Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center.
* The Pens used the strength of their goaltender and special teams to pull ahead of cross-state rival Philadelphia in their First Round Series, 2-1. The Flyers tilted the ice in their favor in the first period, but the opportunistic Pens led 1-0. Pittsburgh pulled away with 3 goals in the second period and finished it off in the final frame for the win.
* The Pens' power play had its difficulties in Games 1-2. Poor zone entries and inefficiency in the faceoff dot led to a 1-for-8 performance, well below the club's regular-season NHL-best 26.2-percent success rate. It was only a matter of time before Pittsburgh's man-advantage would be an advantage.
The Pens' power play struck thrice in Game 3 (Derick Brassard, Evgeni Malkin, Justin Schultz). And the reason was pretty simple: shots. The Pens emphasized shots and the results followed.
More on the power play to come.
* Games certainly aren't won in 20 minutes. But Matt Murray's performance in the opening frame of this contest was a big reason that the Pens have a 2-1 series lead.
In the first minute of the game Nolan Patrick had a breakaway after pulling around Olli Maatta. He deked and then tried to go against the grain on Murray. But the Pens' goalie stacked his pad and glove and caught the shot for the denial.
Murray also made a huge stop following a miscommunication by the Pens during a line change. Justin Schultz thought he had help on the weak side, but realized too late that no one had a mark on Valtteri Filppula, who had a clear lane to the goal. Murray came way out of his crease to stone Filppula, then reached out the paddle to poke check the rebound from Travis Konecny.
The Flyers had an 11-4 edge in shots in the opening period, but the Pens escaped with a 1-0 lead. Pittsburgh blew the game open in the second period, but that was only possible because of the play of its netminder in the opening 20.
* If you read the stat sheet on the Pens' opening goal of the game, it'll say Sidney Crosby's fourth goal of the playoffs from Patric Hornqvist. What you don't see on the scoresheet was the play by defenseman Brian Dumouiln that led to the goal.
The Flyers were about to exit the defensive zone when Michael Raffl had the puck on his stick near the halfwall. Dumoulin pinched in and hit Raffl, causing his pass to misfire and resulting in a turnover. Hornqvist picked up that errant puck and found Crosby, who steered around the back of the net and deposited it into the goal. Dumoulin didn't get an assist, but that goal only happens because of his effort. Those little plays create big results in the playoffs.
But don't worry. Dumoulin would get his name on the scoresheet after slipping the puck through goalie Brian Elliott's five-hole to give the Pens a 4-0 lead in the second period. So everything worked out in the end.
(Update: The NHL changed the scoresheet. Dumoulin has now been awarded an assist on the Crosby goal. Well deserved).
* The Pens runaway began in the second period with three goals in a 4:05-minute span. Two of those goals were scored five-seconds apart, setting a new franchise record for fastest two goals in the playoffs and tying an NHL record.
The record setter came right after Malkin blew a one-timer from the circle into the top corner on the power play to give Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead at 6:48. Crosby won the ensuing faceoff forward, carried into the offensive zone and found Dumoulin trailing the play. The defenseman scored at the 6:53 mark and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.
* Great patience shown by Phil Kessel on the Pens' 2nd goal by Brassard. Kris Letang took a shot from the point on the power play and the rebound ended up on Kessel's stick by the goal line. Instead of trying to quickly get off of a shot from a bad angle he found Brassard in the lower circle. A lot of players would have tried to quickly put that puck on net. Kessel made the smart play.
* Crosby finished the game with 4 points (1G-3A), which tied a career playoff high. He now has 15 points (5G-10A) in 9 playoff contests in Philadelphia. He loves playing in this city.
* The Pens off the bat switched up their top 3 line combinations: