Game 1 of the Keystone State Rivalry took place in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center Thursday night. The thriving Penguins skated away with a 4-1 victory over the struggling Flyers.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves and was spectacular when he needed to be to preserve the victory. The Penguins had goals from Jussi Jokinen, Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
With the win, the Penguins improved to 6-1 on the season while the Flyers fell to 1-7. Despite the difference in records, it was still a pivotal game from the Penguins’ point of view.
“I didn’t want to say it, but if they win that game they’re six points behind us,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We didn’t think we were playing a team that resembled the record that they had. They have a dangerous team.
“This game rivaled in intensity and physicality any game we’ve played this year. It was an opportunity for us to win this hockey game and go up 10 points. We were treating it like a big match in our division against a good team.”
There was a freaky occurrence in the game that gave the Penguins an abbreviated power play.
Braydon Coburn took a tripping penalty with 59 seconds left in the first period. That carried over into the second period. But due to a clock mismanagement, Coburn was let out of the box about 20 seconds too soon.
“My understanding is that there was a 20-second promotion in between periods that the clock ran for,” Bylsma said. “I didn’t look at the scoreboard to see (the time) and then I realized it when the guy came out after 43 seconds that he came out prematurely.”
The Penguins had a 2-0 lead on the Flyers in the final minutes of a completely dominant second period. However, the game turned when Fleury took an interference penalty and the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds scored on a tip-in with just two seconds remaining in the middle frame.
“We weren’t too happy with the one that went in at the end,” center Brandon Sutter said. “We were in good position and did a good job killing. They got one that went off a stick and went in.”
The Penguins started the final period with a one-goal lead by taking back-to-back penalties. The Flyers came close on several occasions to tying the game, but the PK unit managed to keep the puck out and kill off both penalties.
“The PK was awesome,” Fleury said. “They have a good power play. We handled it well and didn’t give them too much. It was key.”
DEFENSE IN THIRD
After the Penguins were successful in killing back-to-back penalties, the defense went into 1-3-1 lockdown mode. Pittsburgh played a disciplined, passive game in the third period to maintain the lead.
The Penguins collapsed to the net, cleared away all second-chance opportunities and Fleury made crucial saves when he needed to.
“I thought we did a real good job of limiting their opportunities, not giving them a lot,” Bylsma said. “I thought our team did a real good job of playing hard, solid defense, six-man unit out there. It was a hard-fought game, our hardest-fought game of the year. They were up to the task.”
ENGELLAND MOVES FORWARD
The Penguins adjusted their lineup with an interesting move. Defenseman Deryk Englland was moved up into a wing position on the fourth line with Harry Zolnierczyk and Joe Vitale.
Engelland had practiced playing forward three times during the season and acclimated himself well. He finished the game with 7:23 minutes of ice time, one shot and two hits.
Sidney Crosby set a new career-long scoring streak to open a season with points in his first seven contests of the season. This beats his previous streak of six games, set in his rookie season in 2005-06. Crosby has 14 points (6G-8A) during the current streak.
Author: Sam Kasan