Despite what I told myself I would do last year, and the year before, and also the year prior to that, I ended up not going to the Stadium Series game.
It hurt me to make this decision, but I felt in my heart it was the right one to make. First of all, most significantly, I hate when it is cold, and it has been so cold today. I walked to the post office, which is about a mile away, and thought I was going to die. Dramatic? Perhaps. I will concede that I have a flare for drama. The point is this: was I going to sacrifice my comfort? Of course I would not be doing that. Also, how could I pass up the opportunity to write this recap? I love to talk about how much I hate the Pittsburgh Penguins, and I love big gimmicky shit like this, and my God, I’ve done nothing productive today and I need an excuse to type into the void.
So, yes. The Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re in Philadelphia tonight. You may have heard about it.
Before we begin, I’ll be addressing the elephant in the room here, guys: this is probably the last time Wayne Simmonds will play in a Flyers sweater. I have been thinking about it nonstop all day. It severely pains me.
There are, obviously, two schools of thought here, a left-and-right-brain type conundrum. Let’s say that part of me is logical, business-like, calculated, able to see a clear line from point A to point B with little thought of what lay in between there. Let’s also say there’s a part of me that is all about emotion, nostalgia, personal touches, faith, loyalty. They are at war with each other right now. More accurately, the emotional part of me has pummeled the logical side of me deep into the Earth’s crust. I don’t want to lose Wayne Simmonds. I know we are going to, and I know it makes sense, and I know it ultimately is a positive thing, but I will never be able to see him in another team’s jersey without wishing death upon myself.
Thankfully, for Simmonds and also for my own sanity, this game was the absolute perfect send-off. An outdoor game to a crowd of nearly 70,000 people, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, on a dark and rainy night like drawn up in some dramatic novel, a third period come-back, an exhilarating overtime win. That’s right—a win. They won this game. They won this game 4-3. It happened, a lot of people were there, I myself was watching from home. I can prove it, as I have written many words about it, and have attached some visual aides as well.
I don’t know what to do with myself. I am feeling a lot of different things right now. Leave me now in peace.
Listening to "Blue Ain't Your Color" like pic.twitter.com/gbm57Mdh88— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
I cannot begin to explain how it feels to watch this game. Presumably you are here because you didn’t get the chance to catch the game, and I am deeply sorry if that is the case, because as corny as it is to say, it does feel a little special. Is this what Chicago fans feel like? It is simply magical. Sure, the ice kind of looks like shit, but it’s the novelty. It’s the fun of it all.
Right from the start of the period, it was not entirely surprising to see the Pittsburgh Penguins looking like the better team. Let’s be honest with ourselves and say that they probably have a little bit more depth and they’re playing with a bit more on the line. In a hockey sense, they are probably better, but in the sense of morality and physical allure, we all know who tips the scales there.
The game already looked chippy and mean, the exact type of thing we want to see from this match-up. Twin roughing minors would be served to Garrett Wilson and Robert Hagg at 5:47, bringing us to the first (but not the last) 4-on-4 play of the period. Although no one would score here, at intermittent moments throughout the next two minutes, the Penguins looked like they were on a power play, and I nearly forgot that they weren’t. That’s good stuff right there. I love these incredible idiots.
Not too long after the game returned to even-strength, Jake Voracek would do something that will probably keep him lying awake tonight and make a fairly egregious turnover in front of the net. You might think, “well, let’s see if the goalie can bail us out of this mess,” but then you see that the puck was turned over to Sidney Crosby, and yeah, okay, fine. The Flyers went down by one goal at 7:59. Cool!
Like clockwork. pic.twitter.com/JyTpzQkdG8— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
There is, however, always a shining light at the end of the tunnel, or at least most of the time. I feel like I’ve said good things about Sean Couturier a lot lately, but all of those things bear repeating. You know how they say you should always train a puppy to poop outside with positive reinforcements and not negative repercussions? This is why I never say a bad word about Couturier, fun fact! Instead, when he “poops outside” (scores a goal), I shower him with praise and Milk Bones.
Anyway, Sean Couturier is a goddamn animal. The Lindblom-Couturier-Voracek line has consistently been one of the best lines for the Flyers since its conception, and it hasn’t really been close. Couturier slammed one home and the Flyers have the first tying goal at 12:06.
COUTURIER TIES THE GAME! pic.twitter.com/6KeXSUWkVT— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
Despite this excitement, it is necessary to point out that the Flyers had only managed five shots to Pittsburgh’s thirteen with five minutes left in the period, and that is definitely not good. However: they did score on one of those. Makes you think, I suppose.
This game? It’s physical. It’s violent. I feel goddamn feral. I feel like sprinting to the Linc and opening a mosh pit in the stands. Everyone was getting in on it, but most notably our close personal friend Wayne Simmonds, who made an absolute monster of a hit on Brian Dumolin, igniting a scrum at center ice.
