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Flyers Recap: Penguins punish puny, putrid Philadelphia platoon

The Penguins skate off with a 5-1 afternoon win against the very bad Phialdelphia Flyers

NHL: MAR 11 Flyers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


No Nick Bonino means an avalanche of changes to the Penguins’ forward lines. Rickard Rakell drops down to the third line with Mikael Granlund, Bryan Rust returns home to the Sidney Crosby line, Jeff Carter is bumped down to the fourth line and new addition Alex Nylander gets a golden opportunity to play with the red hot Jason Zucker-Evgeni Malkin combo. No changes on defense and Tristan Jarry is being saved for the quality opponent tomorrow, leaving Casey DeSmith to play against the scrubs.

First period

The Pens strike first 5:52 into the contest with Rakell scoring by tipping a shot from Marcus Pettersson past Carter Hart.

After the goal, however, Pittsburgh slumps through the rest of the period, getting little going. The Flyers tie the game when Casey DeSmith just watches a long range, routine shot sail right on by him and into the net. Alrighty then. 1-1.

Shots are 13-6 PHI in the first but the score is tied.

Second period

Philadelphia takes a few trips to the penalty box early in the second. The Pens can’t score on the first attempt (though Evgeni Malkin almost did with a fancy between the legs shot attempt) but they do make it count on the second chance. Sidney Crosby wires a puck from the right side. 2-1 Pens.

This time after scoring, Pittsburgh changed it up and fed off the goal and kept playing well. Hart kept the Flyers in striking distance when he made a breakaway save on Jeff Carter.

Shots in the second were 15-7 PIT, and 21-21 overall.

Third period

Jake Guentzel gets tripped and the Pens are back to a power play early. Rakell narrowly misses steering in a pass from Guentzel to double Pittsburgh’s lead.

Marcus Pettersson takes a penalty to give Philly a second crack at their power play. DeSmith kicks out a huge rebound and gets an incoming follow-up shot that he flashes the stick and gets enough to keep it out of the net.

The Flyers don’t score on their power play, but it serves to wake them up and they build on it by turning up the pressure for the first time since the first period.

They get another crack at it after Rust takes a tripping minor with 8:03 left in the third period but DeSmith and the Pens take care of it again.

Jason Zucker must have remembered that he hadn’t scored his nightly goal, so he took care of that. Malkin won an o-zone faceoff and Pettersson put the puck on net. Zucker put a tip on it and the puck had just enough mustard on it to squeak through Hart and slide ever-so-slowly over the goal-line. 3-1 Pens with 5:36 remaining.

Philadelphia pulls the goalie for desperation time but Carter uses the wall to make a nice little indirect pass for Guentzel. Guentzel gets the red line and puts the puck in the cage. 4-1 Pens for the insurance.

Mikael Granlund gets a lane and skates into it and fires a shot past Hart and in, just for good measure. Welcome to the Pens. 5-1 to set the final score.

Some thoughts

  • This was the last game of the season (and possibly last game period) for the Winter Classic jersey, and honestly, I’m gonna miss it. Still don’t love the yellow helmet, but overall I like it as one of the better looking alternate jerseys the Pens have had in this era.
  • Rakell has been one of Pittsburgh’s best “line fixers” this season. Just about anywhere and everywhere they put him his play helps elevate the rest of the line. For that reason, it stands up as a wise-looking coaching decision to put Rakell with Granlund on the third line.
  • Is the power play starting to form a bit of an identity or develop a “go-to” play? Feeding Crosby for a one-timer off the right wall sure seems like a smart play that will pay off regularly. They should try to keep doing that late-breaking idea...Snark aside, it is better late than never and good that Crosby is looking for that shot and getting himself in position to unleash it.
  • Didn’t have a problem with Malkin’s flashy between-the-legs shot attempt in the second. It looked a lot like the goal Trevor Zegras scored earlier in the week (except Zegras, y’know, actually finished). While it appears razzle dazzle for nothing but trying to look cool, which always provokes an instant grumpy reaction, in both instances the point wasn’t to score a highlight reel goal - it was to pull the puck to a different and better shooting angle. The game is changing like that, the way to score on these goalies that are so good is to trick them by making a quick, last second, creative move that puts a tougher shot on net and to a different area than they are expecting. You have to manipulate the stick to do that.
  • Nylander had an excellent debut game on Tuesday, but was near-invisible in today. Zero shot attempts, one takeaway and two blocked shots in just 11:15 of ice time. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a little dose of reality that he’s not an instant and every-game difference maker at the NHL level. But he also didn’t give much a negative reason to not have earned another look, which at this point is a plus for him as well. As he looks to earn trust and remake his reputation, simply doing enough to get in the next game is a small step in the right direction.
  • Pettersson had two shots turning into goals, that’s a welcome sight. Going low-to-high with the puck and then having defenders who can get the puck on net is a big help and key part of a team’s attack. Up to 22 assists this season, Pettersson’s quietly bringing that element to the table and it’s a big reason (and upgrade) for why he’s playing top-pair minutes right now.
  • One game after firing their GM, the Flyers are just totally vanilla. Boring. Bland. It’s one thing to not be very good (and they’re bad alright!) but not even in their typical entertaining “everything is falling apart” type of way. The Flyers are usually a lot of things, but never boring. Never thought I’d see the day,
  • DeSmith steadied the ship after giving up that ugly looking goal early. Luckily that wasn’t a sign of things to come, other than having about literally one bad second, he was wonderful in the other 59:59.
  • Liked the whole game from the team too, Thursday’s loss to the Islanders was a devastating one. Yet, you would never know that from just watching this game. They were well-balanced, focused and just set out to control what they could control and that was taking care of business today. Job well done.

That was a game the Pens simply needed to win, and though it was close for a while, they put it away late and come away with a well-deserved win. Pittsburgh improves to 2-0-1 in this five-game homestand and gets a chance tomorrow afternoon to cement a very strong showing when the Rangers come to town.