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Game Recap: Penguins fall apart in 6-3 season opening loss to Flyers

Pittsburgh gets out-dueled in the third period and falls on the road in the 2020-21 season opener

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


-The season is finally back! The Penguins roll out the way expected from pre-game predictions

First period

The Pens weather a bit at the start but then bounce-back to get the game and season’s first goal. Jared McCann does great work holding onto the puck and making a nice centering pass. Mark Jankowski did well to sneak out from behind the net, the defender followed the puck and not Jankowski which proved problematic when Jankowski had the room to quickly snap it past Carter Hart. 1-0.

The Pens go to the power play but don’t generate a ton out of it.

Cody Ceci has his first notable moment, making a little slash when getting beaten with speed to the outside. Tristan Jarry makes a nice stop on the ensuing chance but the Flyers go to their first power play. They make it count when Mike Matheson can’t handle a puck in his own zone, then allows James van Riemsdyk to stand in front of the net and deflect a point shot. 1-1.

Late in the period, Matheson takes a retaliation penalty and Philadelphia strikes quickly before the end of the period with a second tip of a point shot that ends up in the net. 2-1 Philly.

After 20 minutes, shots overall are 13-10 Pens. At 5v5 Pittsburgh moderately carried play with a 56.7% Corsi For and 66.6% at scoring chances...But the penalties and Philly’s power play execution to score two similar goals in just 1:32 total time tips the scoreboard.

Second period

Another good start for the third line, McCann draws a penalty. The Pens’ power play again looks disjointed until Sidney Crosby makes a Sidney Crosby play, knocking an ill-advised Hart clearing attempt out of the air and flicking it into the empty net. Lovely stuff. 2-2.

The Pens get another power play, but fail to pull a rabbit out of the hat like the last one.

The game opens up a bit with end-to-end play, and the Flyers again strike towards the end of the period with 1:06 left. Sam Lafferty can’t corral the puck and Joel Farabee was able to sneak in behind Matheson. Farabee makes a nice move and Matheson can’t recover while Farabee has the far angle on Jarry to tuck it in with the netminder having to hug the near post. 3-2 Philly back out in front.

Shots in the second period were 9-6 Pens, they’re 23-16 PIT overall for the game. The Pens have continued to maintain an edge at 5v5 with a 55.9% CF%, 55.6% Scoring Chances For%.

Third period

The Pens get hit just 39 seconds into the period for a Penguin too many men call after a really sloppy first change to give the Flyers third power play of the evening. Pittsburgh kills their first penalty of the night.

Shortly after, the third line is buzzing and strikes. Jankowski recovers a loose puck and makes a great, long backhand pass for Brandon Tanev who shoots hard back across Hart and beats his glove to tie the game yet again. 3-3 with 16:59 remaining.

The Flyers push back out in front scoring off the rush when the Pens pinch and can’t hold the line, John Marino can’t keep it to the outside and then the forwards can’t quite get on the backcheck in time. Scott Laughton makes a nice spinning centering pass for Michael Raffl to get on the board with 14:23 left.

The Pens fall behind by two, again on the rush. Ceci pinches and can’t get back and Pittsburgh has no defensive form at all in the scramble as the Flyers get a couple cracks at a loose puck, ending up in Travis Konecny flipping it in. 5-3.

20 seconds later the rout is on, Joel Farabee shoots from the outside, Jarry kicks out a big rebound for a wide open Kevin Hayes to easily tap into an open net. 6-3 and this one got off the tracks quickly.

At this point, the game settled down and the teams finished this opening game out quietly.

Some thoughts

  • The Pens best line in this game was surprisingly, the McCann-Jankowski-Tanev trio. The speed of the wingers was noticeable and will be interesting to watch moving forward. The East division has a lot of strength, but skating ability among lower line defense pairs isn’t really one of them.
  • The Pens’ power play breakouts were not smooth, with the lone defenseman telegraphing a turn and looking for the slingshot-style back pass. That’s a move that used to work in the NHL, but now has been scouted and adjusted by PK’ers. How the Pens execute or tweak this will be a critical aspect.
  • Per NBCSN, Crosby’s goal was his seventh time scoring in an opening night, passing a franchise record of Mario Lemieux’s six.
  • Matheson’s involvement in the second and third goals against were sort of living up to the negative aspects of his scouting report with defensive inconsistencies. One could also see why recently d-pairs were changed to put Matheson with John Marino, at one point Matheson/Ceci got stuck in their own zone together and didn’t look very hot.
  • Also, without checking the shift chart as a possible answer if he was just coming off the , why was Matheson playing on the PK and Marcus Pettersson got no shifts there until the third period? And Matheson didn’t play on the PP all night, while Pettersson got over 2 minutes there. It doesn’t seem like the players are being placed in the optimal spots. (shoutout our pal Eric for that observation).
  • Not a great special teams night, the PK gave up two goals on three chances. Both times getting drawn out of their structure by losing faceoffs and Flyers’ puck movement. And both times allowing deflections in front. That needs to be cleaned up. The Pens’ power play finished 1/3, which doesn’t look bad on the score sheet, but didn’t look good on the night — salvaged by Crosby’s individual effort on the gift from Hart.
  • Random stat: despite scoring a goal, no player had less ES ice time through two periods than Jankowski at 6:40.
  • A 3-3 game, on the road, in the third just fell apart in this one. Sometimes it happens. The Pens did well to battle back for a bit, but then it got away from them.
  • Jarry didn’t seem to play bad, but he also only made one really nice save that I can remember (on the ensuing penalty that the Flyers would go onto score on anyways). He didn’t go above and beyond. He wasn’t given a lot of help from his team. Philly has speed, and late in the game they were off to the races, with the Pittsburgh team-defense not doing him any favors. The team will surely be looking to improve in any number of areas next time out.

That will wrap it up for this game, with the new wrinkle in this season, these two teams will meet each other again on Friday night for a second game. Pittsburgh can look back and see what mistakes they made, and try to clean it up for next time. It’s a short 56-game season, but it’s also a year with no exhibitions. Every team is going to have to clean up their games and improve as the year advances.

For Pittsburgh, that starts with trying to earn a split of the first two games.