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Aftermath: Penguins 5, Flyers 4 SO

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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Sabourin 11/13 | Goligoski 11/13 | Crosby 11/13 | Therrien 11/13
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The Penguins have become the cardiac kids: exciting and nerve-racking. Every time they take the ice there's no way of knowing what to expect. One period they’re scoring goals at will, the next they're helplessly trying to stop their opponents. One game they’re blowing a lead, the next they’re overcoming severe odds for an improbable comeback. It hasn't always been pretty, but through it all Pittsburgh has found a way to win.

No matter how ugly the game may get, you can't argue with results. The Penguins are off to their best start in 13 years. To get there, they scored that tying goal when the game looked hopeless; they made that save or blocked that shot when they desperately needed it; they won that crucial faceoff with time running out. Pittsburgh has become a clutch team that performs at its best under drastic circumstances and with the game on the line. They refuse to quit and can never be counted out of a game - as they proved this week.

Pittsburgh won its past five games in which: four were decided by one goal, two were decided in overtime and one determined with a shootout. Pittsburgh scored a goal late in the third period to escape defeat and pull off a win in its last three games. Every time you think they can't possibly pull this off again, they do.

Yes, they blew a three-goal lead to Philadelphia. Yes, they gave up four goals in the second period. Yes, they went 1 for 7 on the power play and gave up two shorthanded goals. But they still found a way to win. And in sports, winning is all that matters and that can't be overstated. Pittsburgh's talent and relentless work ethic is enough to overcome their shortcomings. So while they may have areas to improve on, they must be given credit for what they've done: won a lot of hockey games.
Sidney Crosby recorded his first two-goal game of the season as Pittsburgh tied the game late in the third period and then defeated Philadelphia in a shootout at Mellon Arena on Thursday night. Pittsburgh jumped out to an early 3-0 lead but watched it evaporate into a 4-3 advantage for the Flyers. Crosby scored the tying goal with 2:33 left in regulation to force the extra session. Dany Sabourin, who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury at the start of the third period, stopped all six Flyers shootout shooters, and Alex Goligoski was the only scorer in the shootout, notching his first career shootout goal on his first attempt.

Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead with goals from Matt Cooke, his first as a Penguin, Evgeni Malkin and Crosby. The Flyers responded with four-straight goals in the second period, including two while shorthanded. Jeff Carter scored Philadelphia’s first goal and then Simon Gagne scored two shorthanded goals to tie the game at 3-3. Joffrey Lupul’s deflection gave the Flyers a 4-3 lead, setting the stages for Crosby’s late game heroics.

Sidney Crosby scores the game-tying goal with 2:33 left in regulation (photo by Getty)
What Worked: Perseverance
In the last three games, Pittsburgh overcame a third-period deficit to win in the end: N.Y. Islanders, Detroit and Philadelphia. Obviously, the team didn’t want to be in those situations to begin with, but once again they battled back to get the two points. There’s something to be said for the Penguins never-say-die attitude. There is no quit in this team, and they were rewarded for their perseverance with their fifth straight win.

What Didn't Work: Special Teams
It was a rough night for the Penguins power play and penalty kill units. Philadelphia scored more goals on the Penguins’ power play than Pittsburgh. The Flyers netted two shorthanded goals and a power-play goal for three special teams scores. Pittsburgh went 1 for 7 with the man-advantage with only two shots. The Flyers penalty kill squad generated a three-on-one and breakaway chances, scoring on both. The Penguins let a 3-1 lead slip away with those two shorthanded goals by the Flyers on consecutive power plays. Philadelphia took the lead with its own power-play goal with only four seconds left in the second period.
Sidney Crosby scored two goals and keyed Pittsburgh’s come-from-behind victory over the Flyers. Crosby nailed the clutch, game-tying goal with 2:33 left in regulation to force overtime when he slapped a fluttering puck into the net from the slot. On Crosby’s first goal, he used his speed to split between two Flyers defensemen before backhanding a shot over Martin Biron’s shoulder. He nearly won the game in overtime when he juked Philadelphia defenseman Matt Carle and was one-on-one with Biron. His shot went off the side of the cage. Crosby finished the game with two goals on six shots and won 15 faceoffs.

