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Kennedy, Malone Spark Rally in Alumni Game

Alumni showdown a precursor to the Feb. 25 Stadium Series matchup between the Penguins and Flyers at Heinz Field

by Jason Seidling @PensPRLady / Pittsburgh Penguins

Professional athletes are some of the most competitive people on earth. Even after they step away from the game, anytime they return to action, those competitive juices return instinctively.

And just in case that competitiveness didn't come back right away, Penguins' alumni team head coach Eddie Johnston made sure it would when he delivered his pre-game speech before Saturday night's alumni contest against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center:

"Be competitive AND have a little bit of fun."

Johnston's squad accomplished both directives, twice rebounding from a pair of two-goal deficits to score three times in the third period to escape with a 3-3 tie.

Ryan Malone scored twice and Tyler Kennedy notched the equalizing tally with four minutes remaining in regulation, snapping a shot over the glove of Brian Boucher. Jocelyn Thibault made sure Kennedy's goal held up as the tying marker by stoning John LeClair and Mikael Renberg in the closing seconds.

The Pens' third-period rally was sparked by Johnston refusing to give in when defeat might have seemed inevitable, instead electing to shorten his bench and go with some of his younger skaters, led by Malone, Kennedy and Colby Armstrong, during the final frame.

"You have to shorten the bench a little bit, add a little speed," Johnston said with a wink afterwards.

Philadelphia jumped ahead to that 3-1 lead thanks to goals from Dave Brown, Daniel Briere (yes, he was on-sides when he scored this time) and Eric Desjardins.

Malone, who had slid his own rebound into the net for Pittsburgh's first goal, got the Pens within one when he tucked a backhand under a sprawled Boucher after being set up with a Kennedy feed.

Moments later, Kennedy, a hero of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup championship, sped down the right wing past a Flyers defenseman before beating Boucher.

"I saw an opening and I just tried to shoot it as hard as I could," Kennedy said.

Just as important to Pittsburgh's cause as its young legs was the goaltending tandem of Thibault and starter Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who each turned in several highlight-reel saves.

"Our goalkeepers were phenomenal," Johnston said. "We needed that."

As ecstatic as the Penguins were about escaping with the draw, they were even more impressed with the show put on by the Flyers and their fans throughout the evening.

Not only did Wells Fargo Center attract a capacity crowd of 19,727, but the fans were engaged throughout, with many on their feet in the waning moments when Thibault saved the Penguins with his acrobatics.

From the get-go, the Flyers and their game entertainment staff gave an A-plus effort.

Between having players from both squads introduced through a fog machine to the touching dedication to all the deceased Flyers alumni from the team's first 50 years, this night was something the participants won't soon forget.

"That blew me away," Armstrong said. "From the introductions to the fans to the guys out there, it was just amazing. I don't think you can do a better job."

"I have played in alumni games where there is 200-300 people, so this was amazing," Phil Bourque added. "I thought the Flyers put on a great presentation. I thought the fans were awesome. When have you ever said that?"

The alumni game was Philadelphia's signature event of its 50th season celebration, and a precursor to the Penguins-Flyers NHL Stadium Series game that will be played on Saturday, February 25 at Heinz Field.

Fans can watch the Penguins-Flyers alumni game on Tuesday, January 17 at 7:30 PM on ROOT SPORTS.

Like Father, Like Son

One of the more interesting storylines from the alumni game was the father-son combos that took part.

Greg Malone, Pittsburgh's leading scorer in 1978-79, had planned to participate in the alumni game on the coaching staff, but he quickly called an audible once he heard that his son, Ryan Malone, would be suiting up.

"Once I heard Ryan was playing, I said what the heck I'm going to play," Greg Malone said. "I'm getting up there in age, so this might be my only chance to play with him."

The younger Malone, who led the wave of Pittsburgh-born players that have invaded the NHL over the last decade, was equally as thrilled to take a few shifts with his dad.

"It's going to be really fun to be able to get out there together," Ryan Malone said following Saturday's morning skate.

Jamie and Reggie Leach also shared the ice for together, but in a different fashion than the Malones.

Jamie, who skated for Pittsburgh from 1989-93 and was a contributor to the Pens' Cup wins in 1991 and '92, got to face his father, Reggie, a 1975 Stanley Cup champion and the 1976 Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the Flyers.

"That was the first time we played against one another, so it was pretty special," Jamie Leach said. "Growing up here in Philadelphia, it was huge for me to play in this game against not only my dad, but (Bob) Clarke and (Bill) Barber, two players I grew up idolizing."

Both Leaches factored into the scoring summary. Jamie set up Ryan Malone's first goal, while Reggie had the secondary helper on Eric Desjardins' tally.

Flyers' Roster Featured Several Ex-Pens

Philadelphia's playing roster for the alumni game included three players with ties to the Penguins.

Defenseman Kjell Samuelsson was acquired by Craig Patrick and the Penguins from the Flyers in February 1992 alongside Rick Tocchet and Ken Wregget. Samuelsson was a major contributor as a shutdown presence on Pittsburgh's '92 Stanley Cup championship squad.

Orest Kindrachuk, a forward who won two Cups with the Flyers in 1974 and '75, was Pittsburgh's captain from 1978-81.

Rounding out the trio was power forward John LeClair, who in 2005-06 joined Mark Recchi as Sidney Crosby's first-ever linemates. 

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