Penguins 4, Flyers 2: Another wild Battle of PA for the books

These two teams can never just have a normal game.

Travis Konecny skates down along the boards as Marcus Pettersson fails to keep up and slams into the glass
Heather Barry Images

This game was already going to be a special one, at least for the Penguins. It marked the 1,000th game for franchise defenseman Kris Letang, after all. After a ceremony that involved a video tribute, gifts, and having his family there by his side, the Penguins and Flyers took the ice for the next installment of the Battle of PA.

These games are always at least a little weird. These two teams hate each other, even if the rivalry has been a lot more one-sided as of late. There's always this level of chaos that occurs when east side meets west side, and tonight's game seemed to be no exception.

Period 1

In the first few minutes, the Flyers seemed to have some jump to their game. The Penguins may have been playing in honor of Letang's 1,000th game, but there's always extra motivation when these two teams meet.

After some back and forth, including some 4-on-4 hockey courtesy of offsetting penalties, the Penguins got on the board with an extremely flukey goal. Rickard Rakell shot the puck, it hit the glass, and when it ricocheted, it hit Sam Ersson in the lower back and then back into the net. Sometimes the hockey gods just aren't on your side.

After that goal, the Penguins started applying more pressure. It also helped that they went on the power play courtesy of  Travis Sanheim earning a slashing penalty. The Flyers' penalty kill was unable to do any of their shorthanded work, and in fact, Rakell scored his second of the game – this time much more directly.

With about three minutes left in the period, Travis Konecny was robbed of a goal thanks to an extremely close save by Casey DeSmith. It was under review because DeSmith's glove was centimeters off from crossing back over the goal line, but it wasn't clear enough to overturn the on-ice call.

After the first, the Flyers were down 2-0, which honestly felt like the correct outcome. With the exception of a few scoring chances, the Penguins dominated that period. The shots on goal alone, 15 to 7, proved it.

Period 2

In the second frame, the action started to even back out again. There were good chances on both ends of the ice, but Ersson and DeSmith were stopping whatever pucks came their way. Even the penalties were offsetting each other. First, Sanheim was called for a second penalty, for tripping Sidney Crosby, but only 13 seconds later, it was nullified when Evgeni Malkin earned a hooking penalty against Ivan Provorov. During this 4-on-4 play, Bryan Rust had a prime breakaway chance, but Justin Braun was the hero as he hustled down the ice to break it up. Just as everyone predicted, right?

Rust would end up having the last laugh, though. After killing off a second Malkin penalty, Crosby broke out down the ice, passed it to Rust, and it beat Ersson. It was also Rust's 500th game, so clearly he just didn't want to be overshadowed by Letang's ceremony.

Shortly after, Malkin took a third penalty this period. (If a Gordie Howe hat trick is a goal, an assist, and a fight, is a Malkin hat trick three penalties?) Yet, it wound up with more 4-on-4 hockey as Noah Cates was called for interference 22 seconds later. Neither team was doing very good at keeping the special teams advantage for long.

Morgan Frost nearly scored his third goal of the back-to-back, but despite the puck making it past DeSmith, it was called off for goaltender interference because of Joel Farabee crashing backwards into the Penguins' netminder. If it hadn't already felt like this game might not be going in the Flyers' favor, that solidified it.

Period 3

The most eventful thing to happen at the start of this period is that Malkin earned himself even more penalties. From the bench, he earned a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and earned a 10-minute misconduct on top of it. He had been clipped by Cam York in the face, it wasn't called, and when he complained to the referees, that was that. Look, when the Flyers and Penguins meet up, penalties are bound to happen, but I don't think I've seen a singular player earn himself alone this many penalty minutes in a Battle of PA game in a very long time. Honestly, you just have to laugh, especially when it's a rival player doing this to himself.

After some power play time for the Flyers – which was as unsuccessful as ever – the amount of momentum in their favor finally resulted in a goal. It was an alliterative goal with Tony DeAngelo passing the puck to Nic Deslauriers. Again, just as everyone predicted, right?

Also just as everyone predicted, this game found itself back to 4-on-4 hockey as Konecny and Ryan Poehling both earned offsetting penalties (slashing and delay of game, respectively). Apparently 5-on-5 hockey is overrated.

As the game started winding down, the Flyers were applying much more pressure in the attacking zone. It was only due for someone to finally gone past DeSmith, and it was Konecny with his second goal in this back-to-back, and second since returning from injury.

The Flyers pulled the goalie with around two minutes left to go, but the risk in that strategy is that someone might score on the empty net. Poehling scored on the empty net. With that, the Flyers lost 4-2.

Final Thoughts

As I had hinted at in the end of last game's preview, this game was set up perfectly for a Flyers loss. The Penguins have been staring down the prospect of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006, and this win leapfrogged them back over the Panthers for that second wild card spot. As for the Flyers, they aren't playing for anything but their own egos, especially with last game's loss officially eliminating them from playoff contention. Add to that an emotional ceremony for their franchise defenseman, and the Penguins were truly playing with house money. As fun as it would have been to help play spoiler to Pittsburgh's playoff chances, draft position matters more.

Besides, it was a whacky game. The most that one can really ask for in a loss is that it be an entertaining loss. Watching flukey goals, an abundance of 4-on-4 hockey, and watching Malkin take enough penalties to practically take himself out of the game is enough weird and wild chaos to make you just laugh.

Up next for the Flyers is a game on the road in St. Louis, against a Blues team that also finds itself out of the playoffs.