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3 Impressions: Flyers 3, Pens 2 (OT)

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Assistant coach Rick Tocchet gives his three impressions from the bench of the Pens' loss to the Flyers.

1. I think the battle level. There were a lot of things happening on the bench. Guys were hurt, broken sticks, people coming on and off. So it was kind of the next man up type of thing.

2. I thought the penalty kill was unbelievable. Penalty kill was great, did a great job. Unfortunate that whistle didn’t go there at the end.

3. Wish our power play could have gotten a goal for us. I thought that was something we really needed, to get a power-play goal there, maybe bail out some of the penalties that we took or whatever. That’s one thing I wish we could have got a goal there.

Michelle Crechiolo gives her three takeaways.

This game may have gotten out of control as the teams combined for 93 penalty minutes and four fights, but the Pens never stopped battling in what looked to be arguably their most physically and mentally exhausting game yet this season. That compete level is something that had been missing for the Pens recently, as the guys talked a lot about how they didn’t have any emotion or intensity in their last game – a 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Sunday – and that they needed to be a more desperate team. They certainly were tonight. I especially loved the way they came out in the third after a wild second. Guys refused to be beat on plays. They were giving everything they had. That’s important.

The Pens defensemen did an incredible job in a physically and emotionally taxing game. They were going up against a punishing team that has two of the NHL’s top-five scorers in Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, and did it while shorthanded a man with Kris Letang out. And for a stretch in the second, they were down to justfour as Rob Scuderi served a five-minute fighting major. I was especially impressed with Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff, who were absolute beasts out there. The veteran defensemen shouldered the brunt of the load vacated by Letang (which is a big one, as he’s the team’s TOI leader) and did a fantastic job. They had to be feeling fatigued, but didn’t show it as they competed for every puck and were strong in coverage in their own end. In addition, Thomas Greiss was as cool as a cucumber through all of the chaos that was happening on the ice in front of him. This was his first start since Jan. 2 and only his second since Dec. 13, but he didn’t look rusty at all. Greiss had to make a lot of difficult stops, especially while shorthanded during the Flyers’ six power plays, and did his part.

Gotta love hockey: the Pens absolutely dominated the first period (they were even given a five-minute power play) and somehow came out of it down 1-0. It all comes down to missed opportunities. The Pens got out to as commanding a start as they could have hoped for, holding onto the puck and firing the game’s first 11 shots. But while their shot total was impressive, the Pens didn’t have an edge where it mattered – the score. They were putting in the work to create chances, but they weren’t finishing the job and at the end of the day, that’s what counts. The Pens needed to bear down and start burying those, and just didn’t. Those missed opportunities came back to bite them as the Flyers scored on just their second shot of the game. It was an uphill battle from there.

Defenseman Kris Letang left the game in the first period after getting boarded from behind by Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo, who was given a five-minute major and game misconduct. Pens head coach Mike Johnston had no update on Letang after the game, saying “He was taken out of the game after the hit. Any time there’s a hit like that, you’re always going to be cautious. So we’ll see how he is probably tomorrow morning.” When asked if Letang underwent concussion testing, Johnston replied, “Any time a player is hit like that, that’s the protocol, to remove him and make sure you go through that concussion protocol. That’s what they’ve done. They took him out of the game, but that doesn’t mean it is a concussion. We’ll see tomorrow morning.”

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