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RECAP: Pens find some mojo, score a lot of goals and beat the Flyers

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The Pens put up a 5 spot on the Flyers and get another great game from Tristan Jarry and some fancy passing on offense in a win over Philly.

NHL: MAR 02 Flyers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pregame

A lot of changes for the Penguins in this one. Sidney Crosby is out, courtesy COVID protocol and Pierre-Olivier Joseph is out via a coaching choice. So in step Josh Currie and Mark Friedman for their respective first games with the Pens, with Jared McCann moving to center to help back-fill the absence of Crosby.

First period

Zach Aston-Reese makes a dangerous trip on a Flyer 1:58 in and goes to the box. The struggling Pens’ PK does well to kill it off, with some help from Tristan Jarry but then seconds after the ZAR penalty ends Mike Matheson gets his stick up on Sean Couturier and Pittsburgh is right back to killing a PK.

The Pens get their first power play with 15 seconds left in the period.

Shots are 14-5 PHI, thanks to the lengthy power play time. 5v5 shots on goal were 6-4 PHI. Interestingly, the Pens led in 5v5 shot attempts 13-8. So why 13 shot attempts but only 4 SOG? The Flyers blocked 10 total shots, keeping a ton of rubber away from the net.

Second period

The Pens can’t score on the carryover of their power play, but then the Flyers strike soon after. Teddy Blueger gives the puck away at center ice to Couturier who quickly gets it into the zone. Mike Matheson laughably leaves his feet and Joel Farabee just passes the puck and steps over the sliding Matheson. Couturier lays it back again for a wide open Farabee who has a full net to tap it in. 1-0 PHI

The Pens get that goal right back just 1:07 later. Kasperi Kapanen steals a pass in his own zone and turns on the jets to get on a breakaway. A beauty of a fake slapshot freezes Carter Hart and opens up the old five hole and Kapanen slides the puck through it. 1-1 game.

Pittsburgh gets another power play when Michael Raffl makes another one of his dangerous cheap hits (he really should be on the radar for one of the bigger dirtbags around these days) knocking Cody Ceci face first into the post. And the Pens power play....makes them pay? What is this? A really nice sequence that sees all 5 players touch the puck from Letang to Malkin down low for Rust who bumps the puck to Jake Guentzel who then cross-ice touch passes it on a platter for Kapanen to snap into the net for his second of the night. 2-1 Pens.

Kapanen gets a golden chance for a natural hat trick on a great setup from Letang (see note below), but Hart robs him.

Two minutes later and the Pens are pouring it on now. Guentzel and Rust both get to the front of the net and Letang’s point shot comes in. Hart stops it but leaves a rebound for Rust to quickly swat in. 3-1 Pens.

Sam Lafferty heads to the box next but the Pens kill it off. Pittsburgh gets some pressure but then Malkin pulls a Giroux and takes an o-zone penalty with ~15 seconds left in the period.

Shots in the 2nd period are 14-12 Pens, but 26-19 Philadelphia overall in the game.

Third period

The Pens kill the penalty and Malkin is out of the box looking like the old bully Geno in the o-zone. But Lafferty takes his second penalty of the game and the Pens are RIGHT back to the PK for a fifth time.

For as great as Jarry was (and he was great) he makes a few mistakes that gives a goal back. Jarry misplays the puck behind the net to give the Flyers life, then he can’t corral a fluttering puck and Farabee has his second of the night to make it 3-2.

Just like the Flyers’ first goal, the Pens strike back instantly again. Another beautiful tic-tac-toe play from Friedman (!!) to McCann over to Ceci and Ceci (?!?!) finishes from right in front. 4-2 Pens.

With 4 minutes left Hart skates to the bench. Did he think there was a penalty? Were they foolishly pulling him way early and before they even had possession in deep? Who knows. Who cares? Matheson gets the puck back and practices his long range shooting skills to put wrap this win up. 5-2.

Some thoughts

  • It’s really funny how Crosby leaves, team cancels morning skate after not practicing yesterday and the new power play makes a really fancy, all hands on deck play to bounce the puck around with tremendous skill and precision for a goal. This wasn’t some “keep it simple, just work hard, meat and potatoes” type of power play, it was pure fancy, poetry in motion. And...it worked.
  • Same with the Ceci goal, a skilled play from Friedman in his first game as a Pen to McCann who really helped open up Hart by dishing back again to Ceci. A lot of skill there, and for guys who really don’t play much together.
  • Kapanen was great and Rust was too, but besides the goals I thought it was Kris Letang as the Pens’ most visible offensive player. Letang had 4 SOG and 8 total shot attempts, was jumping in the play to keep the offense alive, he made the slick pass for Kapanen in the GIF above, just a lot of great stuff for Letang.
  • This was the first P.O Joseph-less game in a while, and anyone paying attention could see it was coming. Joseph’s play had slumped, he dropped from first pair to third and while I thought it may have waited until Brian Dumoulin could return from injury, the team instead elected to give newcomer Mark Friedman a look tonight against his old team. Future is still bright for Joseph, but it’s not quite here just yet.
  • Are Shayne Gotisbehere and Mike Matheson the exact same player? Pretty good with the puck, completely clueless without it. Ghost letting two Pens get behind him on the Rust goal was maybe even worse than Matheson’s decision to take himself completely out of the play on the Farabee goal.
  • And how about a stick tap for the embattled Pens’ PK? It was lower ranked (29th) than even the power play (26th) coming into the night but went 5/5 and often looked good doing so. As always, the goalie is the most important penalty killer and Jarry was great there.
  • Sam Lafferty’s night: on ice for both Flyers goals, 2 “lazy” penalties (a offensive zone hold an an offensive zone slash), 3 hits, 1 shot on goal, 2 giveaways. It was not a very good showing for him in his chance on the third line.
  • Other than the Kapanen power play goal and the mess at the end, looked like Hart got beat five hole/low on every goal. Interesting to keep in mind. Goalies are so athletic and good, but get them moving and the lower part of the net can be a great place to score on too.
  • Malkin only had 1 assist, but he looked like the old Malkin instead of just an old (aged) Malkin. Lots of jump in his stride, he was picking off passes, playing better without the puck, making better decisions with it. And 3 SOG and 5 shot attempts. The Pens are going to need that moving forward and it was encouraging first signs without Crosby.

40 saves from Jarry, who was way better than Hart, Kapanen and Rust breaking out, the PK going 5/5, a power play goal of their own. Lots of great items to take away from this game for the Pens who take the big win even without Crosby.

But they’ve been one game up, one game back down for a while now, let’s see how they’re able to build on that next time against a Philly team that surely will be making some adjustments and looking to play a lot better on Thursday for the rematch.