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Short-handed goal provided turning point in Penguins loss | TribLIVE.com
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Short-handed goal provided turning point in Penguins loss

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The Flyers' Valtteri Filppula (51) puts the puck past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (30) with Kris Letang (58) defending during the second period Friday, April 20, 2018.

When referee Dan O’Halloran’s arm went up with 2 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the second period of Game 5 on Friday night, the crowd at PPG Paints Arena erupted.

And why shouldn’t it have? The Penguins had a tidal wave of momentum on their side riding the heels of a dominant period, they had scored 17 seconds prior and O’Halloran was in the midst of announcing a holding minor on Philadelphia’s Radko Gudas.

Surely, the Penguins power play — the NHL’s best during the regular season — finally would allow the Penguins to put their foot on the throat of the Flyers with a two-goal lead heading into the third period of an elimination game for Philadelphia, right?

Not quite. Not even close. Instead, the opposite happened.

Valterri Filppula’s short-handed goal tied the score, and the Flyers’ Sean Couturier delivered the winner late in the third period of a 4-2 Philadelphia victory that forced a Game 6 in the teams’ first-round series.

“Not just getting the kill, but to come back and score a short-handed goal, the timing of it was huge,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “They had just gone up 2-1 and had all the momentum going their way. So that was a big play.”

It was. And it was a rare one against the Penguins. They tied for the NHL lead during the regular season for fewest short-handed goals allowed (three) and hadn’t allowed a short-handed goal in their previous 50 playoff games.

“It would’ve been great to get through the period up one going into the third, (and) obviously to even get a power-play goal and build on it, let alone give one up,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “That’s a big turning point in the game, but it was because we let it be.”

When the Penguins won the Stanley Cup last season, they did so by surviving four playoff rounds without allowing one short-handed goal. They didn’t allow one in any of the final three series during their run to the 2016 Cup. The most recent postseason short-handed goal against came in the second period of Game 3 of the Penguins’ 2016 first-round series against the New York Rangers.

Friday’s goal was scored off of a Phil Kessel turnover.

Filppula and Jori Lehtera went the other way with Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin back at the end of a 73-second shift. Filppula corralled a rebound and shoved a puck past Matt Murray when Letang didn’t muscle him out of the way.

“It was a 2-on-2. I think our first (power-play) unit probably overstayed a shift,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “They should have changed, and we should have got fresh people out there.”

The sequence was the low point of an awful all-around day for the Penguins’ power play: It went 0 for 5 (including 96 seconds of 4-on-3), managing just four shots on goal.

“Yeah, we have to capitalize on one of those,” wing Jake Guentzel said of the power-play chances. “We had the chances, but when you get that many power plays you definitely have to score a couple. So we have got to be better.”

In the end, even 0 for 5 might have been enough to get the Penguins into the second round. Going minus-1 with an extra man is a big part of what did them in Friday.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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