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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Flyers 2

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Penguins faced a daunting task as they limped into Wachovia Center to take on division rival Philadelphia. They lost seven of their last eight games heading into the showdown. The Flyers, on the other hand, were riding an eight-game home winning streak and hadn’t lost in regulation in Philadelphia in their past 14 contests (12-0-2). What’s more, Philadelphia, which was 17-1-5 when scoring first, scored the game’s first goal.

With all the odds against the Penguins, the team adjusted its strategy and put together one of its best games of the year. Pittsburgh outplayed the Flyers and the result was a 4-2 victory in hostile territory that broke the Penguins’ skid and Philadelphia’s winning streak.

Head coach Michel Therrien implemented a trapping system to shut down Philadelphia’s high-flying offense. Pittsburgh’s strategy smothered the Flyers and frustrated them. The Penguins were able to create turnovers and transition opportunities - plus two goals off of such transitions. The Penguins were struggling with giving up goals during their slump. The new trap system may be just what the team needs to settle things down and get Pittsburgh back on the right track.

The Penguins will now have a five-game home stand and can make some noise to get back into the playoff picture. First up, Washington on Wednesday.
(AP) - Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal each scored goals, and Sidney Crosby had a pair of assists that sparked the sputtering Pittsburgh Penguins to a needed 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

The Penguins won for only the second time in nine games and scored four straight goals to put an emphatic end to Philadelphia's eight-game home winning streak. They also got goals from Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke, and Marc-Andre Fleury nicely rebounded from a first-period blunder to stop 27 shots.

Alex Goligoski rubs Glen Metropolit out of the play (photo by Getty)
What Worked: 1-2-2 Trap
Pittsburgh deployed a variation of the neutral zone trap against Philadelphia. They pressured with one forward in the attacking zone while the other two forwards hovered near the red line in a triangle form. The two defensemen played tight to their own blue line. Pittsburgh’s efforts were successful as they were able to slow the Flyers rush. The Penguins created turnovers in the neutral zone and the team’s transition game resulted in two goals and a number of scoring opportunities.

What Didn't Work: Fleury Playing the Puck
It’s hard to be picky with a game in which the Penguins were so solid for 60 minutes. The only sketchy moments in the game occurred when Marc-Andre Fleury tried to play the puck behind the net. He misplayed a dump off his stick that deflected to the front of the open net and led to Philadelphia’s opening goal. On another occasion, Fleury was trapped behind the net with the puck on his stick and sandwiched between two Flyers. It was an adventure all evening when Fleury tried to play the puck. 
Matt Cooke had to be the most excited player in Pittsburgh’s dressing room after he learned that he would be playing on the team’s top line with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Cooke provided the top unit with exactly what was expected of him. He skated hard, fought for pucks along the boards and provided a spark. Cooke scored the game’s back-breaking goal with less than 30 seconds left in the second period. But it was his hustle to beat everyone to a dumped puck that led to the goal. He made a nifty pass back to Crosby, after Crosby fed him first, that would have been a slam dunk if Crosby had been anticipating it. Cooke added three shots and four hits in the game. 
The Flyers got on the board first thanks to an odd bounce. Simon Gagne dumped the puck around the boards and Marc-Andre Fleury spun around the goal to stop it. The puck hit Fleury’s stick and deflected into the front of the vacant goal. Mike Knuble had the good fortune of being the first to the puck and slammed home his 16th goal of the year. Philadelphia 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Tyler Kennedy snapped a seven-game goal-less streak with the game-tying goal late in the first period. The play started on Brooks Orpik’s breakout pass, springing Maxime Talbot into the Flyers zone at full speed. Philadelphia knocked Talbot off the puck but two men stayed with him. Paul Bissonnette, recently called up, picked up the loose puck and got a shot on goal. With two Flyers occupying Talbot, no one picked up Kennedy in front of the net. The Penguins forward backhanded the rebound into the goal. Pittsburgh 1, Philadelphia 1.

The Penguins outworked the Flyers in the Philadelphia zone and capitalized with a go-ahead score early in the second period. Sidney Crosby poked the puck free from Flyers captain Mike Richards in the Philadelphia zone. The two raced for the puck on the mid-wall. Richards got there first put Crosby lifted his stick and stole the puck. Crosby then found Malkin in the high slot. The Russian unleashed a laser wrist shot that rung off the post and into the net behind Martin Biron. Pittsburgh 2, Philadelphia 1.

