In a breathtakingly exhilarating and incredibly entertaining game, the Flyers ended up with a 6-5 victory over the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday – improving their regular-season record in the building to 6-1 all-time.
Jakub Voracek scored a hat trick, Wayne Simmonds had two goals and Nicklas Grossman scored once for the Flyers. Five different Penguins scored goals: Matt Niskanen, Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy, James Neal and Brandon Sutter. Paul Martin finished with three assists. Ilya Bryzgalov made 27 saves for Philadelphia while Tomas Vokoun had 26 saves for Pittsburgh.
“It was an entertaining game, that’s for sure," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "It was fun at times and not so fun at times, but obviously not the result we wanted.”
While the game had an exciting ending (see below), overall tonight reminded the Penguins of their 2012 playoff series with the Flyers – and not in a good way.
The Flyers know exactly what to do to agitate the Penguins and get under their skin, and they trapped them into getting off their game on Wednesday evening. The Penguins got sucked into scrums and post-whistle skirmishes instead of skating away, and losing their cool like that just can’t happen moving forward.
“I think we lost our focus a little bit,” Orpik said. “It was something we addressed even before the playoffs last year and then something we addressed after the playoffs. They obviously like to target certain guys on our team and for whatever reason we like to retaliate back. We got to figure out a way to move on and take that stuff and try a little harder.”
With that being said, the Penguins didn't give up. They battled hard to make this one heck of a game till the very end.
"Even though we were down two goals late, the bench was still positive," Neal said. "We knew we could still win this game. It was tough coming out in the third period and giving one up early there, but we came back strong and fought to the end to win that game. Just a tough one."
It’s hard to find the words to describe what happened in the final half or so of the third period on Wednesday night, but I’ll do my best. Here’s what happened.
The Flyers had a 5-3 lead with 12:04 left to play when Tanner Glass got a double minor for high sticking. With 20 seconds left on that Flyers power play, Mike Knuble high-sticked Deryk Engelland and drew blood – giving the Penguins a four-minute power play of their own.
With 3:19 minutes left on that power play, Ruslan Fedotenko went off for high sticking – giving the Penguins a full two minutes of 5-on-3 hockey. It was time for Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz to go to work. And soon after (29 seconds later, to be exact), Neal put the Penguins within one when he slapped a feed from Malkin past Bryzgalov.
With 25 seconds left on Knuble’s penalty and 54 seconds left on Fedotenko’s, Max Talbot gloved the puck in the offensive zone and he went to the box – giving the Penguins even more 5-on-3 time.
The Penguins thought they tied it up at 5-5 when Kunitz knocked the puck in with his foot, but the play was reviewed and the goal taken back when it was determined that he made a distinct kicking motion. The score remained 5-4 Flyers. The Penguins absolutely had the 18,650 in attendance behind them as I don’t know if I’ve ever heard this building as loud as it was during Pittsburgh's time on the power play, but they couldn’t get the tying score during the rest of the man-advantage.
Enter Brandon Sutter, with the clock ticking down.
He won a faceoff in the offensive zone and got the puck behind the net, waited a few seconds then put a wraparound goal past Ilya Bryzgalov to knot the score 5-5 with 2:03 left in the game.
"That's a huge goal from Suttsy to tie it up," Neal said. "When we got on the power play, we were gaining momentum. We knew we had a chance to win the game if we got a couple."
But the Flyers refused to let this game go to overtime. Voracek completed his hat trick with 1:31 left in the game when he put a bad-angle shot past Vokoun to win the game for Philly.
"He shot it from behind the net and I knocked it in my own net," Vokoun said. "That’s tough. The guys battled hard and tied the game. A goal like that is a bad break. Sometimes that’s the way hockey is. It’s really disappointing. It was an all-around weird game. No puck luck for me much today. You can’t make excuses. I think we deserved a point, but by my mistake we didn’t get it."
It was a painful way to lose a game like this.
“I thought we had a good mentality the whole period," Crosby said. "We didn’t start well and they scored a goal early, but I thought we stuck with things and earned the breaks we got and were able to tie the game, but unfortunately it’s tough. We had the right mentality and sometimes it’s a little too late.”
For an example of how back and forth the first period of Wednesday’s game was, take this – both coaches used their timeouts within the first 12:49 of play, and not to give their players rests after icing the puck.
The first period had everything that makes the Pens-Flyers rivalry as heated as it is (and a lot of the aspects that the Pens players said they needed to avoid, and did not). It had goals, hits, penalties, after-whistle scrums, a big fight and just some good old up-and-down action.
It was all Pittsburgh to start, as the Penguins built up a 2-0 lead 7:15 into the game on an even-strength goal from Niskanen and a power-play tally by Malkin.
After Malkin’s goal got the crowd roaring, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called timeout to steady his team. And from there on out, the momentum completely changed.
The Penguins had outshot the Flyers 12-2 while they held a 2-0 advantage. But Philadelphia finished the period outshooting Pittsburgh 13-1 as they battled back to tie it 2-2.
Grossmann made it 2-1 with 11:49 left in the period when he lifted the puck into the net after a bizarre scramble in the crease that had all five Penguins skaters collapsed down into the net. Then just one minute later, Simmonds tied the score when he put home a beautiful fake shot pass from Danny Briere – causing Penguins coach Bylsma to use his timeout.
"We’ve had some good starts," Crosby said. "We had a good start here tonight and didn’t find a way to hold that lead.”
After that, it started to get real chippy. A scrum erupted by the Flyers bench that resulted in unsportsmanlike conducts for Matt Cooke and Voracek and a roughing minor for Deryk Engelland. During the ensuing Flyers power play, Tanner Glass and Simmonds absolutely pummeled each other in the corner of the Penguins zone to a defeaning-loud crowd.
"After we go up two, they start running around a bit and it's the same old story with getting in with what they like to do after the whistle," Neal said. "We can't get dragged in to that. But we'll be alright. We'll get it back together here and look forward to the next game."
The teams must have used the intermission to cool off and refocus, as the second period was much calmer on both sides before the action picked up again in the third.
MALKIN MAKES UP
Malkin got absolutely robbed early in the first period while the Penguins were on a power play. Malkin was open on the right circle and whipped a shot to the goal. He pointed furiously at the net after the whistle blew, as it looked like Ilya Bryzgalov gloved the puck inside of the net after it had crossed the goal line.
It was hard to tell from the replays, as it looked like Bryzgalov’s glove was behind the post in one angle while another made it look like his glove didn’t cross the goal line. The play was reviewed, but after a few minutes it was ruled inconclusive – no goal for Malkin.
But don’t worry – he wasted no time in making up for it. On the same power play. From the same spot.
Paul Martin made an incredible – and lucky – play when he opted to bank the puck off the back boards instead of taking a shot from the point. It bounced right to Malkin, who went down on one knee to slam it home. Bryzgalov didn’t have a chance on this one.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo