It’s hard to imagine a more positive result for the Penguins than their 6-1 beatdown of the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night.
Flyers 1 — Penguins 6
Pittsburgh’s struggling power play looked stellar, while the penalty killing unit put two goals on the board. The Penguins controlled play from start to finish, visibly frustrating the Flyers, and several of Pittsburgh’s top goal scorers got on the board.
More importantly, the Penguins earned another two points against a division rival and moved back in to first place in the Atlantic Division. And for at least a few hours, moved back in to first place in the Eastern Conference as well.
And all the while they matched Philadelphia’s intensity, proving that physicality isn’t lacking in Pittsburgh.
“I loved the response from our team,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “…I loved the fact our guys hung in there, answered the bell. It’s not a surprise with the rivalry, the two teams and the situation both teams are in. It felt close to a playoff intensity. There was a lot of intensity, a lot of jam in that first period.”
After the Sidney Crosby scored a power play goal just 3:30 into the game, the Flyers took it upon themselves to do what they have done so much over the last 30 years: hit their opponent right in the mouth.
However, no one could have expected it would come in the form of three straight fights over a span of 16 seconds. Mike Rupp and Arron Asham squared off, followed by Eric Godard and Riley Cote and then Craig Adams and Daniel Carcillo.
“Back to back to back like that, I think it was pretty exciting for both teams and all the fans,” Crosby said. “It kind of lived up to the rivalry.
“(The bench) was pretty empty. Lots of room to sit and you know every third line, you know all three lines will be rotating. (The fourth line) had their whole line sitting in the box. I’ve seen (fights like that in) junior (but) I haven’t seen it that quick in the NHL.”
If anything the bouts went in Pittsburgh’s favor. Bill Guerin drove to the net while Crosby fired from the right wing — a shot that squeaked through Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher’s pads and right to the tape of Guerin’s stick for a 2-0 lead with 13:51 left in the first.
Carcillo tied the game up 5:37 later and gave the Flyers some needed momentum, which they carried in to another power play with 5:45 left in the period. However, Jordan Staal scored the 10th shorthanded goal of his career to give the Pens a 3-1 lead at intermission and control of the game.
Staal added another just before the end of the second period and Ruslan Fedotenko and Evgeni Malkin each added goals in the third to ice the game — Malkin’s came on the penalty kill.
With so many positives coming from the performance, Bylsma noted that his power play unit — which came in to the game 29th in the National Hockey League at 13.6 percent — showed promise.
“I like how we can spread it out,” said Bylsma of his new configuration, which places Malkin on the point with Sergei Gonchar while a mix of either Guerin, Matt Cooke or Chris Kunitz parks in front of the net. “With 71 and 87 on each side of the ice — when Geno got the puck it made them respect that side of the ice a little more.”
“Two guys in the net-front presence — creating lanes and passing opportunities and shooting opportunities and screen opportunities — I liked the way it looked. We’re (still) getting used to some of those situations. All in all, I liked getting the first goal on a shot and a second chance. I liked that aspect of our power play. I think it gave us a little more confidence as well.”
The Penguins biggest concern now is continuing to do the right things again Thursday as they travel to play the Flyers at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
“We know that goin’ in to Philly, we’ve got to forget about this one but try to play the same way,” Crosby said.
- Staal was hit up high by a puck late in the third period Tuesday and was visibly in pain when returning to the bench. Of the injury he said, “I’m fine. It was a stinger, it went away after a few minutes.”
- Guerin also siffered an injury, appearing to take a puck to the foot while blocking a shot. Bylsma said after the game: “I don’t have an update on Billy.”
Chris | PPT