But most impressive was the tenacity he played with. Crosby seems to have an extra edge to his game when he faces the Flyers. Maybe it’s because they knocked out a few of his teeth and labeled him a whiner. Whatever the reason, he loves taking out his frustration on Philadelphia. Crosby has 39 career points on 18 goals and 21 assists in 22 career games against the Flyers. He skated hard all night, was omnipresent on the ice, fought for loose pucks and played his most physical game in recent memory. He even recorded a game-high six hits, which doubled the next highest Penguin. You can tell that Crosby loves to play Philadelphia, but he's loves beating them even more.
I’d like to give an in-depth analysis of the Penguins' first goal but it was a pretty simple play. Tyler Kennedy skated the puck into the zone with Matt Cooke on a two-on-two. The Flyers defense backpedaled. Kennedy passed to Cooke, who one-timed a shot into the net for his first goal as a Penguin. Not necessarily a spectacular play but the goal counts.

Evgeni Malkin scored with a sick backhander over Martin Biron’s right shoulder. The play started when Malkin skated into the Philadelphia zone with Flyers defenseman Matt Carle on him. Malkin passed the puck to Ruslan Fedotenko in the high slot and Carle followed the puck. With two defensemen on Fedotenko, he dropped the puck to Malkin. Carle tried to recover but Malkin had a step on him and roofed a backhander in tight on the goal.

Sidney Crosby beat Biron with a backhander on a power play to give Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead. The play was very similar to Malkin’s goal, and was the second time that Biron dropped to his knees early as a Penguin lifted the puck over his shoulder. There was a scrum along the boards near the Flyers blue line. Philadelphia’s Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen were standing still above the circles in their own zone. Sykora tapped the puck to Crosby, who was skating at full speed. He split between Coburn and Timonen. Coburn committed a hooking penalty but couldn’t prevent the score.

Philadelphia got on the board when an innocent centering pass form Jeff Carter deflected off of Kris Letang’s skates and slid between Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads.

The Flyers were getting physical with the Penguins in the second period. Scott Hartnell hit Petr Sykora behind a play, drawing a charging penalty. Then Scottie Upshall tried to draw a retaliation penalty on Sykora. Upshall punch Sykora in the face and the two exchanged words. Sykora kept his cool and Pittsburgh got a power play.

Simon Gagne scored the Flyers second goal with a great individual effort. He was playing the high point on a penalty kill. Alex Goligoski took a shot that was blocked by Gagne, who quickly sped towards the puck. Goligoski had to turn around and couldn’t recover in time to disrupt Gagne. Malkin was a step behind as Gagne went in on a breakaway. He avoided Fleury’s poke check and guided in a backhand shot.

Malkin had a great shift on the penalty kill unit. He skated a puck into the zone and laser-ed a shot on net. Biron gloved it but then dropped it to his defenseman to keep the play going. Malkin pressured the defenseman and killed another eight seconds down low. Later on the shift, he collected the puck in Pittsburgh’s zone and flipped it over the Flyers and right to Maxime Talbot, who had just come out of the penalty box. Talbot had a clear breakaway and drew a penalty as he was hacked on the play by 18-year-old rookie Luca Sbisa.

The Flyers tied the game, 3-3, with their second shorthanded goal of the game, again scored by Gagne. Pittsburgh forced the issue low with the man-advantage. The Penguins scrambled in front of the Flyers net trying to handle a loose puck. Four Penguins were trapped deep on the play and Philadelphia pushed the puck for a three-on-one opportunity. Mike Richards passed the puck to Gagne high in the zone. Gagne skated in for a closer shot and then slapped the puck beyond Fleury.

Philadelphia turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead with their fourth straight goal, all in the second period, with four seconds left. The Flyers were on a power play when Timonen sent a shot onto the net as time was ticking away in the period. Joffrey Lupul deflected the shot and the puck floated over Fleury, who was at the top of the creasing challenging the shot. Fleury lost sight of the puck and frantically swiveled his head to find its location. The puck landed in the creases behind him and slid past the goal line.

Fleury sat on the Penguins bench after the second period as Dany Sabourin answered the call. It was Sabourin’s first action at Mellon Arena this season. Sabourin stopped everything sent his way. He denied all 11 shots he faced in the third period and overtime. Then he made an additional six rejections in the shootout. He's stopped 13-straight shootout attempts and hasn't given up a goal since the very first chance he faced.

