Flyers beat Penguins, put damper on potential momentum
With all-stars at every turn, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a power play that should, by rights, strike fear into any penalty kill that crosses its path.
The Philadelphia Flyers weren’t scared Saturday night.
Dale Weise scored a tie-breaking short-handed goal in the first minute of the third period, leading the Flyers to a 4-2 victory over the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
The Flyers won for the second time in their past eight games. The Penguins have lost two in a row.
On the short-handed goal, the Flyers retrieved the puck behind the net and made two quick passes, Andrew MacDonald to Scott Laughton on the half-wall and Laughton to Weise streaking through the middle of the ice, to take their first lead of the game.
On balance, the Penguins haven’t been bad on the power play this season. They came into the game ranked eighth in the league with a 24.6 percent success rate.
But they let a key opportunity slip away with the score tied in the third period of a 6-3 loss to Colorado on Wednesday, and they’ve given up a league-leading six short-handed goals.
The Penguins came into the game at a bit of a crossroads. After a brutal stretch where they lost nine of 10, they put together a 3-0-2 run that ended with the loss at Colorado.
With a three-game homestand in front of them, would the Penguins get back to the business of climbing out of the hole they dug in November or was the Avalanche setback a sign of more struggles to come?
Before the game, coach Mike Sullivan said he was confident the Penguins still were trending in the right direction because he trusted the leadership in the locker room would make sure that was the case.
To his point, captain Sidney Crosby scored Saturday night before the game was a minute old.
Brian Dumoulin made a quick breakout pass from his goal line to Crosby, who sent Jake Guentzel up the left wing on a two-on-one. One cross-ice pass later, Crosby had his fifth goal in his last three games.
The goal was a flashback to last season for Guentzel and Crosby, who combined to record 41 points against the Flyers in 10 regular-season and playoff meetings, culminating in Guentzel’s four-goal effort in a series-clinching Game 6 playoff victory for the Penguins.
The struggling Flyers, who fired general manager Ron Hextall on Monday, did not fold after the early adversity.
They tied the score before the game was six minutes old.
MacDonald made a breakout pass from the goal line that rivaled Dumoulin’s in effectiveness, finding Robert Hagg in the middle of the Flyers defensive zone. Hagg quickly fed Travis Konecny, who took off on a breakaway up the right wing and beat goalie Casey DeSmith with a shot inside the far post.
DeSmith atoned for the goal in the second period, turning back a Jakub Voracek shot and rebound attempt on a breakaway after Dumoulin after Tanner Pearson misfired on a pass in the neutral zone.
The Penguins quickly rewarded their goalie by scoring at the other end of the ice. Riley Sheahan took a short pass from Bryan Rust at the blue line, skated up the left wing and beat goalie Anthony Stolarz high to the short side about six minutes in.
The Flyers, again, didn’t fold. Sixty-three seconds later, Claude Giroux got lost in the Penguins defensive-zone coverage, took a cross-ice pass from Voracek and scored on a one-timer from the bottom of the left faceoff circle to make it 2-2.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.