Pretty much no matter what happened in this game, you knew there was going to be baggage. These two teams played the last two games of the 2011-2012 season, and then they played a six-game playoff series that could charitably be called ridiculous for a number of reasons. But all that is in the past now. Some of the major players from that series no longer play in these cities. Both teams have players who are new to the rivalry. The Flyers have a new captain; Claude Giroux is not only is wearing the C but also a haircut.
Not that it's relevant. Just, as a former longhair myself, I notice these things.
And while I'm watching it, let me just say that I actually like the idea of showing the Kings' banner raising. The television ratings were a bit off for the Stanley Cup Finals last season, and part of that had to do with a lack of recognition of the Kings by most hockey fans east of the Mississippi. And hey, it was nice to see former Penguins Luc Robitaille and Rob Scuderi with the Cup again even if Luc wasn't lucky enough to win one when he was here.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
Concerns that there was going to be a fight at the beginning of the game turned out to be overblown. Concerns that the Flyers' 14 players who saw action during the lockout (compared to the Penguins' 6) would be able to run around and dominate early were also overblown. It was clear, though, that the referees were rusty, putting Claude Giroux and then Braydon Coburn—who was nowhere near the play—in the box for a penalty that was actually committed by Nicklas Grossmann. Regardless of who was in the box, the Penguins managed to capitalize on the early opportunity when Paul Martin shot the puck through traffic and Tyler Kennedy tipped the puck in mid-flight to send it past Ilya Bryzgalov into the net to make the score 1-0. Secondary assist went to Matt Niskanen.
Shortly after the Penguins killed a slashing penalty taken by Dustin Jeffrey that saw Sidney Crosby get some PK time, Evgeni Malkin won a faceoff directly to a James Neal one-timer into the net before anyone really knew what happened. 2-0 Penguins, and the Philadelphia natives are getting restless.
Just after Mike Emrick praised Simon Despres for good body work on Wayne Simmonds, Despres went to the box for interference because of said body work. It's okay, the announcers are rusty, too. The Flyers' power play looked disjointed and unsure of itself for the first minute-thirty, did get some pressure toward the end, but ultimately came up short for the second time in the first period.
With 3:58 remaining in the first period, Brandon Sutter took an ill-advised interference penalty off a faceoff. The Flyers came out firing in this power play—and there's Sid again—but ultimately again it was nothing doing. The period would end with the score still 2-0.
After a flurry in the Flyers' zone, Nicklas Grossmann went to the box for his own cross-checking penalty, but the Flyers easily killed that off. The entire rest of the period featured high-speeed up and down hockey with a greater amount of physicality than had been seen in the first period. However, it was clean and scoreless, so there isn't much to say about it.
It was more of the same for three-fourths of the third period up until Deryk Engelland decided it'd be a good idea to interfere with Wayne Simmonds and Philadelphia went on the power play. Great penalty killing by Craig Adams and Pascal Dupuis neutralized the threat. Then with 2:27 left in the game, Evgeni Malkin wasn't careful with his stick and went to the box for two minutes for high sticking, but Claude Giroux upended Kris Letang during the power play to even things up at 4v4 and to bring out the second "***hole" chant of the game from the ever classy fans at the Wells Fargo Center.
Chris Kunitz would seal the deal with 11.2 seconds remaining by scoring into an empty net, assisted by Paul Martin to make the score 3-1 where it would end.
It was pretty obvious all in all that the players were quite tired by the end of the game, and the shifts were getting shorter and shorter as time passed.
My game puck goes to Marc-Andre Fleury as he made 26 saves on 27 Philadelphia shots to get his 227th win as a Penguin, passing Tom Barrasso for the team record in the process.. As his reward, he'll get tomorrow off so that Tomas Vokoun can get a start against the Rangers. Stay tuned tomorrow night at 7PM Eastern for a game thread and post-game with James Conley.