Our Penguins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers last night 5 – 4 in OT. Pyrrhic may not be quite the right adjective to describe the victory, since the term implies that the victory was tantamount to a defeat, but it certainly was a costly victory; Matt Murray had to leave the game with a lower body injury. Tristan Jarry came in to replace him.
When you are down on your luck it seems nothing goes right for you and when two teams down on their luck face each other, fates collide. Fortunately for our hometown favorites, Philadelphia was the more unlucky of the two teams. Although, overall the Penguins have had their share of problems this season, they do boast some of the best scoring talent in the league and it was on full display last night, despite one of our best, Evgeni Malkin, being on the shelf. Brian Elliot, the Flyers goalie was assaulted by Penguin skaters, facing 82 shots attempts, 52 of them on goal. Mr Elliot surely was a busy man and did his best to hold the fort under our Penguins onslaught. Only Jake Guentzel’s opening tally was a clean goal; a laser beam of a shot to the top far corner as he cruised in on his off wing. The 4 other Penguin goals were lunch-pail goals borne of good old fashion hard work and some puck luck.
What is the old saying put the puck on net and good things happen? Down 3 – 1 at the start of the third period but on the power play, Patric Hornqvist seemed determined to change the game single handed. Driving down the right wing wall, then dropping the puck back to Sidney Crosby, Hornqvist started the play that would result in his 8th goal of the season. Crosby quickly found Guentzel in the slot (finally a Penguin in a high percentage scoring area taking a shot) who wasted no time ripping a shot on goal as Hornqvist crashed the net to complete the play he started. Elliot couldn’t handle the shot cleanly and Hornqvist, in true Hornqvist style batted the rebound passed Elliot.
Less than 40 seconds later, Bryan Rust, decided he would not be out done by Hornqvist and in an attempt to one up the Short Handed Goal he scored in the previous game blocked a play at his defensive blue line and then turned on the after burners to blow past another set of defensemen who looked like they were standing still compared to the fleet-footed Rust, for another break away. To his credit, Elliot tried to hold back the fates, but Luck was no Lady for the Flyers this night as another determined Penguin kept barging toward the net and the rebound bounced right up off of Elliot onto the shaft of Rust’s stick, over Elliot, and into the net.
However, the Penguins hapless defense was bound and determined to abet Philadelphia. All night Penguins defensemen had been contributing to the Flyers offense with bad passes just within the blue line, allowing odd man breaks, including the breakaway by Jakub Voracek that would eventually lead to the injury to Murray as well as very ill-timed penalties by Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta that gave the Flyers a two man advantage in the second period. Not to be out done by Kris Letang’s bad plays or Dumoulin and Maatta’s Penalties, around the 16 minute mark, Matt Hunwick, who, going into last night’s game was ceding over 70 shot attempts to Penguins opponents for every 60 minutes of even strength ice-time he played, decided to give the puck away to Flyers Michael Raffl just inside the Flyers Blue-Line. Phil Kessel did try and cover for Hunwick, but when a forward is forced to cover for a defensemen bad things happen and Raffl powered his way in on Jarry to stake the Flyers to another lead.
But as I said, Luck was no Lady to the Flyers last night, despite the efforts of the Penguins defense to help out their opponents at every turn, the Penguins “O” and Puck-Luck prevailed. Guentzel evened the game up when Mike Sullivan pulled his goalie and put the extra attacker on. More bouncing pucks off Penguins forwards and the Penguins were back in business.
Then Sidney Crosby, in a show of what a Captain is supposed to do, led the charge with still over a minute to play, the Penguins Captain went back on the offensive leading his line in attack to end the game in regulation time forcing Voracek to take a delay of game penalty, when he threw the puck over the glass to take the heat out of the hot kitchen. Then just after the Penalty expired, in over-time he redirected a shot from Kris Letang to send Philadelphia home losers of 8 straight games and three straight OT losses.
Phil “the Thrill” Kessel quietly added to his team leading point total, picking up an assist on the game winner. It was the 6th time this year he assisted on what would be the winning goal.
Matt Murray will be revaluated today. Let’s hope for the best.
Ian Cole was once again a healthy scratch. Why? I have no idea. No, Cole has not been playing like he did two seasons ago but if any Penguins “D” needs to be a healthy scratch it is Matt Hunwick. He is a CRORSI nightmare. When a Defenseman is giving up over 70 shot attempts per 60 minutes of even strength ice time he has no business getting any ice-time. I understand that trading a UFA is a good idea and sitting a player who is on the trading block prevents him from getting hurt but Hunwick is seriously hurting the team.
In another head-scratcher Ryan Reaves only played 5:33 last night.
Greg McKegg only played 7 shifts last night; none after the second period, pretty much the same as Reaves.