Jordan Staal increased the Penguins’ lead with his third goal in the last three games. Kris Letang picked up an errant Philadelphia pass inside the Pittsburgh blue line. He made a quick dish to Miroslav Satan. The Slovak native made a blind backwards pass to spring Staal with three Flyers chasing him. Chris Minard joined Staal to create a two-on-one. Staal protected the puck with his long reach and then roofed a backhander over the left arm of Biron. Pittsburgh 3, Philadelphia 1.

Pittsburgh added a back-breaking goal with 25.8 seconds left in the second period. The Penguins kept the pressure on in the final minute of the period. Matt Cooke started the play and finished the play with his fifth goal of the season. The Penguins sent an innocent dump into the zone. Cooke raced in to steal the puck from a lackadaisical Flyer. He found Orpik all alone in the high slot. Orpik’s shot missed the cage but Crosby picked up the loose puck to Biron’s left. Biron couldn’t regain his footing after dropping to his knees on Orpik’s shot and Crosby made a wraparound pass that Cooke buried into the net. Pittsburgh 4, Philadelphia 1.

Joffrey Lupul cut into Pittsburgh’s lead with his 14th goal of the season. Jeff Carter entered the zone with speed and dropped the puck to Scott Hartnell. The Penguins defense backed off and Hartnell found Lupul sneaking in the side door. Lupul buried a shot from the far circle. Pittsburgh 4, Philadelphia 2.
The Penguins put Matt Cooke on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The new combination looked inspired and meshed quickly. The trio netted two scores for the Penguins. Crosby had two assists while Malkin and Cooke each tallied a goal.

The opening minutes of the first period was a microcosm of the way the slump had gone for Pittsburgh. The Penguins controlled the start of the hockey game and ran up an edge in shots and scoring chances. Pittsburgh smothered the Flyers offense and had a decisive edge in the play. But Pittsburgh couldn’t muster a goal and the Flyers cashed in on fluky goal.

You know it’s going to be a physical battle with the Flyers but now we can assume that every game with Philadelphia will lead to fisticuffs. First, heavyweights Eric Godard and Riley Cote went toe-to-toe. The brawl didn’t last long but Godard landed the majority of the shots. Paul Bissonnette, seconds after recording his first NHL point on an assist, dropped the gloves with Arron Asham.

Pittsburgh did a great job after the Flyers scored in the third period to make it a 4-2 game. Philadelphia had some momentum and Pittsburgh completely smothered their offense with the trap, dumped the puck and held it along the boards to kill time. You could feel the momentum and noise slowly leak out of the Flyers. Philadelphia’s frustration boiled over after that and the team took a couple of late penalties to end its chances of tying the game.
> Pittsburgh improved to 21-19-4 on the year, with a 12-10-2 mark on the road.

> Philadelphia struck first on Mike Knuble’s 16th goal of the season. The Penguins responded with four straight scores. Tyler Kennedy notched his seventh goal of the season to tie the game in the first period. In the second period, Pittsburgh had goals from Evgeni Malkin (17), Jordan (14) and Matt Cooke (5). Joffrey Lupul cut into the lead with his 14th score of the season at 8:07 of the third period.

> Evgeni Malkin scored a goal against Philadelphia to extend his NHL lead in points to 66 (17G-49A). Malkin’s 49 assists are a league best.

Sidney Crosby recorded two assists against the Flyers. He is second in the league in scoring with 57 points (17G-40A) and his 40 assists are second most (tied) in the league.

> Crosby recorded his 350th career point on his first helper of the night.

> Marc-Andre Fleury appeared in his 200th career NHL game. Fleury made 27 saves to record his 89th career win, moving into third place on the Penguins all-time list.

> Jordan Staal scored his third goal in as many games. Staal has 14 tallies on the season and a season-long three-game goal streak.

> Tyler Kenned scored his first goal in eight games.

> Matt Cooke broke a 12-game goal-less streak with his fifth goal of the season.

> Paul Bissonnette recorded his first NHL point on an assist.

> Brooks Orpik recorded an assist in the game to give him 12 points on the season (2G-10A). His 12 points set a new career single season high.

> Miroslav Satan notched his first point in five games with a nifty setup pass on Staal’s goal.
1. Jordan Staal, PIT
2. Sidney Crosby, PIT
3. Kris Letang, PIT
“It’s been tough the last little bit for us. But we had
a great effort from everybody and saw some
good results.”
- Sidney Crosby



Author: Sam Kasan

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