The Flyers ended 2017 on a high note, but started out 2018 singing the blues. The Penguins scored four goals in just under four minutes in the second period as the Flyers’ rivals cruised to a 5-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. Philadelphia wasted a solid first 20 minutes and wasn’t able to recover from a trio of quick strikes from Ryan Reaves, Conor Sheary, and Tom Kuhnhackl just 3:51 apart in the second period to give the Penguins a commanding 4-1 lead. Jordan Weal scored the lone goal for the Flyers, who squandered four power play chances while watching the Penguins score on both of their man-advantages on the night.
Brian Elliott wasn’t busy early, but did make a nice save on Patric Hornqvist with 9:20 left after the first sustained shift of the night from the Penguins’ top line. That long offensive shift led to an odd-man rush for Michael Raffl, but his pass went wayward and ended in a long attempt on goal from Jake Voracek off the bench.
Desperate to generate offense, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan started double-shifting Sidney Crosby with eight minutes left in the frame. That tells you all about how the past month has gone for the Penguins, who were 6-8 in the month of December. Best chance of the frame for either team was Claude Giroux hitting the post to the right of Tristan Jarry with 3:10 left. Both teams were off to slow start to the new year, to say the least, though the Flyers had the better of the action.
A net drive from Andrew MacDonald up on the play earned the Flyers the first power play of the game, with seven seconds left, as he was the recipient of a high-stick from Kris Letang. It was an uninspiring man-advantage for the Flyers to start the second, however. The best chance—and only shot—came from Jake Guentzel shorthanded, but he was denied by Elliott.
After seeing the Flyers carry play in the first for the most part, the Penguins responded in the first half of the second with a scoring chances first from Guentzel and then Crosby, only to be turned away by Elliott as well. At the 9:09 mark the Penguins would go to their first power play of the game with Travis Konecny off for tripping. The second-year forward thought he drew a penalty, but instead was pulled off for a quick retaliatory trip. The Penguins wouldn’t need long to take the 1-0 lead as Phil Kessel potted his 17th of the season at the 9:35 mark. Evgeni Malkin and Crosby picked up assists on the power play goal as the Flyers surrendered the first goal for the eight time in their last nine games. The lead would last 44 seconds as Weal would tip home a Radko Gudas point shot past Jarry to tie things up at 1-1 for the Flyers. Brandon Manning picked up the other assist on the goal, Weal’s fourth of the season.
As both teams woke up after a sleepy first 20 minutes so did the score. Reaves finished off a workman-like shift with his second of the season to give the Penguins back the lead at 2-1 at 11:09. Reaves out-muscled Ivan Provorov and stuffed home a Kuhnhackl pass right on the crease.
But the Flyers’ arch rival wasn’t done yet. Sheary won a foot race against MacDonald at the Flyers blue line and lifted the puck past Elliott to stretch the Penguins lead to 3-1 just 40 seconds after Reaves’ go-ahead goal. Dearly trying to cut into the Penguins’ lead, both Raffl and Shayne Gostisbehere would be denied by Jarry as the Flyers looked to capitalize again in a wild second period. Instead it would be the Penguins at the other end making it 4-1 as Kuhnhackl beat Elliott this time on the glove side after Provorov couldn’t corral a loose puck in front of his own goal. Time of the goal was 13:26 and was assisted by Riley Sheahan and Reaves.
In goal, the Penguins would replace starter Jarry with Matt Murray with just a little more than five minutes left in the second, after suffering an injury to his hand earlier in the period.
That wouldn’t be the only goalie change in this one, as Flyers coach Dave Hakstol would send Michael Neuvrith out for the third period, marking his first action since November 28. Elliott finished with 10 saves on 14 shots in 40 minutes of action while Neuvirth stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief of Elliott, who did made his 14th-consecutive start.
Though much of the Flyers left their fight in the locker room after the first intermission, Manning took on the hulking Jamie Oleksiak in the third as the veteran tried to provide some spark for his teammates facing a three-goal deficit. Oleksiak did some work with his fists and would get in on the scoring, too. The massive defenseman made it 5-1 Pittsburgh with 5:56 left on the power play to put this one totally out of reach for the Flyers in their first action of 2018. Kessel and Malkin picked up helpers on the goal, Oleksiak’s first with the Penguins.
That would be all she wrote in this one as the Flyers would go on to lose by a 5-1 final as they start out 2018 with a runt right off the bat.