Penguins get much-needed win against rival Flyers
PHILADELPHIA — Having played decent hockey more often than not, the Pittsburgh Penguins were probably a little unlucky to carry a four-game losing streak into Monday night.
That luck evened out in a big way against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Penguins survived a 28-shot barrage by the Flyers in the second period and benefitted from a quick whistle that negated a Nolan Patrick goal, stealing a 4-1 victory at Wells Fargo Center.
Sidney Crosby scored against the Flyers for the 40th time in his career. Nick Bjugstad netted his first goal in a Penguins uniform.
With the Penguins leading 3-0 with a little less than five minutes left, Evgeni Malkin received a match penalty for swinging his stick at the head of Michael Raffl.
Jakub Voracek shoveled in a shot at the left post with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left. The Penguins held on until Kris Letang added an empty netter with 12.2 seconds left.
Coming into the Monday night, it was clear this would be a pivotal game for both teams.
The Penguins had dropped to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers were 9-0-1 in their last 10 and threatening to elbow their way into the playoff picture. They trailed the Penguins by only six points.
This chapter in an age-old rivalry wasn’t about bad blood. It was about points in the standings.
It was also about the introduction of a new character to the story. Carter Hart, the 20-year-old rookie who has given Flyers fans a goalie to be excited about for the first time in a long time, was facing the Penguins for the first time.
The first order of business for any new Flyers goalie is stopping Crosby, who came into the game with 43 points in 30 career games at Wells Fargo Center.
Less than nine minutes into the game, Crosby scored on Hart for the first time.
Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust charged behind the Flyers net on the forecheck, causing the puck to pop up into the air. As it landed near the right post, no one saw it but Crosby. He collected it and tucked it over the goal line while Hart was looking the wrong way over his right shoulder.
The Penguins were leaky on defense in the period, giving up a handful of odd-man rushes, but thanks to a couple of high-end saves by Matt Murray and a couple of errant shots by the Flyers, the score stayed 1-0 into the second.
The Flyers took a massive territorial advantage in that period, outshooting the Penguins, 13-3, but it didn’t pay dividends. Instead, the Penguins upped their lead to 2-0.
Malkin knocked down a bouncing puck Phil Kessel had nudged into the neutral zone and left a drop pass for Bjugstad at the top of the left faceoff circle. His shot beat Hart blocker side about seven minutes into the period.
Malkin was in his first game back in the lineup after a five-game absence because of an upper-body injury.
The Penguins suffered a potentially significant injury on defense when Olli Maatta crashed hard into the boards after being hit in the first period and went to the locker room favoring his left arm. He did not return.
The Penguins caught a break with about seven minutes left in the second period. Referees thought Murray gloved a Travis Konecny power-play shot from the right wing when, in reality, the puck was loose in the crease, where Patrick knocked it in. The quick whistle kept the score 2-0.
Guentzel made it 3-0 on a wraparound with less than six minutes to go.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.