Simmonds' hit on Dumoulin. pic.twitter.com/F2trugCpEM— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
Now, it’s important to point out the Simmonds hit, as it was the catalyst to be sure, but the real highlight-reel moment for me was seeing Shayne Gostisbehere absolutely tackle Kris Letang to the ice. It felt good, it felt right, it felt pure.
And the ensuing chaos. pic.twitter.com/dgit6SWbmx— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
Out of all of this, two more matching penalties would be assessed at 16:23 for behavior of the unsportsmanlike persuasion. Simmonds and Letang both went off, and we are back to 4-on-4, folks.
Both teams failed to score on the open ice, but of course.
AFTER ONE: 1-1, shots 18-8 Penguins; Penguins goal scored by Sidney Crosby (7:59), Flyers goal scored by Sean Couturier (12:06)
The rain abated. The game is on. No stupid shootout needed. We’re going for a full three periods of this shit, boys.
Do you guys remember when Jack Johnson went to the Penguins? At times, that is simply just a passing thought of mine, one that flits through my brainium and brings a serene smile to my face. It may happen when I am walking down the street, or clocking into work, or lying at home in bed. It feels like morphine to my system.
For that reason, for the joy it brings to my life, I can’t fully be angry at him for this hit on Nolan Patrick. He is like a sleeper agent to me. A man on the inside.
Johnson gets Patrick in the knee. pic.twitter.com/Wg5mVPtcUP— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
This hit was still bad, though, and I expect nothing less from the Penguins, an ugly team both in their hearts and in their faces. It was knee-on-knee which is never clean and always dirty, fun fact! This would be called a tripping penalty, punishable by a two-minute minor instead of the sacrificial stoning I was hoping for, and the Flyers would go to the first power play of the night.
Although not lacking in effort or energy here, the Flyers failed to score. Matt Murray is having one of those games. People forget that he is ugly. I don’t, though. I don’t forget.
The Flyers looked far and away like the more dangerous team during the first ten minutes of the second period, almost the complete opposite of how they looked in the first. They spent the majority of their time constructing a rustic log cabin in the offensive zone, racking up shots and preventing the Penguins from getting scoring opportunities on the other end of the ice. It felt good. I felt good about it.
It would be completely irresponsible of me to fail to mention Nolan Patrick’s revenge hit on Jack Johnson, because good God, holy hell, I feel like a caged animal. I’m frothing at the mouth. I love nothing more than retribution, and usually I leave it up to the unknown forces of the universe, but Patrick simply decided for himself that he was not letting karma have this one. He was just gonna take matters into his own hands. Who can argue, really.
OH MY NOLAN PATRICK pic.twitter.com/I0QYBSzvTl— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
Right, so the first ten minutes was good, and the remaining ten minutes was not so good, all things considered. The first thing to consider is the fact that Justin Schultz, who has one of the most bland names in the world, scored a goal. He is not on the Flyers, so this is not an ideal situation. The Penguins took the lead at 10:01.
Elliott gets a piece of it with his glove, but the puck still goes in. pic.twitter.com/qX8vSFMuo3— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
The Flyers would not succeed in getting one back before the end of the period, allow me to get that out of the way, but this game has just been insanely fun to watch. Sure, it would be more fun if the Flyers were winning, as it usually is, but they’re not giving up without a fight—and I say this quite literally.
ANOTHER huge hit in this game, this time from Gostisbehere. pic.twitter.com/wc76pO0b3Q— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
The physical play in this game was just outright ridiculous. I am typically, most of the time, not entirely “for” violence in hockey. I think it is good that the game is evolving, becoming more focused on skill rather than physicality, et cetera.
However, I do make exceptions. When we are playing the Penguins, I feel most things are justifiable. Feel like committing a murder in the middle of play? Please go for it. I want to see it. Give Radko Gudas a sword. Turn it into The Purge and make it legal to crosscheck for two minutes. Do anything you want. Kill someone, I don’t care. Anything goes. I will shell out the cash to break someone out of jail for aggravated assault. I’ll still be standing by like, “C’mon, ref, that decapitation was completely legal, what the hell.”
Am I biased? Frankly, that’s insulting. I have never been anything of the sort, and I make a strong effort to be impartial in all matters, specifically those of the hockey-related type.
Brian Elliott looked rather sharp tonight. Not as sharp as the potential sword that could be given to Radko Gudas. I am just saying.
AFTER TWO: 2-1 Penguins, shots 30-17 Penguins; Penguins goal scored by Justin Schultz (10:01)
It took only a few seconds for the Flyers to get a high-danger scoring chance off. Jake Voracek came into the offensive zone with a nice burst of speed and rushed Matt Murray’s net, but it was unfortunately not to be. The rebound attempt also looked pretty promising, but once again, we are being punished for something we all did collectively in a former life.
