Pittsburgh put forth a dominating performance against cross-state rival Philadelphia on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers did manage to steal a point in the Penguins’ 2-1 shootout victory thanks to the outstanding performance of rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, but Pittsburgh’s outstanding all-around effort earned them the full two points -- on the road in a hostile arena, nonethless -- and cut Philadelphia’s lead in the division and conference standings to four points.
Both teams played a surprisingly docile opening period of hockey, with just two penalties being called and no scrums or shenanigans ensuing after the whistle. But once the two teams got a feel for each other, it was all black and gold in the remaining 40 minutes of play.
The Penguins put forth a much better defensive effort than they did Monday at Detroit, holding the Flyers to just one goal and 20 shots in regulation – it even took Philadelphia 14 minutes to register a shot on goal in the third. Pittsburgh attacked hard, but Bobrovsky stood on his head and withstood the constant waves of offense Pittsburgh threw at him, as all five Penguins skaters got involved in the play.
The Penguins’ special teams play was the game-changer. Not only did the Penguins connect on their first power play of the game – which tied the game at 1-1 and would prove to be a crucial goal – but Pittsburgh ably killed off all three Flyers power-play opportunities, with Maxime Talbot even embarking on a shorthanded breakaway at one point.
The victory, however, was bittersweet, as the Penguins lost rookie center Dustin Jeffrey to a lower-body injury with just over a minute remaining in the second. He did not return to the game and the extent of his injury will be re-evaluated in Pittsburgh.
Just when it seemed Chris Kunitz couldn’t elevate his game any further – with eight points (4G-4A) in his last four games entering Thursday’s contest – he took it to another level when his team needed him the most.
Kunitz notched the primary assist on Tyler Kennedy’s regulation goal before scoring the game-deciding tally in the fourth round of the shootout to help the Penguins gain an absolutely crucial two points in the standings against Philadelphia, the division and conference leader.
Kunitz started the play that led to Kennedy’s goal when he powered into the Flyers defensive zone while being hounded by orange-sweatered players, even sustaining a hit from Andrej Meszaros while he skated in. But Kunitz wasn’t fazed, continuing to move his feet before sending a perfect centering pass to Kennedy while Matt Carle closed in on him. Kennedy proceeded to rip a bullet of a shot past Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
In the shootout, Kunitz deked Bobrovsky out with a quick head fake before sliding the puck underneath the rookie netminder to win the game for the Penguins.
Kunitz finished with two shots, two hits and one blocked shot through 18:51 of ice time. He also logged 2:30 power-play minutes.
Watch Chris Kunitz's post-game interview here >
With two-and-a-half minutes left in the overtime period, Philadelphia had a phenomenal opportunity to steal two points in the standings when a pair of Flyers embarked on a two-on-one break.
But that one defenseman back for the Penguins was Zbynek Michalek, who’s always willing to sacrifice his body for the team no matter what the cost. He made a quick decision to challenge the player with the puck, making a beauty of a sliding block that knocked the puck off the Flyer’s stick and out of danger.
The Penguins headed on the counterattack immediately following that play, and was able to send the game into a shootout, where they took the two points thanks to Chris Kunitz’s game-deciding shootout score.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Chris Kunitz's shootout goal lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
Pittsburgh's Alex Kovalev scored the first shootout goal. He was matched by Philadelphia's Danny Briere. Kunitz got the final shootout attempt through the legs of Sergei Bobrovsky for the winner.
Philadelphia's Mike Richards and Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy scored goals in regulation.
The Flyers played in their fourth straight shootout and reached overtime for the fifth time in six games. They have won only one of those games that needed extra time and are losing their grip on the Eastern Conference lead.
- The Penguins have now required 60-plus minutes of work in nine of their last 16 games. They have gone 5-4 in those nine games. Overall, the Penguins are 7-3 this year in shootouts. Thursday marked the fourth-straight shootout for the Flyers.
- The shootout went four rounds, as Alex Kovalev and Danny Briere both scored in the third round, giving Mike Richards the opportunity to win the game for the Flyers. Marc-Andre Fleury made the save and opened the door for Chris Kunitz to net the game-deciding shootout score.
- Rookie center Dustin Jeffrey left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return when Flyers center Jeff Carter fell backward onto the right leg of Jeffrey with just over a minute remaining in the second period. Jeffrey hobbled off the ice and had to be helped to the dressing room by two Penguins athletic trainers.
- Maxime Talbot embarked on a shorthanded breakaway just under four minutes into the third period when he stole the puck at the Flyers blue line. He closed in and whipped a quick, low shot at goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who got his left pad on the puck. The Penguins killed off all three Flyers power-play opportunities.
- The Penguins hit two crossbars in the game. James Neal nailed the red painted metal when he re-directed a pass from Ben Lovejoy early in the third. Kris Letang then sped down the ice and whipped a shot off the crossbar just minutes later.
- The Penguins’ power play connected against the Flyers after tallying just once in its previous 17 attempts. Tyler Kennedy’s goal with 38 seconds remaining on an interference penalty to Andreas Nodl was the Penguins’ first power-play tally in three games.
- Kennedy’s goal gives him an impressive seven points (3G-4A) in his last five games. He continues to improve his personal-best goal output, as his 18 goals is three better than his former career-high of 15 set in 2008-09.
#1. Sergei Bobrovsky
Goaltender - 35
1 goal allowed in regulation
#2. Tyler Kennedy
Left Wing - 48
#3. Chris Kunitz
Left Wing - 14
Game-deciding shootout goal
Author: Michelle Crechiolo