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Penguins/Flyers Recap: Pens out of gas, fall 3-0 in Philly

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The Penguins look like a team out of gas before a break and don’t do a lot in Philadelphia

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Lineups

Sam Lafferty gets back in the lineup for the first time in a while, replacing the injured Dominik Kahun and it’s Tristan Jarry back in the net on the road in Philly

First period

Not all that much happening early, the two teams trade a few shots here and there but neither come particularly close to scoring.

It’s actually Andrew Agozzino of all players who come closest to scoring. Agozzino kinda pickle stabs at a puck on a bit of a broken play, and he had a lot of net staring at him but could only get enough of an angle on it to hit the post. Close but no cigar.

The Flyers take the first penalty of the game late in the first period when Jakub Voracek trips up Chad Ruhwedel, but the first portion of the Pens’ power play is wholly unsatisfying and the Flyers pretty much control the puck the whole time. Yawn.

Shots in the first are 12-8 PHI. Score is 0-0.

Second period

Pittsburgh gets 46 seconds of carryover penalty time to start the period, it is very uneventful which isn’t a good thing.

Philly keeps pushing and gets the first goal. Sean Couturier makes an excellent pass to Voracek, who has slipped behind the Pens’ defense and dekes Jarry for the game’s opening goal.

A parade to the penalty box is next, Juuso Riikola gets called for a hold and at the tail end of that Philly power play Kris Letang gets called for roughing. The short 5v3 is killed off effectively when the Pens win the faceoff and they deal with the rest of that penalty too.

The Flyers send the Pens to their second power play of the game, and this one at least gets a little zone time with the puck (progression!) but it’s mostly contained to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Letang controlling it around the perimeter and again generates zero shots.

With only four SOG in the period almost at the end, and only 12 on the night, coach Mike Sullivan digs deep for a rare ES Malkin+Crosby even strength line to try and pull something out of the team right now.

It doesn’t pay off, after John Marino ‘s exit attempt gets easily picked off in the neutral zone, Philly goes the other way. Travis Konecny centers the puck through the defensive try of Jack Johnson to take it away. It fails so James van Riemsdyk has plenty of room and tucks it five-hole on Jarry to make it 2-0.

Shortly after, Philly opens the door for the Pens to get back into the game by taking a too many men penalty with a bad change by Robert Hagg with 38 seconds left in the period. They get a few shots but again will have a carryover power play to start the period again.

Shots after 40 are 22-16 Philly. Per Natural Stat Trick the Pens only had one 5v5 high danger scoring chance that period, which feels generous still.

Third period

The Pens, per usual tonight, get next to nothing from the carry over power play and the game ambles on.

There’s a flash of a chance though, Marcus Petterson takes a shot that hits the post and Crosby fights to find the loose puck but can’t deposit it into the back of the net.

The two-headed monster (is Rust a third yet?) gets a chance when Crosby throws a pass from behind his net, between the legs again and Rust shoots from point blank but Brian Elliott holds on one of the first real times he’s been tested.

Philly pretty much just stacking three at the blueline, playing passive and trying to keep this one moving. The Pens get the zone time allowed but just keep spinning their wheels. Malkin takes a penalty with 3:36 left to remove what little doubt remained about the outcome of this game.

The Pens kill off the penalty and pull Jarry, Justin Braun scores on the empty net from way in his zone to make it 3-0.

Final thoughts

Ready for a break. This was the 11th game in 20 days for the Pens, seven of them coming on the road. The NHL schedule can be unforgiving and with a nine day break just around the horizon the Pens played like they were running on empty. Sullivan seemed to recognize that too, going to the Malkin+Crosby well is something he almost never does and he sensed the obvious that the team wasn’t really firing well tonight. Bound to happen sometimes, and going 7-3-1 in a stretch like that is sufficient in the macro, even if the last performance tonight left a lot to be desired.

Over passing strikes. One quote you always hear when a player like Bryan Rust or Jared McCann plays with a star is the player will say, usually verbatim, “I just gotta play my game the same way”. Meaning stick to strengths, keep it simple, drive to the net, take shots when they’re there. Play within their best attributes. That wasn’t the case tonight, with tons of drop passes and other low percentage ideas going on there. Similarly, Dominik Simon and Patric Hornqvist did little to put their stamp on this game.

Power-less play. Early in the third period when the game was 42 minutes old, Pittsburgh had spent a full 6 minutes of it with the man advantage, which was over 14% of the game at that point. They squandered it almost entirely, generating just three shots on goal (and they gave up one) and didn’t appear to come very close to scoring at all. That prevented them from getting on track at all, and hurt the course of the game considering the score was 0-0, 1-0, 2-0 for each power play. Scoring there would have altered the game. Instead, it fed Philly’s momentum.

Never fun to have a bland, boring output against Philly, but the Pens still go into the break in second place in the division and closer to being at the top then they are being in the heap of wild card contenders. That helps a bit and gives a baseline to climb over since these two teams will see each other again in Pittsburgh next Friday for the next game back for each.

But, keep it here on Pensburgh — the team may be going on a vacation but we sure aren’t.