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Flyers 2, Penguins 1: Light in the darkness

The Flyers actually did something good. Kinda wild.

NHL: APR 15 Flyers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Flyers and the Penguins battled it out tonight in Pittsburgh, and things actually went pretty well for Philly; that was a genuine surprise. What happened, who were the stars, and what were the storylines? All that (plus music) below.

First Period

This was a ridiculously uneventful period. The most notable occurrences were the two teams trading penalties (Farabee and Jarry with trips, Ivan Provorov with a hook), and even then neither power play did anything with the chances. It was really pretty lackluster stuff; perimeter-based, low event hockey. Hart looked quite good in goal, at least, and the penalty kill was solid. Allison was on Giroux’s power play unit and created a few chances, and Tanner Laczynski flashed his promise a few times by contributing in transition. Other than that, not a ton happened.

Second Period

Things were a bit more exciting in the second period, but not in the way Flyers fans wanted. After Justin Braun got cooked for the second time in as many periods, a muffed pokecheck attempt by Hart led to a soft goal by, who else, Sidney Crosby. It should also be noted that Nolan Patrick (who was supposed to be defending the Penguins captain) essentially coasted into the zone while slightly leaning up against him.

Joel Farabee nearly set up Tanner Laczynski’s first career tally with a patient keep at the Pittsburgh blue line, but the rookie couldn’t put home a sharp-angle shot. After allowing that iffy goal, Hart came up big a number of times, stuffing McCann, Rust and others with ease. That’s a positive sign for a goalie whose main concern is confidence. The Flyers continued to chip away at Jarry, but repeated chances didn’t find their way into the back of the net. The Orange & Black exited the period down a goal.

Third Period

The Flyers had steadily outplayed the Penguins the entire game with little to show for it, but their sustained effort carried over into the third period and eventually resulted in a goal. Jake Voracek walked in and put the puck five-hole. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

Afterwards, the game paused when Nolan Patrick took a Phil Myers shot off the head and went down, hard. It was a frightening outcome for a player who missed all of last year with a migraine condition; Patrick did not return, so this is a situation to monitor.

The Penguins tilted the ice in their favor after Voracek’s goal, but Wade Allison ensured it wasn’t all Pittsburgh. Big Red relentlessly attacked the net, putting his goal scoring mentality on full display for fans who weren’t familiar with his game. Also notable was Braun, who looked about as fast as a snail in a jar of molasses. The veteran defenseman seemed to have found his stride from February onward, but tonight he looked about as young and effective as 2013-14 Hal Gill. That doesn’t bode well for the foreseeable future.

After some more “let’s pass the puck and not do much” hockey, a 2-on-1 came the other way towards Hart. The young goalie made an unbelievable save to keep the game knotted at one, with Evan Rodrigues looking skyward. Gotta love it.

As time wound down, the Pens ramped up the pressure and eventually drew a penalty when Travis Konecny held Brian Dumoulin. A successful kill was almost erased by a Joel Farabee high stick, but oddly enough the referees simply... didn’t call it? Weird. After some more officiating shenanigans with a late face-off call, the period came to an end. Overtime hockey thanks to Hart and Voracek. That’s something!

Overtime

The period kicked off with a 2-on-1 bonanza, where Jake Guentzel getting the closest to ending things with a shot off the post. Hart looked sharp while the Flyers floundered and failed to complete obvious cross-ice passes; the young netminder activated the debugger and made a number of absurd saves. Crosby tripped Couturier, and after a time out the Orange & Black looked to end things. Of course, this is a Michel Therrien power play, so nothing happened. On to the shootout.

A pair of dazzling goals by Giroux and Couturier buried the Penguins, and the Flyers beat the Penguins in the shootout for the first time in franchise history.

Three Big Things

  1. Hart was truly spectacular in this game. The goal he allowed wasn’t awesome, obviously, but the Penguins could have easily won at many points. This was a goalie duel, and the young Philly goalie clearly won. This emphasizes to me that the whole “the schedule has completely wrecked this team” narrative might be a bit more apt than I previously thought. It’s good to see Hart playing up to his talent again.
  2. Wade Allison, have a night. Big Red showed exactly why he was a promising prospect when healthy at Western Michigan; he possesses a unique blend of size, power, and a bomb of a shot. His netfront awareness was on full display, and the beefy winger flashed his willingness to put the puck on net a number of times. Hopefully he sustains this kind of performance and earns a spot in the lineup. Our Phantoms folks seem to think that’s reasonably likely.
  3. This was a low event game, but the Flyers actually looked pretty decent for most of it. However, there was a glaring issue on the back end. Justin Braun is a guy who should probably be replaced in the offseason, but he’s been the least of the team’s problems through this painful stretch. Still, the veteran looked painfully slow tonight, and it almost cost the team. Braun is a guy to watch as the season comes to a close.

Post Game Tunes

In honor of the man Ron Hextall christened the “Big Red Train,” here’s a famous song involving a locomotive that has a little Tennessee flavor. Enjoy.

Good night, good hockey, and as always, go Flyers.