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Penguins vs. Flyers Recap: Crosby welcomes Carter Hart to the show. Puts up 3 points. Pittsburgh wins 4-1

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Great game from Matt Murray and Sidney Crosby leads the Pens to a big road win

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

Lineups

Welcome back Evgeni Malkin!

First period

The Penguins don’t start well - Nick Bjugstad clears the puck over the glass 1:17 into the game and the Flyers get the first power play of the game. But they’re sloppy and the Pittsburgh PK does a great job and no damage is done.

A bit later, it’s the Pens who strike first. Everyone thinks the puck is going to the right, including goalie Carter Hart who is frozen in time and doesn’t realize there was a bad bounce right to Sidney Crosby. Welcome to the NHL kid, that’s kind of what Crosby does to your team, hopes and dreams. 1-0 Pittsburgh

The Pens get a power play when Claude Giroux trips a dude but, surprise, they look awful on it, get no shots but thankfully don’t give up much against.

Olli Maatta gets hit behind the play and goes into the boards very hard and drags himself off the ice.

Time ticks away, shots in the first are 9-8 Philly. Matt Murray was pretty good, especially in the first half of the period when it seemed like every rush the Flyers got was a 3-on-2 with some nice passes to find the cross-ice trailing player.

Second period

Another flat start, at one amusing point Marcus Pettersson breaks his stick then just goes to the bench and Malkin ends up playing a defense position and blocks a shot. In that scramble Jack Johnson also manages to lose his stick and it looks like Patric Hornqvist panics a bit with the puck on his backhand and just tries to lift it out...But he sends it straight over the glass for the second delay of game call on the Pens.

The Flyers power play looks a lot like the Pens’ though (that is - bad) so they don’t do much with the opportunity either. And Pittsburgh strikes to make it 2-0 on the shift following the PK. Malkin lugs the puck through the neutral zone, gives a drop pass for Bjugstad and keeps going to the net. Maybe a bit of a screen too but Bjugstad snaps a nice shot over the blocked under the glove of Hart to extend the lead.

For the first 8:34 of the second period shots in the second are 13-3 in favor of Philly, but one of those three shots for Pittsburgh went in.

Jake Guentzel gets called for a penalty and the Flyers get power play #3 on the night. Towards the end of it, the Pens catch a break, the ref blows the whistle thinking Murray gloved and caught the puck, he actually didn’t and it was lose and Nolan Patrick found the loose puck and slammed it home. But since the whistle blew, no dice.

Philly keeps pouring it on but Matt Murray has the answers. The Pens are hanging on for dear life and look worn down but they somehow scramble enough to keep the puck out of the net in a second period that sees Philly land a whopping 28 shots on goal. Like, in the second period alone. Only 8 for the Pens.

Other than the Crosby slam dunk, this looks ugly through 40! (via Natural Stat Trick) A lot of shots from the point though by Philly, which is a good sign why the Pens actually got more scoring chances than them in the period even though the puck felt like it was in Pittsburgh’s end 75% of the time.

Third period

The Flyers have reunited Giroux and Sean Couturier at even strength to make a push. They have a strong shift against the Crosby line early.

Bjugstad gets another great chance but Hart denies him.

Then, Jake Guentzel makes a wonderful move to blow past Travis Sanheim, wraps around the net and beats Hart through the 5-hole on a weak shot. Not sure how that happens but it’s 3-0.

With 4:54 left, Evgeni Malkin loses control. Michael Raffl punches Malkin in the back of the head, Geno spins and swings his stick at Raffl’s head. Can’t do that! Stick doesn’t really connect but the act was bad. Match penalty is deserved and grants the Flyers a 5-minute power play.

It only takes 20 seconds to cash in, Jakub Voracek scores from in front to end the shutout bid, but more important there’s 4:34 left in the game that Philly will finish on the power play on.

Luckily the Pens’ PK responds and settles things down a bit. The Flyers pull their goalie and a up to a 6v4 but they don’t score. Pittsburgh gets a chance at the empty net broken up and really for the first time in memory Crosby makes a bad pass and can’t hit a wide open Kris Letang.

Play goes the other way and Murray makes a wonderful save on Giroux for what could have been a game-changing sequence. Giroux makes a drive-by swipe at Murray that Guentzel takes offense to and they both get taken off the ice on coincidentals. Good job by Guentzel to basically force them to call Giroux as well.

Then Crosby wins a faceoff to Letang and Kris gets his empty net goal after all, lifting a puck 175 feet into the net. Letang’s 13th of the season and he passes Paul Coffey for all time goals by a Pens defenseman.

4-1 ball game.

Some Thoughts

  • Maatta didn’t return and only made it through a couple of shifts before suffering the injury. Justin Schultz might be very close to a return, but if Maatta’s out the defense still isn’t going to look that ideal.
  • A Defenseman down means unreal ice time for Letang and of course that again was the case with 31:31 played in a 60 minute game. What else is new?
  • First game back from injury Matt Murray always seems to play well.
  • Malkin had some jump in his feet too. For a player the last 20-30 games hasn’t always looked quite “right” it was good to see him back and flying around out there. Unfortunately he lost his cool and did something you just can’t do as a hockey player by swinging his stick, so we’ll see if a suspension is to follow.
  • Really, he was battling with Raffl for the puck and Raffl did escalate it with a punch to the back of Malkin’s head. Doesn’t excuse a sting swinging incident but in context it might help Malkin’s case for any further discipline. Also it looked like it only connected with about the shoulder of Raffl who went down in a spinning heap.
  • Too funny that Carter Hart gets baptized into the Pens-Flyers rivalry the same way so many others have: give up a goal to Sid, lose the game. Hart might have been sharp leading up to this game, but if you just saw this and nothing else, ehhh not all that impressive of a first impression. The Guentzel goal was Charmin soft.
  • The 28 shots in the second set a franchise high for Philly for most SOG in a period. A franchise high! And Matt Murray stopped ‘em all, what a league!
  • Per Bob Grove, an unsurprising but true nugget is the 28 saves represents a single-period high for Pens’ goalies. So there’s a record now for Murray to pass Tom Barrasso, Sebastien Caron and Denis Heron who all recorded 25 saves in a period at one point in Pittsburgh.
  • Demoted to the 4th line, about the only thing memorable to this eye that Patric Hornqvist did in his 9th straight game without a point since returning from a concussion was skate himself offside at one point. Just not going his way right now.
  • Playing on his off wing Phil Kessel did get an assist on the Bjugstad goal but didn’t record even a shot attempt. Phil Kessel, left winger, should be have a very short shelf life. In fact, it’s probably already passed. Bjugstad with five shots on goal (and a goal!) looked pretty good in the o-zone with Malkin. Wouldn’t mind seeing more of that, may be tie to shift Phil to RW on his own line.
  • Massive implications for this game - with a regulation win the Flyers would have been just 4 points behind the Pens and the final playoff spot. Instead, a regulation loss drops them to 8 back.

Great game for Murray to come back put up 50 saves, Sidney Crosby continues his mastery of the Flyers with three points and an important two points for the Pens who inch closer to the 2 v. 3 matchup in the Metro.