Over the past few months, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been on the warpath, rolling over all comers and establishing themselves as the Eastern Conference's most dangerous team. Despite the Philadelphia Flyers possessing a strong case to be called the second-most dangerous team in the conference over that span, even they are clearly not on Pittsburgh's level right now.
For the second time in two weeks, the Flyers lost to their in-state rivals in convincing fashion, this time falling by a score of 6-2. Due to Boston's 6-4 loss earlier in the day, they remain one point ahead of the Bruins for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but this was a missed opportunity to create some breathing room. Steve Mason made 33 saves for Philadelphia but still earned the loss, while rookie Matt Murray stopped 28 for his seventh NHL victory.
As usual for the rivalry, the game included its fair share of ugliness on both sides. Wayne Simmonds appeared to make contact with Kris Letang's head late in the second period, and hit Murray in the head with his stick in the third, though he apparently did apologize to the goalie following the play for that incident. On the Pittsburgh side, Tom Kuhnhackl made contact with an already off-balance Andrew MacDonald and drove his head into the boards, forcing the Flyers defenseman from the game.
From the opening shift, Pittsburgh jumped all over the Flyers, as Patric Hornqvist nearly scored within the first thirty seconds of the game. That was just the beginning of a 16-shot barrage by the Penguins that would result in the home team grabbing a 2-0 lead by the end of the period. Only a early power play gave the Flyers a brief respite from the onslaught. Steve Mason was on his game and made a number of tough stops, but even he could not keep the red-hot Penguins off the scoreboard entirely.
Noted Flyers nemesis Sidney Crosby kicked off the scoring after drawing a penalty on Wayne Simmonds with five minutes left in the period. He collected a loose puck in front and then pulled it around Mason for a power play tally and the first goal of the game. Just 65 seconds later, Pittsburgh doubled their advantage. Matt Read turned the puck over in the offensive zone and the Penguins immediately initiated a counterattack, which finished with Conor Sheary sliding the puck over to Beau Bennett on the ensuing two-on-one rush for a 2-0 Pittsburgh lead. The Flyers trudged into the locker room knowing that the deficit was totally deserved.
Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia was much improved in the second period, but it only succeeded in moving their play quality from "total disaster" to "passable but still a step slow." The Flyers did outshoot the Penguins 13-10, but lost the shot attempts battle and failed to make a dent in Pittsburgh's lead. Patrick Hornqvist actually extended Pittsburgh's advantage to three goals midway through the period, but a late push by the Flyers resulted in a Wayne Simmonds top-corner snipe that ensured Philadelphia would face the same two-goal deficit in the third as they did at the start of the second.
Little changed in the third period. Carl Hagelin put the Penguins back up by three goals with an incredible play, diving to tip a no-look pass from Nick Bonino past Mason and into the net. The Flyers did respond four minutes later, as Jakub Voracek redirected a Shayne Gostisbehere wrist shot from the point past Murray, but it was too little, too late. Eric Fehr would even add two more Pittsburgh goals by the final whistle to solidify the Penguins' third straight victory over the Flyers this season.
Questions to Answer:
- The Pens pretty much rolled up the Flyers the last time these two teams played. Better today? Same story as two weeks ago. The Penguins skated faster, were cleaner with their passes, and simply looked like the all-around better team.
- In particular, how do the top two lines on each side match up? The Giroux line had a number of strong shifts, but they mostly came during time away from Sidney Crosby's unit. The second line has had better games as well.
- Real coming-out party for the power play yesterday. More good from them in this one? They went 0-for-2 and weren't able to carry over their success from the previous day, though they did create a few solid chances.
- Interesting goalie duel today as Mason plays his 800th consecutive start while rookie Matt Murray also goes back-to-back for Pittsburgh. Who wins there? Mason wasn't the problem, as only the Patric Hornqvist goal could have been stopped without a herculean effort from the Flyers' netminder. Murray was solid, but the Flyers didn't make life too difficult for him.
- Because it's Flyers-Penguins, any real stupid stuff happen in this one? Yep. Simmonds and Kuhnhackl in particular didn't come out of this game looking too good.
Comment of the Night:
This game makes me sad.