Hate is a strong word, but there is thick animosity between the Pittsburgh Penguins (28-20-7) and Philadelphia Flyers (25-23-7). It is a rivalry that dates back to 1967 when both teams first played each other, and a new chapter is penned at the Wells Fargo Center, tonight. As much as it is painful to admit, the game is a matchup of two teams that seem to be trending in opposite directions. The Penguins have lost four straight games and desperately search for wins before any significant damage happens to their playoff hopes. Philadelphia, however, continues to absorb points the way the fabled Rocky absorbed punches from Clubber Lang. Thanks to the emergence of rookie goaltender Carter Hart, Philadelphia holds a 9-0-1 record in their last ten games and seem to be a threat at this stage of the season.
The game also holds implications in the Metropolitan Division as the Penguins continue to fall in the stands, Philadelphia rises. A win tonight can loom large for the second wildcard spot. The standings continue to get tighter as Carolina trails the Penguins by a single point in the standings. The good news is the Penguins hold a game in hand on Carolina but tonight seems paramount to stave off the surging teams behind them. The NY Islander continue to play elite hockey as well and have opened a nine-point lead on the Penguins in the standings. Washington, who have seemed to exorcize their demons, hold the second spot with 67 points.
The Penguins hope Matt Murray can steal a critical game on the road tonight. Murray is 15-9-1 with a 2.97 goals against and a .909 save percentage. Philadelphia turns to the new goalie on the block, Carter Hart. The 20-year-old has an 11-5-1 record and a 2.45 goals against in 17 games.
The Penguins, for the fourth straight game, couldn’t come away with two points as the Tampa Bay Lightning won a close game 5-4, Saturday. The scoring started with Garrett Wilson (1) scoring his first career goal after going scoreless in his first 59 games in the NHL. The ardent moment was brief as the Lightning scored the next two goals to go into the intermission with a lead.
Anthony Cirelli (10) scored at the 12:18 mark of the second period to stretch the lead to two. Credit to the Penguins who came back in their second straight game as Jared McCann (10) and Bryan Rust (15) each scored to tie the game at 3. Unfortunately, just like the previous game, the Penguins could not close out as Tampa Bay played a tough third period and scored twice to satisfy the home crowd. Tanner Pearson (9) scored to give the Penguins life with less than five minutes remaining, but it was too little too late.
Casey DeSmith started his second straight game for the Penguins and battled majority of the game. DeSmith saved 29 of 34 shots in the loss but performed better than his stats might indicate. Andre Vasilevskiy started for Tampa and saved 28 of 32 shots.
The Penguins could not convert on their only powerplay opportunity. The powerplay has been a point of contention recently; changes are on the way.
Philadelphia rolls into tonight after ending Randy Carlyle’s second coaching stint with Anaheim Ducks. A four-goal first period propelled Philadelphia to a 6-2 win and helped Carter Hart win his eighth straight start. Hart saved 30 of 32 shots, and Sean Couturier netted three points in the win.
With goals in back-to-back games for the second time this season, Jared McCann has set a career high of 10 goals. His previous high of nine goals was first recorded during his rookie season with the Vancouver Canucks in 2015-16 and again in 2017-18 with the Florida Panthers.
Bryan Rust started the year slow but also tied his career high in goal on Saturday. Rust’s tally gives his 15 goals on the year. He matched his total from the 2016-17 season.
Evgeni Malkin might return to action tonight, and the lines received some tweaking as a result. Malkin has missed the previous five game due to a hand injury sustained in a fight with Steven Stamkos. The fight involved roughly 17.2 M in annual salary between the two players.
Philadelphia holds a 175-122-30 record all-time against the Penguins. The playoff record is closer between the two teams however with a slight edge to Philadelphia, 21-20-0.
Justin Schultz (Fractured Leg. IR. Practicing)
Zach Aston-Reese (IR. Skating.)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||24.8% (4th NHL)||81.8% (8th-T NHL)|
|San Jose Sharks||24.3% (6th NHL)||81.8% (8th-T NHL)|
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Evgeni Malkin||Phil Kessel|
|Jared McCann||Nick Bjugstad||Patric Hornqvist|
|Tanner Pearson||Matt Cullen||Dominik Simon|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
|Marcus Pettersson||Chad Ruhwedel|