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Pens/Flyers Recap: Letang caps massive comeback win on Crosby’s historic night

Sidney Crosby gets goal #500, but it’s Kris Letang who records an overtime winner as the Penguins comeback from a two-goal third period deficit to defeat the Flyers 5-4

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

On a milestone night where Sidney Crosby made history with his 500th career goal, it took a third period comeback for the Penguins to earn an overtime win over the rival Philadelphia Flyers.

For the Penguins, it started as a sloppy and uneven effort. While the played so sharp on the road last week, they struggled at times with basics like completing passes or effectively establishing their forecheck.

Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux struck first, scoring about mid-way through the first period on a 2-on-1 rush, snapping a hard shot past Casey DeSmith with authority.

That goal seemed to wake the Pens up as the proverbial punch in the mouth that they needed, on the very next shift the fourth line struck again. Defensemen Marcus Pettersson threw a shot/pass from the point that Dominik Simon made a really great deflection to the top of the net and the building was energized with a tie 1-1 game.

Crosby would score his milestone goal next, on the power play after a failed Flyer clearing attempt went directly to Malkin. Malkin was able to quickly get the puck down to Crosby and the rest is history. 2-1 Pens.

The Flyers were undaunted by the pomp and circumstance following all of the celebrations. Early in the second, Philadelphia responded. With a puck bouncing around and an errant John Marino clearing attempt, Scott Laughton was in-line to receive it this time and he slammed the gift home to tie the game.

The Flyers took another lead with a hard point shot from Nick Seeler eluded the vision of DeSmith with some traffic in front.

Before the Pens could get to the horn in the second to regroup, a comedy of errors in the their defensive zone culminated in a Justin Braun shot hitting Marcus Pettersson and going in the net to make the score 4-2.

The Pens were down two goals in the third, but they weren’t out yet. The power play struck again with Jake Guentzel scoring from the doorstep to bring them within one.

Pittsburgh then got some more “next shift magic” following that goal up with another in just 18 seconds, from the most unlikely of sources. Chad Ruhwedel was unmarked and snuck up from his defensive position and was hit with a pass by Danton Heinen. Ruhwedel just had to steer the puck into the empty net for his first goal of the season, and first in 92 games to tie the game at 4 with 7:06 remaining.

DeSmith would help send the game to overtime with some key saves on a late Flyer power play, and then on the first shift of OT it was Kris Letang time. Letang forced a turnover and was off on a breakaway. After wisely looking off a dangerous drop pass to the trailing Crosby, Letang shifted to a quick shot that beat Carter Hart, ended the game, and put a fitting finish on a great night of Penguins hockey.

Some thoughts

  • After being great in his previous two starts, DeSmith showed aspects of his game where he struggles; shaky puck control/location of rebounds, not being able to fight through traffic and getting beaten cleanly by long-range shots. Nothing was necessarily his fault and the team wasn’t sharp in front of him, but the goalie wasn’t of much help to make a big save or keep the puck out of the net enough early in the game.
  • DeSmith got some redemption though in the third period on a Flyers power play. He then was able to make several great stops and do some of his share of the work after the team provided him some goal support.
  • The Pens look like they dodged two potential injuries. Brian Dumoulin briefly left in the first period when the puck from a stray Flyer shot ended up hitting him in the head. After a very short break, Dumoulin was able to continue as normal.
  • Brock McGinn was also able to return to the game after taking a direct hit at close range in the hand from a Flyer slap shot. McGinn was instantly in obvious distress and managed to get himself off the ice and into the locker-room before returning after a few minutes. It looked like he may have been struck in the palm.
  • With McGinn temporarily out, the team was forced to shuffle their middle lines, which was probably just as well (save McGinn’s pain). Neither the Malkin nor Carter lines have seemed to mesh or fit in well with each other. Evan Rodrigues bumped up with Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen, which at least shook the team up a bit.
  • Coaches will often point to the shift immediately following a goal as a key moment and opportunity in the game. The Pens totally thrived in these situations, Simon’s goal got them on the board and tied the game at 1 after Giroux scored. Much later, Ruhwedel responded to the Guentzel goal with one of his own to again tie the game. Such huge tipping points in the game, and the mark of a focused team. It’s all about the response.
  • Same can be said about going into the third down 4-2. Brian Dumoulin did an interview with Dan Potash at AT&T Sportsnet and all but predicted that the Pens would be poised and looking to make a comeback. Then they went out and did it. I believe the team has lost three games in regulation in the last 35, they’re just in a groove where they never believe they are out of a game, and just keep chipping away to get the result they want. That’s an impressive confidence and mindset the team has, whether up 4-2 or down 2-4, the approach and commitment is very steady with this group.
  • Another invisible at best night for Kapanen. By the end of the third period he was skipped over for a regular shift and replaced with Simon for a late game, important shift. Mike Sullivan often pulls Kapanen back situationally and it’s telling he didn’t want the Finn out there late in a tie game.
  • Pettersson also found himself skipped over, after a rough game for him and Marino. Pettersson’s ice time by period: 6:01, 4:27, 3:01.
  • The anticipation for a Crosby goal was palpable on this night, against this opponent. Naturally, the captain came through. Fittingly, it was on an assist from Malkin. Crosby now has goal No. 300 and 500 against the Flyers, see them again in a few years for the next one?
  • Speaking of repetition, that’s Letang’s second OT winner against the Flyers this season. Crosby will get all the glory in this one, but it was a classic great game from the Pens’ top defender. The OT GWG, an assist, a team-high 27:53 played, a pair of hits and blocked shots, on ice for 3 GF and 0 GA was the stat line of the night.

The Pens are back at it on Thursday, north of the border against Toronto.