Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 4-3 over the Philadelphia Flyers.
1) KESSEL’S BIG NIGHT
Phil Kessel picked the perfect game to break out. The winger scored the game-winning goal and added an insurance tally on top of that to cement the win for Pittsburgh over their hated rival. He was effective in all situations, with one coming on the power play and the other at even strength. His line with Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin was tremendous all night. At one point, a lengthy O-zone shift by the three of them in the third period resulted in a standing ovation from the roaring crowd. Love to see your best players step up in big games, and that’s exactly what Kessel did.
2) RESILIENCY AND RESOLVE
After the Pens went down 2-0 after the first period, I tweeted, “This looks to be the Pens’ biggest test yet in terms of that resiliency Sullivan preaches. Let's see if they're able to show it.” Things didn’t look good for the Pens, as they had surrendered a lead to their biggest rival – a team that so many people say are in the Pens’ heads. But they responded in a big way. Just 1:40 into the second, Trevor Daley began chipping away at that deficit with a big power play goal. From there, the Pens were buzzing and they ended up with a 3-2 after 20 minutes. You can tell there’s a belief and a trust in that locker room that if they stick with their game plan, they’ll be able to overcome anything. The credit goes to their head coach for instilling that mindset and that mental resolve into the guys, and for them to not waver from it – especially against this opponent in particular. Everyone stepped up and did their role in that period. The power play was unbelievable, the penalty kill bounced back with a couple huge kills and Sidney Crosby scored a HUGE goal at even strength to tie the game – which is exactly what you need from your captain and leader in a game like this. The Pens continued to show that mental resolve the rest of the night, even when the Flyers desperately pushed to tie the game late.
3) SPECIAL TEAMS
I said numerous times heading into this game that stats don’t matter when these teams meet – particularly when it comes to special teams. For whatever reason, the Flyers have dominated the Pens on the power play over the last few years. Last season alone, they went 5-for-17 in that category. So even though they rank 27th in the NHL and the Pens have been strong on the penalty kill, you had a bad feeling they were going to take advantage of any chances they got. And sure enough, they converted their first two opportunities to give them a 2-0 lead after the first. While the Pens did come up with three tremendous kills after that – Matt Cullen and Kevin Porter were particularly brilliant, pinning the Flyers down in their end and playing keep-a-way with the puck – the Flyers got a third to put them at 3-for-6 on the night. Thankfully, the Pens’ power play was just as effective. Full story on that coming soon.