The Flyers had halted lengthy Penguins winning streaks (11 in 2010-11; 12 in 2011-12) for two straight seasons entering Sunday’s game at CONSOL Energy Center. But they weren’t able to stop the Penguins for a third season in a row as Pittsburgh gutted out a 2-1 overtime win over their archrival.
Tyler Kennedy was the overtime hero for Pittsburgh, scoring 2:27 into the extra period to give the Penguins their 12 straight win – which is now the longest streak in the NHL this season.
Captain Sidney Crosby also scored for the Penguins while Marc-Andre Fleury starred in goal for Pittsburgh, making 27 saves to get his seventh straight win. Claude Giroux scored for Philadelphia and Ilya Bryzgalov played strong in net on the other end of the rink, making 33 saves.
For the majority of the contest, Pittsburgh just didn’t have puck luck. They were pressing hard, creating chances and controlling play, but the bounces just weren’t going their way. But they stuck with it and eventually got rewarded. Overall, they were pleased with their effort in tonight's game – especially after performances against the Capitals and the Islanders where the Penguins didn’t feel like they played their best hockey.
“I think tonight we were much better and got rewarded eventually for it,” Crosby said. “But we've got to make sure we are playing the right way no matter what the results are. That was a good step tonight to kind of getting our game back.”
In the first period, Kennedy tried to be a little too fancy with the puck on his stick. He didn’t take a couple of shots when he had the chance, trying to deke around defenders instead of just putting his head down and firing it.
He heard from the head coach about that.
“I passed up two shots in the first period,” Kennedy said. “I tried to toe drag and coach (Dan Bylsma) came up to me and said I’ve got to shoot. He was right. I just need to try and shoot a little bit more.”
He had that mentality when he received a pass from Matt Niskanen in overtime. Niskanen had the puck on the blue line and sent a gorgeous spin-o-rama feed around a defender to Kennedy. Kennedy waited for the right shot, doing a quick fake to give him a bit more open space before firing it top shelf past Bryzgalov.
“I knew they were coming out hard on 'Nisky',” said Kennedy, who said he had called for the puck. “Nisky made an unbelievable pass and I just shot at the net.”
Winning streaks like this one the Penguins are on require clutch performances from throughout the lineup. They got that from Kennedy tonight, who returned to the lineup with a big effort after missing the previous game due to illness. He's certainly feeling much better after tonight.
“I was sick the other day, but it’s always nice to come in and try and help the team,” Kennedy said.
It didn’t feel like a typical rivalry game between the teams, as virtually no fights, post-whistle scrums or any other extracurriculars ensued. And for the majority of the evening, the refs had their whistles in their pockets and were letting the teams play – until something happened that they couldn’t ignore.
Wayne Simmonds slashed Brooks Orpik, was sent to the box and the Penguins had a crucial power play with 7:08 left in the third period while down 1-0. Then just 23 seconds into Simmonds’ penalty, Chris Kunitz got a go-ahead pass that sent him behind the defense and alone on Bryzgalov – forcing Kimmo Timonen to hook him, which got the veteran defenseman a seat in the box next to his teammate and awarded the Penguins 1:37 on the 5-on-3.
And just over 30 seconds later, with the 18,662 in attendance roaring their support for the home team, Crosby buried a feed from Paul Martin to even the score at 1-1 – extending his NHL-leading point total to 53 in 32 games.
It was the breakthrough the Penguins needed. From there, they were able to force overtime and come away with the two points to keep their streak alive.
“It felt like even if we didn’t get that, we were still getting chances 5-on-5,” Crosby said. “So I think the fact we were able to get that power play 5-on-3 late in the game, you've got to find a way to make that count, so it was definitely a big one.”
Games between the Penguins and the Flyers tend to be high-scoring affairs and dazzling displays of offense, with the teams combining for 20 goals in their last two games before Sunday. It feels like defense is more of an afterthought in those meetings – but not tonight.
Both teams played strong and tight in their own ends, with both goalies playing outstanding for their respective clubs and allowing just one goal each in regulation – both coming on the power play (the Penguins went 1-for-3; the Flyers went 1-for-1). Tonight marked the eighth-straight game the Penguins have allowed two goals or fewer, and during that stretch they have allowed a total of just nine goals.
Fleury starred for the Penguins – especially late in the game – and anchored their defensive effort, but he credited his teammates for their responsible play.
“I thought, once again, that was a great team effort,” Fleury said. “It wasn’t just the D, but the forwards were being careful with the puck. They’re coming back to help in their zone and it’s been big for our success.”
PENS ACQUIRE BRENDEN MORROW
There’s always so much excitement and buzz surrounding a meeting between rivals Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but tonight a lot of that laid elsewhere.
During the first period, the Penguins announced they had acquired captain Brenden Morrow and a 2013 third-round draft pick from the Dallas Stars in exchange for defense prospect Joe Morrow and a 2013 fifth-round draft pick.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero spoke to the media during the first intermission about the trade and our own Sam Kasan wrote an analysis on the Morrow acquisition. Get the full story here
Author: Michelle Crechiolo