Murray robs Voracek. pic.twitter.com/EnHGGKeNJD— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
The Flyers would manage to get a few nice scoring opportunities in the first ten minutes of the third, but nothing that would be able to solve Murray. I’d like to accept some karmic help now.
The ice started to look real bad around this point, which is truly saying something because it already looked pretty bad from the get-go. Not much can be done about that, especially with the weather, so we are just forced to watch two teams play on ice that barely counts as ice. It’s fine. The Flyers will never win an outdoor game, but it’s okay.
I was having fun with this game, enjoying myself quite a lot, which meant it was the most opportune time for Evgeni Malkin (ugly, and a bad person, and also ugly again) to score a goal at 6:29. I don’t think I hate a player more. I really don’t think it’s possible. I feel I have a large capacity in my soul for emotion, either positive or negative, but Malkin really does take up a lot of real estate in there. I avoid thinking about him if possible, but sometimes it is just not possible, and I am forced to witness.
This was just a terrible look by Elliott, who had been having a solid game prior to this. He attempted a glove save. It was not effective or good or fun for me at all. I don’t even want to look at this. Thanks.
Fitting goal for the Flyers to allow if we're being honest, folks. pic.twitter.com/gbVuaTMGZr— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
I wish I could say the Flyers had a satisfying response to this goal, but I cannot lie to you. It took a long time for the Flyers to look capable of coming back from this, even if they eventually did get to that point. The biggest issue was, I believe, their inability to make clean passes. They weren’t connecting all night, and it showed fairly blatantly.
An interesting/spicy sequence of events would close out the period, as is always the norm for this team that I love so unconditionally. More physical dramatics broke out at center ice, this time between Hagg and Malkin, who started trading back-and-forth cross-checks until the refs decided it had gone on long enough. We would see the third 4-on-4 opportunity of the night at 14:51. Open up that ice, guys, come on, let’s go.
The exciting stuff would start when Matt Cullen was called for a slashing penalty at 15:40. The Flyers were given a 4-on-3 power play that they very quickly turned into a 5-on-3 by pulling Elliott for a bonus attacker. They couldn’t quite get it done here, but they had another minute left for a 6-on-4, which they took full advantage of. This is when it gets good. I promise it gets really good here.
With a just a hair over three minutes left in the game, James van Riemsdyk got us within one on the power play. You should have seen my face. Oh man.
JVR on the doorstep! pic.twitter.com/puF9vocURw— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
The Penguins attempted to call this goaltender interference. I have to laugh.
Elliott would spend a lot of time intermittently going back to the bench over the next few minutes. The Penguins had a lot of net to look at (actually all of it), but couldn’t get possession of puck for long enough to take advantage. I couldn’t help but believe it could happen. I really let myself feel it.
Usually, I find myself regretting optimism and good faith, but not tonight. Tonight, I was on the right side of history.
The Flyers took an offensive zone face-off, twenty seconds left on the clock, and Jake Voracek caught Murray off-guard. The puck? Oh, you know it went in. You know it crossed that sexy little goal line. Excuse me while I suffer from cardiac arrest.
VORACEK SENDS THE GAME TO OVERTIME. pic.twitter.com/caAO0HBh7E— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
AFTER THREE: 3-3, shots 40-35 Penguins; Penguins goal scored by Evgeni Malkin (6:29), Flyers goals scored by James van Riemsdyk (16:56) and Jake Voracek (19:40)
It is hard to write about 3-on-3 overtime, as I truly believe it’s something that should be experienced rather than described, but I will do my best here. This is what you came for. This is what you wanted to know about.
The Penguins took possession off of the opening draw. I don’t know if you know anything about overtime, but many folks say that possession is good to do. To be frank, the Penguins held on to the puck for a good chunk of this overtime, and got plenty of good chances in on Elliott, who was forced to come up big here and delivered. I’ve already forgiven him for letting in that third goal. No, wait, sorry, I just remembered it was Malkin, and I’m still mad about it. I’ll need more time.
Ah, I mean, Claude Giroux.
Claude. Claude Giroux.
Skating towards the net with Justin Schultz covering him, he managed to get an edge, Schultz lost his stick on the play, and Claude Giroux. Oh, my God. My heart is still beating fast. Claude Giroux got it in five-hole on Murray, and my soul left my body, and I made a noise that I can only truly describe as monstrous.
CLAUDE GIROUX WINS IT. pic.twitter.com/nQOLDlsE03— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
That’s the game. The Flyers won an outdoor game, and it was against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it was at the Linc, and every moment of it was delicious and wonderful and I have never in my life felt more alive. I need a cigarette. I don’t even smoke. Goodnight.
AFTER OT: 4-3 Flyers, shots 43-37 Penguins; Flyers goal scored by Claude “Oh Captain, My Captain” Giroux (1:59)
DISCLAIMER: Many words in this article are what one may call “satirical” or “ironic.” Murder is never okay. Don’t do murders. They’re bad.