For the first time since December 17th, Justin Schultz appears in a hockey game! Juuso Riikola is bumped to healthy scratch territory and with Dominik Kahun (concussion) still out, Anthony Angello makes his NHL debut.
Each team had one glorious scoring chance in the early going. Dominik Simon made a wonderful pass to find Schultz skating in all alone. Brian Elliott is way out to cut down the angle and Schultz’s shot hits the goalie in the glove.
Philly gets a good look when Kevin Hayes on the rush gets Tristan Jarry crossed up a bit and shot very hard short side on the Pens’ goalie. The puck hit the post, hard, but stayed out.
It wouldn’t stay out for long, though. Alex Galchenyuk takes a tripping penalty immediately off a faceoff that didn’t seem very necessary to be called, but Philly made it count by converting on the power play.
A nice overload on the Pens’ diamond power play resulted in traffic at net. That seemed to fluster Jarry who ended up on his seat after a shot attempt. A cross-ice pass to Jakub Voracek left a lot of net to shoot at, and he makes no mistake with it for his 11th goal of the season to make it 1-0 Philly with just 29 seconds in the period.
Niskanen finds Voracek all alone, and he makes no mistake! pic.twitter.com/abwlhvnFfO— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 1, 2020
Shots in the first period are a measly 4-3 for Philly. 5v5 shots are 3-2 Pittsburgh.
The Pens, as so often happens after a slow first, get going better in the second period. The Bryan Rust - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist line has a really great, extended shift in the offensive zone that results in a goal when Hornqvist gets the goal to the net, it flutters off a Flyers’ stick and old bozo brain Matt Niskanen gives Evgeni Malkin (Evgeni Malkin!!!) enough time and space to slide the puck into the open net. 1-1 game.
Geno alone near the goal?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 1, 2020
Oh yeah, we know what's happening next.
Jared McCann puts his stamp on the game on the ensuing faceoff immediately following the goal. He uses his speed to split the Flyer defense and force them to take him down, giving the Pens their first power play of the game. And they convert on it. Some really nifty passing from Hornqvist to Malkin to Sidney Crosby to Rust gives a full net to shoot at. Rust isn’t missing that in this season and notches his 22nd of the season and gives the Pens a lead at 2-1.
Wait for it... Wait for it... GOAL! pic.twitter.com/cPTxLJIN9j— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 1, 2020
And just like that in 1:21 of game time the score shifts from 1-0 PHI to 2-1 Pens.
Malkin’s period of activity continues by taking a hooking penalty, Pittsburgh completes their first successful kill and seconds later they get a makeup call for a second power play of their own on a fairly questionable enough call on the Flyers, but hey, so it goes with even-up NHL officiating.
Pittsburgh makes it 2/2 on the PP on the night with a ton of really nice in-zone passing, Elliott doesn’t know which side of the net to hug as the puck movement was pulling him left to right to left, and Kris Letang sneaks in and kinda banks a puck in and off of a disoriented looking Elliott who wasn’t anchored in his net after a great display of snapping it around tape-to-tape. 3-1 Pens.
Come for the Letang power-play goal... Stay for the Crosby / Hornqvist high-five. pic.twitter.com/NahOANAlfE— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 1, 2020
The Flyers stay in the game though, Letang can’t clear the puck and it’s picked off, a couple of passes fly by Marcus Pettersson and Tyler Pitlick tickets one to the top corner of the net to make it 3-2 in short order.
Niskanen keeps the puck in the zone, and Aube-Kubel finds Pitlick for the goal. pic.twitter.com/cSORdqzWBF— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 1, 2020
Overall shots in the second are 12-9 Pens. Goals, importantly, are 3-1 Pens in the second and 3-2 overall.
Philly finds a game-tying goal, just 2:20 in when Scott Laughton gets a fortunate bounce and puts a goal past Jarry to make it 3-3 with a lot of hockey left to play.
We have a tie game! Hayes with the original shot, Laughton with the tally. pic.twitter.com/xOmxJ23pg0— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 1, 2020
Jarry makes a couple of saves on James van Riemsdyk to keep the game tied. Game feels like it’s tipping away from the Pens after their second period flurry.
Hayes has a chance in the last minute to socre on the rush but Jarry stops him with another nice save to send the game to overtime.
Rust almost scores after slicing through the Flyer defense but can’t do it, the Pens hold onto the puck though, which is all-important in OT.
Crosby steps on the ice, and as he does, destroys the Flyers. Letang gives him the puck as Crosby wheels around to the middle of the ice, with McCann providing some center drive Crosby shoots from distance far-side on Elliott and puts the puck in the net to give the Pens a 4-3 win.
THE WIZARD OF CROS STRIKES AGAIN!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 1, 2020
Sidney Crosby's 43 goals against Philadelphia are his most against any one team. pic.twitter.com/mkANKZdZjw
Star power. As they’ve done so many times against Philly, Crosby and Malkin flashed, filled the net, and were the difference in the win. Both scored a goal and added two assists. The Pens’ power play in the second period struck twice, which has been problematic at times. It’s coming to life though with the skill all back and the deft touch of Bryan Rust who can pretty much do no wrong at this point scoring his 22nd goal on the season in only the 36th game he’s played. Add in Letang’s goal and assist and it was easy to see that this was a star powered win.
Schultz is back. After a long layoff, Schultz was OK in 16:57 of work with one shot on goal (and what a chance it was early!), a hit, two blocked shots and on ice for a goal against. The one thought I had, was what a difference a year makes. Remember when Schultz returned from his broken ankle last February? He basically got put in the first pair (with Jack Johnson no less, lol) and the Pens leaned on him big time. Now, they can ease him in. The emergence of John Marino to go with a 25-minute a night Letang helps a lot. Schultz’s pairing with Chad Ruhwedel was pretty uneven, as perhaps to be expected with two right handed shots. That won’t be a long-term grouping.
All is well that ends well. Early in the second period it was going on 4 straight periods without a goal, dating back to last game. All against the Flyers too. An unsettling feeling, to be sure. Luckily the Pens broke the ice, and once a mediocre goalie like Elliott is dinged, a few more are sure to follow and did. Pittsburgh needed a win on home ice to keep it moving, and they got it. Took extra time, which hurts more for the NYI, CAR, CBJ’s of the world who have to watch PHI pickup a point in the standings, but such is life this time of year in divisional, tight games.
Onto Sunday against the Caps down in DC.