flyers’ playoff chances, they shouldn’t have a sour taste in their mouths heading into the postseason.