PHILADELPHIA — Surrounded by a powder keg of emotion known as Wells Fargo Center, the Pittsburgh Penguins survived the early Flyers attack and scored three goals in under five minutes early in the second period.
Sidney Crosby had four points, a goal and three assists. The Penguins power play scored three times and the Penguins reclaimed home-ice advantage in the emotional series by a 5-1 score. The Penguins now lead the first-round best-of-seven series two games to one.
The Flyers fans were in playoff form. “Crosby Sucks” chants began well before the opening faceoff and continued into the first period. The Flyers themselves had a fast start but wasted their opportunity.
Despite Flyers domination for much of the first period, the Penguins took the lead. Midway through the period, Crosby temporarily hushed the raucous crowd with a wraparound goal. Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin pinched along the wall to keep the play alive, Patric Hornqvist created havoc in front and Crosby (4) skated around the net and tucked it in.
“I thought Sid was a big reason our team settled down. That first goal,” said Sullivan. “He thrives on (the hostile atmosphere). That’s why he’s an elite player.”
“It was huge. Huge,” said Derick Brassard of Crosby’s goal. “The first five, first 10, they were all over. The crowd was into it. Matt (Murray) saved us two or three times.”
“We built on our game after that,” Brassard concluded.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had a different take.
“I don’t think it was deflating. We played a really good first 20 minutes,” he said. “The game took a drastic turn in the first six of seven minutes of the second period. And it centered around penalties.”
Otherwise, the first period was as a series of just-missed Flyers chances, gasping Flyers fans and Murray highlights. Murray stopped all 11 shots and it seemed like twice that many. Murray made at least five Grade-A saves, and poke-checked the puck from Travis Konecny to prevent a sure goal.
The Penguins power play struck for three goals, including a pair of power-play tallies, in the second period.
Two minutes into the second period, the Penguins power play took advantage its second chance. Phil Kessel skated the puck into the zone for a rare controlled zone entry. The Penguins power play worked the puck low to Brassard in the circle.
Brassard (1) drilled it past Elliott. Drilled it.
Four minutes later, Evgeni Malkin scored the Penguins second power-play goal. He drilled it through Elliott from the right wing circle. Drilled it.
“It’s about shooting at the right time. When players are good position,” said Sullivan. “Smart shots.”
On the ensuing faceoff, it was a Penguins jailbreak. Crosby pushed the puck through Claude Giroux‘s legs, sped into the Flyers zone, and snapped a pass to defenseman Brian Dumoulin. From the right wing dot, Dumoulin (1) wristed it between Elliott’s legs. It wasn’t the hardest shot, but it was well placed.
The roaring Wells Fargo Center was suddenly silent.
“I should have taken a timeout after the third goal,” Hakstol said. “Hindsight is 20/20. I had no doubt we could come back and dig ourselves out of that hole.”
The teams traded chances throughout the first period. Justin Schultz had an open look from the slot, in the first minute of the game. Fifteen seconds later, Murray made a dazzling glove save on Flyers center Nolan Patrick, who had a short breakaway.
Penalties also became an issue. While the Flyers fans lobbied for every call, the officials awarded four power plays to each team through two periods. The Flyers took a few more penalties in the third period, and the Penguins took a late penalty, too.
The Flyers did crack the scoreboard in the second period. Defenseman Travis Sanheim (1) wristed the puck from the point. It glided through light congestion and through Murray’s five-hole.
The Flyers momentarily had momentum, but the Penguins responded quickly with an extended offensive flurry. The game calmed considerably and on the Penguins last power play of the second period. Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas didn’t even cross-check Patrick Hornqvist in front of the net. And Hornqvist didn’t cross-check Gudas.
Schultz ended any doubt with a power-play goal midway through the third period. Schultz’s (1) slapshot from the point went right through Elliott’s five-hole.
Game. Set. Match.
The Penguins’ power play was 3 for 7. The Flyers were 0 for 5. Murray made 25 saves. Elliott was far from his stellar Game 2 self. Elliott stopped 21 of 26.
The winning team in each Penguins-Flyers game this season, including four regular-season contests, has scored at least five goals.