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Penguins/Flyers Recap: In full control, Pens down Flyers 4-1

Evgeni Malkin and Erik Karlsson set the tone for the Penguins, who cruise to a 4-1 victory on the road over the Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Pregame

Pittsburgh brings the same skaters as usual lately, but opt to play backup Alex Nedeljkovic tonight.

First period

The run of questionable officiating the Pens’ have been getting lately continue, but this time in their favor. Sean Couturier is sent off the in early going for a “trip” and the Pittsburgh power play takes advantage of the gift. All five of the attackers touch the puck within a six second stretch, culminating in Rickard Rakell at the backdoor to finish off a beauty of a pass from Evgeni Malkin. 1-0 Pittsburgh.

When the tic-tac-toe is pretty, it’s pretty.

The ref show continues to even up the earlier error by sending the Flyers to a power play for a fairly weak call. Philadelphia can’t convert on their makeup attempt, derailed at the end by Travis Sanheim taking a penalty.

After those cycle through, Pittsburgh’s fourth line gets to work with a pressure game. They get bodies to the net and the puck back to Erik Karlsson. Good idea, one heavy shot later and the Pens are up 2-0 just 7:37 into the contest.

The Pens get yet another power play but couldn’t pull away. That comes back on them later when Harkins is sent back to the box yet again and Egor Zamula sets up Owen Tippett for a power play goal. 2-1 game.

The Pens get a FIFTH power play chance as the refs have no choice but to send Ryan Poehling off for clearing the puck over the glass. They can’t score and actually are lucky that Nick Seeler hit a post and didn’t score against them.

First period ends and hopefully the refs can regroup and reset themselves moving ahead.

Shots in the first were 17-13 Pens, a figure skewed by playing nearly half the period (8:03) with a Pittsburgh power play.

Second period

Both teams trade some odd-man rushes back and forth early as some 5v5 play settles in.

It’s one of the more unlikely players on the ice who notched the next goal...Chad Ruhwedel time for his first goal of the game.

Back and forth period with the shots 14-13, but it’s the visitors who double their lead and the Pens have 20 more minutes to go for a road victory.

Third period

Drew O’Connor sets up Malkin and oh my what a finish. Some quick hands by Malkin on his 15th goal of the season to push the lead out to 4-1.

With the game slipping away, the Flyers start gooning it up. Garnet Hathaway’s high-stick makes Kris Letang bleed from the forehead. On the ensuing power play Scott Laughton and Malkin get in a scrum and both take matching minors.

Not too much more comes out of that and the teams mind their manners and get on out of the game as it stands.

Some thoughts

  • Not a lot of flow in the game early on, Pittsburgh had five cracks at the power play and only scored once. Or I guess on the positive side were able to score once. The game could have been broken wide open early with a more effective power play, but you’re gonna take what you get out of them these days.
  • It started out well enough, with the beautiful passing display that ended up working when Malkin passed it through Sanheim and Rakell scored. The second power play carried some momentum with chances. By the end, it was the Flyers looking comfortable and getting aggressive while short-handed.
  • As mentioned in the preview, Malkin and the second line was going to be a focus and key point this game, due to Sean Couturier’s Selke level defense hawking down Sidney Crosby all night. Malkin setup a power play goal and scored at even strength, so check there. Needed a big night from No. 71 and the Pens certainly got it.
  • In fact, that’s under-stating it. Moneypuck had Malkin taking 95% of the expected goal share while on the ice, Crosby was down at the bottom at 51% and only won seven out of 25 faceoffs on a night Couturier was all over him. Dominant game for Geno to do what he does by picking up the slack in situations like that.
  • Karlsson was right there with Malkin in terms of dominating the pace of the game and scoring chances in this game. Add in an even strength goal and this was about the type of game imagined when bringing Karlsson over.
  • When the game was 2-1, that “next goal” held a lot of power to determine how it would happen. Ruhwedel doesn’t score often, but his second period goal to turn the game into 3-1 was absolutely huge and from there on out it was about as drama-free as an NHL game gets about who the eventual victor would be.
  • Another great game by O’Connor too. He’s growing before our eyes, playing over 14 ES minutes tonight - the most of any Penguin winger in the game. It’s been a fun development over the past few weeks to watch him grow and become a viable NHL player right before our eyes in real time.
  • Barring a playoff matchup, this was likely Jeff Carter’s last game playing in Philadelphia, the team that drafted him in 2003 and where he got his career off the ground. Great run for him, though he hurt his Cy Young chances with an assist tonight, getting to 5G-2A on the season from what was a 5-1 line before the game.
  • “Steady as she goes” type of night for Nedeljkovic. He made 36 saves, but as we’ll see below, there wasn’t a lot of quality behind the quantity fired his way. Still, a goalie has to be sharp and play well to have that kind of night, especially since most of the game was a 2-1 or 3-1 lead. Any little slip by Nedeljkovic could have changed the complexion of the game and given the Flyers and their crowd some fuel. They got none of that from the Penguin goaltending tonight.

Speaking of, here’s a Moneypuck tracker of the expected goals that tells the tale of this one:

Now that’s a pretty picture. As soon as Philadelphia scored their goal the Penguins put it into overdrive and Philadelphia did almost nothing afterwards. Flyers weren’t too much of a challenge for the Pens in this one. Pittsburgh gets a few days off, but go home to see a tough visitor on Thursday when the Vancouver Canucks come to town.