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Recap: Rakell nets two goals and Penguins win in Letang’s 1,000th game

Rakell scores a few early, Casey DeSmith is good, Evgeni Malkin has penalty troubles and the Penguins

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images


It’s all about Kris Letang in this one. The Penguins’ honor their best defensemen ever with a Rolex pre-game and all the players wear the No. 58 for warmups to celebrate his 1,000th game.

There’s a touching video tribute, Letang’s family is on the ice where he is presented with the customary silver stick, and also a pair of mini silver sticks for his family. Alex Letang reads off the starting lineup and joins dear old dad at the blueline for the anthem. I sense a bit of a resemblance.

L’il Letang bringing out the silver stick for the anthem is one of the biggest flexes in modern NHL history.

There’s also a game and here’s the lineup. Penguins rolling with the same old crew, and Casey DeSmith in net for the back-to-back.

First period

It’s a sort of slow start for the Penguins, DeSmith is a monster early with this huge stop on Morgan Frost.

That keeps the game scoreless long enough for Rickard Rakell to make some magic. Ironically for a Penguin team that has had horrible finishing, who knew Rakell only needed to shoot about five feet high, hit the back glass and bank it in off the back of whatever jabroni goalie the Flyers are using these days? 1-0 good guys.

Travis Sanheim takes a slashing penalty and the Pittsburgh power play strikes. Evgeni Malkin turns a fake slap shot into a real pass that Rakell can tip from his bumper spot into the net. 2-0 Pens.

Travis Konecny fires and thinks he has scored but it takes a video review to see for sure. Another crazy save by DeSmith, the puck is in his glove and right on the goal-line but never visually completely crosses it. Pittsburgh stays ahead.

That’s the end of the first, with the Pens up and in a familiar spot for Letang - who has won more games in his first 1,000 than any active player on one team has.

Second period

Pittsburgh gets another power play but it’s wiped out only 13 seconds later when Malkin hooks into a Flyer in front of the net. Penalties cycle through and Malkin gets out of the box and then takes another offensive zone penalty, much to his chagrin.

Pittsburgh kills it off and then Crosby backhands a pass to send Bryan Rust in free. A move to the backhand and Rust hits the net. 3-0 Pens.

Malkin is back the box with a third minor penalty in the offensive zone this period. It’s evened up fairly quickly by a Noah Cates interference call. Penalties cycle through and Joel Farabee plants himself on DeSmith while the Flyers shoot it into the net. Call is immediately wiped out, no goal for interference.

DeSmith makes one more big stop late and Pittsburgh is out to intermission with a three-goal cushion. Shots are 25-20 PIT in the game.

Third period

Malkin’s struggles continues when he gets swiped with a high stick but it isn’t seen or called so he lets the refs know, even when back on the bench. The refs don’t appreciate it and ring him up for another penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Malkin doesn’t back off and earns himself a game misconduct for his barking.

Pittsburgh does their guy a favor and kills off the penalty again.

Soon after that, P.O Joseph’s bump pass doesn’t work out and Tony DeAngelo centers it for Nic Deslauriers to chip into the net from right in front. 3-1 game with 14:03 to go.

The refs notice a Konecny slash, but Ryan Poehling shoots the puck over the glass before the whistle sounds so both players go to make a 4v4. That cycles through but then Crosby gets the gate for slashing with 7:10 remaining.

The Pens kill that off, despite Konecny hitting a post and DeSmith having to make another lunging save.

Philadelphia pulls the goalie with under three minutes to go, and it pays off. Morgan Frost centers it for Kocency, whose quick shot sneaks in. 3-2 game with 2:29 left.

The Flyers get situated and pull the goalie again, but this time it doesn’t work. Ryan Poehling breaks up a play and uses his wheels to scoot down the ice and score into the open net. 4-2 Pens.

Ol’ Torts isn’t going to say die and calls his timeout immediately, despite being down two goals and only have 72 seconds left. They pull their goalie again, but not much comes of it. Pens win.

Some thoughts

  • This game was one for the memory books for Letang, but certainly not Malkin who got rung up for five penalties and 18 PIMs. The Pens could afford that against a woeful Flyers team but will need him to shake it off and get his head on straight on Tuesday.
  • It’s a low bar to clear since when he stands out in any way it’s notable just because of that, but liked the game from Granlund. He went to the net in the first period hard enough to draw Flyers to confront him after the whistle. Had a nice drive on a 4v4 in the second that got a good shot on goal. Nice diving play on the Poehling empry netter to. Nothing to totally write home about, but good enough for one night.
  • The cool thing about the Pens is there’s always a milestone on the horizon. Letang 1,000 games today. Crosby with two assists today is now three points away from 1,500.
  • Per NHL PR, Crosby also boosted his career totals versus Philadelphia to 53G+71A for 124 points (83 GP) and tied Mario Lemieux (51G+73A in 71 GP) for the most points against the Flyers in NHL history.
  • Sneaky good game for DeSmith, who made a handful of sterling saves early in this game. That ended up giving Pittsburgh the cushion they needed down the stretch. After DeSmith shrunk away late against Detroit in his last outing, he responded with a strong performance tonight.
  • Letang celebrated his 1,000th game with his most TOI this season through two periods (20:40). Only 1:41 of that was power play time too, it’s almost forgotten or become normal that this blueline is still being held together with scotch tape and a handful of replacement level players. It was up to 30:13 by the end of the game, absurd for a non-overtime game but just business as usual for the best minutes muncher in Penguin history on his big night.
  • The Flyers are bad as usual, but it’s always a good year to put a season-sweep on them. Tonight’s win gives Pittsburgh a perfect 3-0-0 record on the year against their in-state rival.
  • Pittsburgh got good news on the out of town scoreboard: Carolina downed the Islanders, so the Pens draw up to one point behind NYI with one game in hand. This win also pushed the Pens up one point on the inactive Florida Panthers for the final Wild Card spot, with both teams having five games to go.

Big win for the Pens to help their playoff hopes, but the games only get bigger this week with a huge challenge ahead in New Jersey on Tuesday night.