As expected, no drama or changes for the Penguins tonight for lineups - they’ll keep the same personnel from their Game 4 win tonight for Game 5.
Lined up and ready for Game 5. pic.twitter.com/uJ8OK1RFR5— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 20, 2018
However the same can’t be said for the Philadelphia Flyers. Sean Couturier is going to play Game 5 after missing the last game, but in a 3rd line role. Dale Weise is playing his first game since 3/28. Valterri Filpulla is somehow on the first line. There’s also 2 new defensive pairs and oft-injured goalie Michal Neuvirth gets his start looking to play his first full game since mid-February.
#Flyers line rushes:— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) April 20, 2018
Fast moving opening period that sees the Pens...not shoot the puck on new goalie Neuvirth until the 7 minute mark. They only surrendered 2 long-range shots of their own in the game’s opening minutes but one play in particular Phil Kessel over-passed the puck when given an opportunity to shoot it.
The Crosby line is out and works hard and is shooting the puck but Dominik Simon runs a pick in the offensive zone and is rung up for interference. The Pens kill it off.
Then the Flyers have a sloppy change and take a too many men penalty but Pittsburgh’s power play can’t strike either.
And then, the bad things happen. Evgeni Malkin gets tangled up with Jori Lehtera and Lehtera falls on his leg. he stays down for a moment and skates off gingerly to the locker-room, he would return for the start of the 2nd period.
The Pens continue to sleepwalk and Philly makes them pay. Claude Giroux settles in a huge amount of open space, they feed him the puck from behind the net and Giroux wires a shot past Matt Murray to open the scoring.
Shots end up 9-5 Philly in the first. Very flat period for the Pens, as if they thought showing up would make this game a formality. The score, luckily is only a 1-0 hole.
Malkin is back and he’s taking abuse in front of the net as the Pens wake up and finally start putting some effort and zone-time in. The refs even up the call when Malkin sticks up for himself, which is disappointing but also, Geno retaliated and left the door open for himself.
With Malkin in the box the Crosby line goes to work. Geno gets out of the box and takes the puck to the net and Shayne Gotisbehere slashes him, drawing another penalty. But yet again the Pens PP does little.
They keep the pressure on, though, all the lines are swarming and Neuvirth to his credit is making a ton of great saves - the type Brian Elliott just wasn’t all series long. But he can’t seal his left post as Bryan Rust darts behind the net and tucks one home on him and we’ve got a 1-1 game.
Zach Aston-Reese hits Ivan Provorov away from the play, that’s a penalty and deservedly so but then in the scrum Andrew MacDonald goes after ZAR much like Malkin went after his aggressor so kudos to the officials for staying consistent as they send both ZAR and MacDonald to the box here. On the 4v4, Gostisbehere pulls down Crosby and doesn’t get away with it and now it’s 4v3.
The Pens don’t score but keep pushing hard. Simon makes a nice bump pass for Sidney Crosby who feeds Jake Guentzel to the left. Guentzel rips a shot 5-hole that fools Neuvirth (and some help from MacDonald trying to block it but maybe deflecting it a bit). 2-1 Pens.
The next shift, Aston-Reese is flying, blows past Radko Gudas who is forced to hold him. Pens back to a power play but again, but Kessel makes a bad cross-ice pass, Letang doesn’t defend well, Murray doesn’t control a rebound and Filppula finds the puck and punches it home. Ugh. Bad look for the Pens, got lazy on that all over the ice 2-2.
It's a tie game again after Filppula's shorty. pic.twitter.com/ok9I9JJPzG— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 21, 2018
Until about 3 minutes left, it was one of the best periods of the series...Shots were 12-2 in the period for the Pens. They had cracked Neuvirth twice and taken the lead. And then they lose momentum and the lead while ON the power play. Not ideal. But the game is tied 2-2 and Pittsburgh has the opportunity to win a period and win the series.
Just 15 seconds in the Pens catch a break with Filppula going to the box for tripping Dumoulin, who really just fell. But yet again the Pittsburgh power play can not score.
Big rig Jamie Oleksiak collides with Giroux at center ice and the Flyers captain is staggered by it. Gudas goes after Oleksiak and is quickly beaten down for his trouble. There’s no instigator but given how bad the Pens power play is right now, not a big deal.
Pittsburgh keeps going, shots at the last TV timeout with about 5 minutes left in the game are 11-3 Pens in the period.
Then, hanging around pays off for Philly. Sheary and Rust can’t get the puck out. Couturier holds the blue line and shoots a wrister from 59 feet. It deflects off the leg of Dumoulin and changes direction to elude Murray. 3-2.
Couturier breaks the tie late in the third period. pic.twitter.com/LtODLNDv5x— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 21, 2018
Crosby gets a glorious chance off a bouncing puck to just kinda hack it on the net, great stop by Neuvirth. In the dying seconds on the choppy ice this wasn’t ideal but it still was a good look.
Matt Read hits an empty net to seal the deal. 4-2.
- Malkin scored early in Game 4 on the PP but since then the Pens are 0 for 9 with the man advantage without Patric Hornqvist. And they’ve given up a goal too. Ouch. This was supposed to be a major advantage for the Pens but it’s been silenced for now. Going 0/5 tonight and giving up a goal is just inexcusable this time of year. Won’t win many games like that.
- Funny how depending on your view, Malkin was either going for a slewfoot or jockeying for position when Lehtera fell on him. A slewfoot doesn’t make much sense for the circumstance but we often see what we want to, it would be great though if no damage was done.
- Neuvirth was very solid but seemed to wilt as the pressure got turned up in the 2nd. Makes sense, he hasn’t played in a while. Still he held the fort in the 3rd and earned the win. One would have to think if the Pens play the way they did in the 2nd+3rd again, things will go well.
- Couturier played but looked like a shell of himself for the most part, probably on one leg with some kind of injury. Respect for him to try and give it a go though, nothing to save it for at this point. And his shot ended up winning the thing. Playoff hockey is not without it’s rewards for trying to gut it out and he gets to bask in it tonight.
- The Sheary-Brassard-Rust line was really good in the 2nd period to open the scoring and put a lot of pressure and shots on in the 3rd as well. Might be a short-lived line if/when Hornqvist is back shuffles things, but nice to see those guys working well, could be something to go back to at some point. Their play on the GWG against though leaves a bad taste on an otherwise solid night.
- Simon took an unnecessary penalty early when he bumped a guy but he made a bunch of nice, subtle plays all around the ice too. I wonder how that might fare for him getting his name in the conversation. I wouldn’t think it crazy to consider maybe having him on the 4th line when Hornqvist is healthy. Like it or not, that might come at the expense of Aston-Reese, given coaching preference to have a PKer like Kuhnhackl in the lineup.
- 8 SOG on the night for Brassard.
- 0 SOG for Kessel. 4 giveaways (including the goal while on the power play). Not a great game at all. Gotta brush this one off and get back to it.
At the end of the day the Pens were up 2-1 and got sloppy. Bad play to cough the lead up and eventually the game. They had a ton of pressure and it’s tough to take a loss even carrying play for so long, but mistakes doomed them. You can’t get away with that this time of year and we’ll see if it’s a lesson learned for Game 6 on Sunday.