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Penguins vs. Flyers Stadium Series Recap: Insult to injury, Pens fall in OT

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The Pens lose two key defensemen and blow a late lead to fall 4-3 in the rain in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom shoots on Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray during the Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers on February 23, 2019 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA
Mike Darnay/SB Nation

Lineups

Dominik Simon gets healthy’d so Garrett Wilson can get back in the lineup, which I love. Messy night, outside, bad ice, want some size and a straightline player like Wilson for this one to be simple but physical.

First period

In 87% of all Penguins vs Flyers games Sidney Crosby scores the first goal, and it happens here too. Jakub Voracek turns the puck over and Crosby gets the puck, tucks it backhand by Brian Elliott to make it 1-0.

Philly ties it up, Sean Couturier smacks a rolling puck top shelf past Matt Murray. 1-1 game.

Then all hell breaks loose, Wayne Simmonds goes to hit Brian Dumoulin, crunches him along the board and there’s an obvious head injury. Does he launch up? Extend the arm? Just a hard hit? Tough to tell. From the angle doesn’t look like the arm was down, but the game moves fast. Either way with Dumoulin hurt a scrum breaks out and Kris Letang gets knocked down and is injured and leaves the game as well.

Pens go from six defensemen to four in the blink of an eye and that’s never good news, let alone when it’s the top two guys.

Shots in the period end up 18-8 Pittsburgh, they did a good job just throwing any and everything at the net that period, kind of what Philly did to them a couple weeks ago. Not a bad idea in the elements outside in poor ice and some light rain.

Second period

Jack Johnson steps up for a hit early and accidentally gets a piece of the leg to go to the penalty box, so the Pens go from 4 available defensemen to 3 for a bit but are able to kill it off.

Game moves on, Philly having the better of the play this period and getting a lot of zone time, but it’s the Pens who break the tie. Off the rush, Crosby peels back and feeds Justin Schultz. Schultz shoots high and wide but a lucky bounce sends the puck back to him, he steadies himself and fires high to the glove to make it 2-1 almost exactly halfway through the period and game.

Shots for the period somehow end up 12-9 Pens and they’re 30-17 Pittsburgh overall in the game.

Third period

Oscar Lindbolm gets a chance mere seconds into the period, big stop by Murray.

Rain is coming down harder now than all game seemingly but play continues and both teams have to deal with it all the same.

Finally the Pens strategy of lots of shots on a bad goalie in bad weather pays off. Phil Kessel drops a puck for Evgeni Malkin he rockets a hard long-range shot at Elliott. It hits his glove and spins up and behind him and bounces into the net. You score this goal all the time in NHL19 and it pays off in real life. 3-1 Pittsburgh.

Robert Hagg takes Malkin off the ice with matching minors and at the 4v4 Matt Cullen slashes a Flyer to give a 4v3 power play to Philly with 4:20 left in the game.

Flyers pull their goalie to get a 5v3 man advantage with 3+ minutes left. They push to the net and eventually get bodies and the puck there to slam in to make it a 3-2 game with James van Riemsdyk finding the puck before Johnson could with 3:04 left.

Pittsburgh challenges for goalie interference, JvR is definitely in the crease when he scores but he doesn’t really hinder Murray’s ability to make a save so the refs rightfully rule it’s a good goal. I guess worth a challenge and breaks momentum a bit and adds rest for the team, so why not take a look?

Game ambles on, Philly pulls the goalie with a 1:53 left for a 6v5 advantage and pushes the play, Murray makes a couple of stops standing tall as the Pens battle on.

Off a faceoff loss by Nick Bjugstad, Voracek scores with 19 seconds left to tie the game and send it to OT.

Overtime

Guentzel, Malkin and Kessel get good shots on goal within about the first minute of OT but Elliott has the answer.

Murray makes a big save and the rebound kicks all the way out for Kessel to chase down at the other blueline and get a breakaway he shoots but it’s stopped.

Claude Giroux takes a rush up ice, steps inside on Schultz and rips a shot that trickles through Murray’s five hole. Game over, Pens lose 4-3.

Some thoughts

  • Nice job by Patric Hornqvist to provide a screen on the Schultz goal, and also earn an assist for his first point since about the Reagan administration. Got moved up to the top line, scored a point. Not rocket science but they need to get him going.
  • Interesting to see on the 3v4 with 4 minutes left in the game, they trust Jared McCann out there for the faceoff to start the PK. Which he lost cleanly and resulted in a shot against but no damage was done. Nice vote of confidence for McCann but you’d like to see him take the opportunity to stand out.
  • Ironically enough though, the other guy in that trade, Nick Bjugstad, was on ice and lost two faceoffs clean down the stretch for the second and third Flyers goal....
  • What a great effort by the 4 remaining defensemen, and the team in general down Dumo-Letang, the two top dogs. For 45 minutes. Even if they did run out of gas near the end, they gave up a 4v6 goal, a 5v6 goal late and a 3v3 goal. Philly didn’t really sniff a goal at 5v5 for the majority of the game. That’s probably a minor note for Pens fans smarting after this game, but it’s still important.
  • Nice to see the ZAR-Malkin-Kessel line combine for what ended up as the game winner, they were probably the best line of the night for Pittsburgh. Might have something there.
  • Loved the game from Kessel too. 6 shots on goal. 8 total shot attempts. Felt like the first time in a long, long time that he was just playing simple and throwing pucks on net. With a player as talented as Phil you know the goals will follow.
  • Not one power play for Pittsburgh in this game. Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing but weird the Pens didn’t even get a crack at it, especially with Simmonds taking cracks at skulls.
  • A lot of heat on Murray for the last two goals on social media, and yeah, not good goals. But if Bjugstad doesn’t lose a faceoff clean and Ruhwedel can’t mark Voracek that shot even from a bad angle shouldn’t happen. The last thing Schultz should do defending on the rush is let his guy step to the middle of the ice, yet he did (and lost his stick while tripping in the process).
  • Would you like to see Murray make a save? Sure. But blaming the goalie is always a low brow call - especially in the pouring rain! The Pens just sort of ran out of gas with about 5 minutes left in regulation and Philly turned it up and fed on the momentum. That might be tough to admit, but it’s pretty much true. Lots of icings, Pittsburgh got outshot 18-10 in the 3rd period. Bad things were destined to happen as the whole team stumbled to the finish.
  • That said, it would have been really nice if Murray made one more save. No denying or running from that. Again though, I’ll point to conditions of the rain, getting bombarded all 3rd period but man...Coulda/shoulda stopped that Voracek game tying goal to cover up the Bjugstad/Ruhwedel breakdown and this game ends up sunnier.
  • Bigger than blowing a lead though is the fact the Pens best two defensemen (by a mile) got injured tonight. That’s a loss no matter what the game result ended up as. Dumoulin has had concussions before and took a nasty head shot. Letang has an injury history and got dropped in an awkward manner. That’s way worse in the long run compared to whatever happened in the rain.

Pittsburgh is off until Tuesday, and now there’s plenty of storylines being as the trade deadline is Monday and arguably two of the top five or six most important players on the team left injured tonight.