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Recap: Pens/Flyers in the case of the no good, very bad puck luck game

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The bounces literally don’t go the Pens’ way as they fall behind and lose on the road to the Flyers

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

Evgeni Malkin is back! And Casey DeSmith gets the start on the front end of a back-to-back. Mike Matheson unfortunately is out, so Mark Friedman gets the opportunity to play a third game as a Penguin, and a third game against the Flyers.

First period

DeSmith appears to make a wonderful scrambling glove save to keep a shot out of the net and play continues. But at the next stoppage the officials circle back and determine (correctly) that DeSmith’s glove was in the net behind the red line and the puck made it all the way over. 1-0 Flyers on a delayed call, to start the series of unfortunate breaks for the Penguins.

The play goes the other way and a series of unfortunate events prevents Pittsburgh from tying the game. Kasperi Kapanen gets a good shot that hits the upper part of Alex Lyon’s stick. The puck flips behind him towards the net. Jason Zucker can’t tap it in. Lyon lunges and stops the puck juuuuust before it can cross the line. When this GIF ends, Kapanen gets another crack at it that a Flyer blocks. Just brutal puck luck, so it goes sometimes.

The Pens have a second close call as the puck again gets behind Lyon but Shayne Gotisbehere saves a goal...And somehow Teddy Blueger on the doorstep misses the clear too.

The unusual night continues — Kapanen takes his first minor penalty in 44 games and Philadelphia cashes in. All sorts of big bodies in front of the net don’t give DeSmith a chance to see a long-range Gotisbehere shot and the score is 2-0 Philly.

Lady luck continues to smile on the Flyers tonight when Travis Konecny tips a pass back from behind the net, that hits the side of the net and settles perfect for Claude Giroux in slot. Giroux buries it, and whether Konency intended this or not, he was fortunate that this really couldn’t have gone any more perfectly. 3-0 PHI.

The Pens finally get out of the nightmare of a period, shots are 18-11 Philly after two power play to zero advantage.

Second period

The hits keep on coming in the second, the Flyers catch the Pens on a line change with a long pass and Friedman tries to play the pass from Scott Laughton but doesn’t take it away, leading to a Wade Allison goal. 4-0.

The Flyers get in Malkin’s face after a whistle (yes, poke the Russian bear!) to lead to coincidental penalties. And then Pittsburgh gets 37 seconds of a 4v3 power play later with a Phil Myers slashing call, for the visitor’s first of the game. Crosby hits the post from a bad angle. Doesn’t go, Flyers escape the period with the commanding 4-0 lead.

Third period

DeSmith is unable to come back for the third period, apparently injured at some point earlier so Tristan Jarry is pushed into duty on what was supposed to be his night off.

The Pens get carryover 5v4 power play time on the fresh sheet of ice to start the period but don’t get much out of it. Soon after, Ivan Provorov gives them a second shot at it by taking a hooking call.

And Pittsburgh scores a classic Pens power play goal. Malkin to Letang and Letang shoots for Sidney Crosby’s stick. Crosby deflects the puck in through Lyon to make it a 4-1 game with 17:30 remaining.

Then Jarry gets run and takes a tumble and the Pens’ power play parade continues. At the tail end of it, the second group cashes in. John Marino shoots from distance and Zucker is posted up in front and tips in his eighth goal of the season to make it a more interesting 4-2 game.

Joel Farabee ends the intrigue with a nice move on his forehand to fight off the stick check and shoot far-side on Jarry. 5-2 Philly.

Pittsburgh pulls Jarry for an extra skater with 2:35 left, and gifts Giroux with a second goal of the game to make it 6-2.

Jarry goes back in and the Flyers get another one on the rush to make it 7-2.

Some thoughts

  • It was a bit of surprise Mike Sullivan didn’t go to his timeout when it was 3-0 in the first to break the momentum and settle and focus his team. We’ve seen him make that move in the past when the Pens fall down early, but he elected to not use that tonight.
  • And it’s easy to second guess the decision, but given that the Pens never really got to reset and never got on track, it stands out. Sure, the score was 3-0, big hole to fall in, but it seemed from a distance the message sent from the coach was not to slow it down, just get the game over with and that at least is how the team reacted from that point on until they started getting power plays in the third period.
  • Another route Sullivan didn’t want use was switching out the goalie to shake up and wake up the team. There’s a game tomorrow that Tristan Jarry will play, and this close to the playoffs a team doesn’t want the starter playing the majority of two games in 24ish hours. Which makes sense for the situation, but also was a tool taken out of the tool belt for the coach for this one....And then DeSmith got hurt so Jarry had to play the last 20 anyways. A repeated theme of the night: that’s hockey!
  • The Malkin-Kapanen connection was a nice small breath of fresh air. The puck seemed to be following Kapanen around a bit and he’s not turning down many shooting opportunities (4 SOG and 7 total shot attempts), which is also nice to see.
  • Top power play was: Letang-Malkin-Crosby-Guentzel-Rust, meaning Malkin has taken his spot back with the big group, bumping Jared McCann
  • The third period PPG prevented Crosby from a fourth straight point-less game, and he hasn’t been standing out much at all. It’s not like him to coast and who knows if he’s holding back some energy or simply run down after carrying a lot of weight on 33-year old legs in a condensed season, but yeah...Something to watch for. It’s Sidney Crosby, he’s earned a down stretch or two, but it is noticeable.
  • Other than that, not too much to take away or analyze from this one. The Pens put the puck behind the goalie twice and came away with zero goals early, somehow. In the first the Flyers had a couple of instances of inverse luck to score goals on some weird close calls. That’s hockey for ya.
  • It’s also always a good thing to get an immediate rematch. No time to stew on this bad performance and tough loss, just gotta put it in the rear view mirror and get ready for the next game and to move on.

Pens and Flyers for a final time this season tomorrow night. Hopefully the team plays better and Lady Luck decides to even it out a bit.