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Flyers game recap: 2nd period goal explosion carries Penguins past Philly 5-1

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The Penguins score 4 goals in under 4 minutes in the second period to get way out ahead of the Flyers and they ride that to a win. Hockey is fun again!

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

Some very welcome returns for the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first game of 2018 since both Kris Letang and Justin Schultz are back in the lineup after missing time with their respective injuries.

And, interestingly, for the first time this season where he’s healthy and it’s not a b-2-b situation, Matt Murray is not playing, it’s rookie Tristan Jarry getting the net for the game against the Flyers.

1st period

Another interesting note is Jamie Oleksiak in the lineup at the expense of veteran Matt Hunwick. Oleksiak plants #8 of Philly right on his backside in the early going.

Very few shots or scoring chances for either team so in the interest of making some analysis, cool to see the Pens make a line of Guentzel-Crosby-Sprong in the offensive zone following a tv timeout. (So, basically an extra shift for Sid in place of Sheahan). Nothing came of it this time.

The game lurches on, really uneventful stuff. With 7 seconds left Kris Letang gets a 2-minute minor for high-sticking.

Shots end up 10-6 Flyers on the period, Corsi events are 18-12 Philly which sounds bad, but it was pretty harmless stuff with Natural Stat Trick having the Scoring Chances at 6-4 Pens and the high danger chances at 2-0 Pittsburgh.

2nd period

Philly starts the second with 1:53 worth of a power play on fresh ice but never really gets much going, best chance might have been Jake Guentzel going the other way on the rush- new to see him out in a regular PK role, eh?

The game trudges along with not much of substance until Travis Konecny trips Daniel Sprong and gift wraps the Pens a power play.

Bad idea. A wonderful breakout by Pittsburgh stretches Philly wide as Evgeni Malkin finds Phil Kessel who works a pretty give-and-go with Crosby to get Phil a shot low and past whoever the current bad Flyers goalie is these days. 1-0 Pens half-way through the game.

That seems to give the game life, next shift out the Flyers tie the game at 1 with Jordan Weal tipping in a Radko Gudas shot (apparently in between suspensions and eligible to play) and it gets past Tristan Jarry just 54 seconds after Pittsburgh had scored.

But don’t touch that dial, is that Ryan Reaves I see, shrugging off the defending of Ivan Provorov to get open at the net and score a goal?!? Why, it is! 2-1 Pittsburgh.

And holy crap let’s go for 3-1 when Ian Cole outmuscles Baton Boy Claude Giroux and chips the puck ahead so Conor Sheary outraces the $5 million man Andrew MacDonald to score on a breakaway on this year’s hapless Philadelphia goalie.

The scoring chances keep going, Michael Raffl gets a breakaway all alone on Jarry, dekes him but runs out of a shooting angle and the puck goes through the crease but parallel to the net and then out of danger.

Tom Kuhnhackl gets in on the goal scoring party, again finding some space on Provorov (isn’t he supposed to be good?) and fire a puck in to the net from the slot. 4-1 good guys in front of a quiet crowd.

Jarry leaves the net after a TV timeout, Raffl got a couple hacks and whacks at his hand a bit earlier in a scramble, so Matt Murray gets into the game after with 25 minutes of game time left and a 3 goal lead.

Guentzel gets a dreaded delay of game for clearing the puck over the glass to send Philly to their second power play of the night but the Pens PK is up to the task.

A very fun period but a bit marred by Jarry leaving, as well as Brian Dumoulin (errant shot hit the side of his helmet) and Jamie Oleksiak (unknown) and the NBC crew said Carter Rowney was out for a bit too.

3rd period

Oleksiak is back for the start of the 3rd, Dumo, Jarry and Rowney are not. The Flyers also switch their goalies and Michal Neuvirth comes in after Brian Elliott gives up 4 goals on 14 shots.

Oleksiak is a very large man and gets angered by a Flyer. Flyer gets his head punched in. Welp, Pens back down to 4D on the bench for a little while.

Offensive dynamo (for tonight at least) Tom Kuhnhackl takes an o-zone penalty while getting a shift with Crosby. Probably not the way to get too many more but the PK is up to the task for the 3rd time.

The Pens get a power play and make it count again, tough night for Provorov who is hobbled by a shot off his foot/ankle and the puck makes it around the horn eventually to the newly freed Oleksiak who has plenty of time and space to shoot into an open net for his first goal as a Penguin to make it a 5-1 laugher.

Ian Cole takes a penalty but the PK does their job and finishes with a perfect 4/4 on the night.

Time runs out and 2018 is perfect for the Pens so far.

Some Thoughts

  • After scoring 2 goals total in the last two games, 4 in one period! Finally the floodgates open a bit!
  • And, whaddya know, 2 goals for the 4th line! Now their P/60’s are pretty close to normal 4th liners so now just if the top guys can get on track...
  • Penalty kill 4 outta 4, power play 2 goals in 2 chances. If you know just that and nothing else, you’d have to feel good about the result given the special teams domination.
  • Tough to see the Pens go down to 4 defensemen for a while and at least Oleksiak returned to make it 5D, with of course 2 of them having their first games back from injury. Even when it’s an easy win it’s never easy in the NHL.
  • And on the Oleksiak fight, gotta have some awareness there to take yourself off the ice for 5 minutes+a whistle when there’s only 4 other healthy defensemen. Seemed like a pretty needless fight in the 3rd period of a 4-1 game. Probably what the reports from Dallas meant when they mentioned hockey IQ and awareness as 2 problem items in Oleksiak’s game.
  • Despite that, a pretty forceful game for the big defenseman and still a positive one all-around. Can’t see him coming out of the lineup anytime soon. Also interesting with a newly healthy defense (for almost 2 periods anyways) that Hunwick was the scratch over Cole.
  • Speaking of, the Flyers just always have a way to knock the Pens starting goalie out of the game with an injury, huh? This is the third time since the start of the 2016-17 season. And it hasn’t been too malicious for the most part just odd.
  • I think the TV broadcast said Nolan Patrick’s name twice all night. Boxscore had him with 1 SOG (one other attempt blocked), 6 of 11 in faceoffs in 14:54 of work. A search shows he’s got 2 goals all season. He’s a teenaged rookie and has a long time to develop, but he’s got a ways to go before he’s any sort of difference maker at this level, if this brief one game snapshot is any indication.
  • It’s been a tough patch for Murray of late, he gets some game-time to iron out his game, and can he add on it? Gain some confidence? He was only asked to make 10 saves and all fairly routine/easy ones at that. Can’t help but have helped, if anything.

After losing 7 of the last 10, a win is welcome for Pittsburgh. A nice little offensive explosion in the 2nd period shows that ability is down in there, they just need to work to get it more frequently.

The post-Christmas road trip is now history and the Pens get one day off before a 3-game-in-4-day set that takes them into the bye week, starting with another important Metropolitan Division game on Thursday against Carolina.