On Sunday afternoon, eight was great for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
They continued their dominance of the Flyers this season with a 4-3 overtime shootout victory at Mellon Arena.
It gave the Penguins (35-21-9) a season sweep in their eight games over Philadelphia in 2006-07. It is first time Pittsburgh has beaten an opponent eight times in one season. Previously, the only teams Pittsburgh had swept in a season series of six or more games were Boston (6-0-0, 1993-94), Ottawa (6-0-0, 1995-96) and Carolina (6-0-0, 1997-98). Also prior to this season, Penguins had never beaten the Flyers more than five times in one campaign, the most recent coming in 1992-93.
The victory gave the Penguins as many wins over the Flyers this season as they managed over the previous six seasons combined.
“It’s nice to be able to win the series like this. But at this time of the year, that was not the purpose,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “The purpose was to get the two points and to find a way to get to the playoffs. That was not even a subject before the game. For Philadelphia, that was extra motivation because you don’t want to get beat eight times in a row by one team in the regular season. But for us, we just wanted a win.”
Mike York gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead 1:36 into the game when he punched in a rebound.
Braydon Coburn’s shot slipped past Marc-Andre Fleury with 6:20 left on the clock for a 2-0 Flyers advantage at the first intermission.
“It’s different to play at this time (12:30 p.m.). It’s not an excuse, as far as I am concerned,” Therrien said. “We didn’t like the way we started. As soon as we started to get involved physically and moving our feet and moving the puck quicker, we’re a good team. If we don’t do those things, we’re a fair team and we were fair.
“The first half of the game looked like a nightmare. Nothing was going on; we weren’t moving the puck well; we took a lot of penalties and there was no rhythm to the game. We were not ready to play. Our minds were not there. The second half, I thought we were better.”
Gary Roberts scored his first goal in a Penguins uniform with 9:13 to go in the second period. Martin Biron stopped Sergei Gonchar’s slap-shot from the far point. However, the puck bounced in front of the crease and Roberts chipped it into the net. Ryan Whitney added the assist.
Erik Christensen made it 2-all with 2:40 remaining in the second. Along the far boards, he took a drop pass from Roberts and rifled a shot over Biron’s shoulder for a power-play. Gonchar added an assist.
R.J. Umberger, a Plum native, gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead 6:59 into third period.
However, Christensen found the back of the net again with 5:15 to play to knot the game at 3-all. Michel Ouellet and Roberts picked up the assists. It gave Roberts a three-point afternoon.
“When you involve leadership, a guy like Gary Roberts – his presence on the ice and his involvement physically by throwing a lot of hits,” Therrien said. “He played really well and he’s the one that led the team to victory [Sunday], there’s no doubt in my mind.”
In the shootout, Christensen led off with a goal, which prompted fans to toss hats onto the ice in celebration of an apparent hat-trick. However, no goals in the overtime shootout count toward personal statistics.
“It was kind of cool the fans threw those hats on the ice,” he said. “If only it did count as a hat-trick.”
Fleury turned aside Stefan Ruzicka and Scottie Upshall. He has now stopped the last 12 shooters he has faced in the overtime shootout. On the afternoon, he made 31 saves.
“I thought he played a good game. He gave us a chance to stay in the game,” Therrien said. “He made some good saves. If it was not for him, we weren’t in that game.”
Sidney Crosby sealed the win when he beat Biron between the leg pads.
The Penguins return to action Tuesday night in Ottawa.
“We better be ready from the start,” Therrien said. “It’s a good thing we don’t play at noon.”
ICE CHIPS: Mark Eaton, Joel Kwiatkowski, Chris Thorburn and Ronald Petrovicky were the Penguins’ scratches…Robert Esche, Randy Jones and Dmitry Afanasenkov were the Flyers’ scratches…The announced attendance was 17,132…Erik Christensen (No. 1), Gary Roberts (No. 2) and Geoff Sanderson (No. 3) were the game’s three stars.