PHILADELPHIA — The Penguins were 20 seconds from victory, but the 2019 NHL Stadium Series ended in a 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers when Claude Giroux completed a come-from-behind victory with an overtime game-winner at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night.
Giroux skated in against Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, who played a season-high 29:34 of ice time after injuries to Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang, and his shot went through the five hole of Penguins goaltender Matt Murray at 1:59 of the overtime period.
The Penguins were only a few ticks of the clock from celebrating an improbable win when a lost faceoff in the defensive zone found its way to the stick of Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, who threw a harmless-looking shot on net that also foiled Murray to extend the game beyond regulation.
“I just didn’t see it. I need to do a better job of finding it. It is what it is,” a dejected Murray said. “They threw a lot of traffic to the net, but I have to do a better job.”
The Penguins had built a 3-1 lead despite the absence of all of their top defense pair for most of the game. They were shorthanded when Dumoulin was injured on a hit by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds at 16:59 of the first period. Dumoulin lined up to play the puck along the boards, Simmonds rose up on his skates and hit Dumoulin high, with significant contact from the hit carrying Dumoulin’s head into the glass.
“I just saw the replay. It looked like (Simmonds) made contact with (Dumoulin)’s head. It’s tough to see that,” Crosby said. The admission is a departure for Crosby who usually avoids commenting on hits.
Dumoulin slumped to the ice, and the Penguins and Flyers got together in a scrum that saw Letang and Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere tumble to the ice, injuring Letang in the process. Neither player returned to the game.
“Dumoulin has been diagnosed with a concussion and is out,” head coach Mike Sullivan said with a bite. “Kris Letang is being evaluated for an upper-body injury.”
In their absence, it wasn’t just Schultz that worked a heavy load. Jack Johnson led all skaters with 31:08, Marcus Patterson was on the ice for 22:14 and Chad Ruhwedel played 24:38.
“It’s tough when you lose your top pair for a majority of the hockey game, but I thought the other four guys did a tremendous job,” said Sullivan.
Schultz even added a goal as he took the ricocheted of his own shot off the end boards, settled it down and fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Flyers goaltender Brian Elliot to break was had been a 1-1 tie. It was Schultz’s first goal of the season and first goal since April 15, 2018. Patrick Hornqvist also assisted.
The Flyers weren’t the only ones to score on a fluky goal. Evgeni Malkin tossed a long-range shot on net that Elliott gloved, but the puck bounced off his glove up into the air, off his back and into the net to give the Penguins a two-goal margin of victory.
Malkin’s goal was assisted by Phil Kessel and Zach Aston-Reese, as Mike Sullivan stuck with that trio after first putting them together six days previously against the New York Rangers.
James Van Riemsdyk started the Philly comeback when he scored a power-play goal on a tip-in behind Murray with 3:04 to play in the third period. The Penguins finished 1 for 2 on the penalty kill and did not get a power play opportunity.
Crosby opened the scoring with a nifty backhanded goal at 7:59 of the first period on an assist from Letang. He also had the first goal in the Penguins’ 4-2 win over the Flyers at Heinz Field in 2017.
Sean Couturier tied the game 4:07 later, on his 25th goal of the season. Oskar Lindblom and Voracek assisted.
The Penguins out-shot the Flyers, 18-8 and 12-9 in the first two periods, but Philadelphia poured on 18 shots in the final frame to even the total to 40-35 in favor of Pittsburgh heading into overtime. Giroux scored on the second Philadelphia shot of the extra period.
A total of 69,620 fans packed into Lincoln Financial Field, making it the second-most attended NHL Stadium Series game, behind only the game in 2015 between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Penguins forward Matt Cullen played in his 1,496th career game, passing Phil Housley for third all-time in NHL games played for an American.
With the loser point, the Penguins (32-22-8, 72 points) tied the Carolina Hurricanes for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Each team has played 62 games. The Flyers are now seven points behind the Penguins with 65 points.
The Penguins have two days off before they will visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. The Blue Jackets are in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 73 points.
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