Malkin had an ugly spill behind the Flyers net. He was checked hard into the boards and his left skate got caught in the ice. Malkin fell backwards on top of his leg and screamed in pain. He didn’t miss a shift - he is a hockey player after all.

The Penguins relentless play in the Flyers end resulted with Pittsburgh getting the tying goal. They were getting chance, after chance, after chance but couldn’t beat Biron. That was, until Crosby nailed his second goal of the game to pull even, 4-4, with Philadelphia. Mike Richards had the puck behind the net. He sent the puck forward and braced for a hit from Malkin. The puck went right to Talbot, who was parked to Biron’s left. Talbot tried to pull the puck to his forehand for a shot, but he lost control of the it. The puck, fortunately, trickled into the slot where Crosby blasted it into the goal.

Crosby nearly ended the game a minute into overtime when he blew past a flat-footed Carle in the neutral zone and was one-on-one with Biron. However, his quick shot went off the side of the net.

The Penguins shootout shooters were: Sykora, Letang, Crosby, Malkin, Miroslav Satan and Goligoski. The Flyers sent out: Gagne, Richards, Carter, Timonen, Lupul and Hartnell. Sabourin made a tremendous stop on Richards to keep the shootout going. The Flyers captain deked Sabourin and had him sliding the wrong way. Richards had a wide open net but Sabourin reached back with his paddle to stop the puck from crossing the goal line. Goligoski scored the only goal of the session. He came wide to Biron’s right. He faked to his backhand and Biron slid to his left. Goligoski then pulled the puck back and tapped it into the net.
> Pittsburgh improved to 10-4-2 on the year, with a 5-1-1 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins are 5-0-0 in the month of November. Pittsburgh won for the third straight time after trailing in the final five minutes of the third period.

> Half of the Penguins’ 16 games this season have gone into overtime with four ending in a shootout. Pittsburgh won six of those games in the extra session, winning 3 of 4 mark in shootouts.

> Matt Cooke scored his first goal as a Penguin at 7:06 of the first period to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second period. Sidney Crosby extended the lead with his fifth goal of the season at 3:51 of the second period. The Flyers scored the game’s next four goals, all in the second period. Jeff Carter got Philadelphia on the board at 7:46. Simon Gagne scored back-to-back shorthanded goals to tie the game, 3-3. Joffrey Lupul gave the Flyers a 4-3 lead with four seconds left in the period. Crosby tied the game at 17:27 of the third period with his second goal of the game. Alex Goligoski was the only scorer in the shootout between the two clubs. Dany Sabourin stopped all six Philadelphia shooters.

> Philadelphia outshot Pittsburgh, 35-31, in the game. It’s the first time the Penguins have been outshot in the past five games.

> Following Malkin’s two-point effort (1G-1A) versus Philadelphia, he now has 26 points on the season, with six goals and 20 assists, which ranks second in the NHL. His 20 assists are a league best. Malkin is on pace to notch over 100 assists (103) on the season, a feat only accomplished by three players in NHL history (Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux).

> Evgeni Malkin recorded two points (1G-1A) against Philadelphia. He’s registered at least one point in 15 of Pittsburgh’s 16 games this season. He’s also riding a 12-game scoring streak, the longest in the NHL this season. During that stretch he’s compiled 23 points (5G-18A).

> Sidney Crosby notched his first two-goal game of the season by netting his fifth and sixth goals. Crosby currently has 21 points this season, with 15 assists, tied for third most in the NHL.

> Matt Cooke scored his first goal as a Pittsburgh Penguin.

> Miroslav Satan recorded an assist in the game for his 700th career point.

> Kris Letang has registered an assist in his last five games.

> Alex Goligoski scored his first career shootout goal on his first career attempt.

> Dany Sabourin improved his record to 3-0 in shootouts this season. He gave up a goal in his first attempt, but hasn’t allowed a goal since – stopping 13 straight shooters.
1. Sidney Crosby, PIT
2. Simon Gagne, PHI
3. Alex Goligoski, PIT
"The kid's pretty good at shootouts in practice. We
practice it every week. He definitely has the skill."
- Michel Therrien on Alex Goligoski


Author: Sam Kasan

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