With just five defensemen for most of the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins fortified their playoff position and snapped Philadelphia Flyers wunderkind goalie Carter Hart’s eight-game winning streak. The Penguins scored a goal in each period and an empty netter despite 28 shots by Philadelphia in the second period. The Penguins dropped Philadelphia to eight points behind them for the final playoff position with a 4-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center, Monday night.
Hart, 20, had a chance to set the NHL record for longest winning streak by a goalie under 21 years-old. Penguins goalie Matt Murray set a career high with 50 saves.
“That’s the type of game he’s capable of. He’s a real good goalie,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.
Philadelphia had a trio of breathtaking offensive chances in the first five minutes as the Penguins forwards left several rushers uncovered. Claude Giroux and Oscar Lindblom each failed to sneak clean shots behind Murray.
“We’ve got to build off it. We all know how important the points are,” said Sidney Crosby. “To get a big win like this on the road, we’ll try to take that momentum back home, now.”
The Penguins were the only team to score in the first period. Per standard operating practice and procedure, the Penguins top line with Sidney Crosby was the most effective line. Eight minutes into the game, the trio including Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel swarmed the Philadelphia zone and Crosby stripped the puck from Philadelphia defenseman Ivan Provorov.
Unbeknownst to almost everyone, a fortuitous puck bounce off the glass came back to Crosby (24) who stuffed the puck behind Philadelphia goalie Carter Hart from the goal line.
Philadelphia continued to bombard the Penguins in the second period and earned 28 shots in the second period, which set a Penguins record. Yes, the Flyers had 28 shots in the second period, however, it was again the Penguins which scored the only goal.
When the Penguins were allowed to play with the puck, the Philadelphia defense was far too respectful and gave the Penguins time and space. Earlier in the second period, Evgeni Malkin left a drop pass for Nick Bjugstad in the right wing circle then charged the net. Bjugstad (6) used the screen to score his first goal as a Penguin.
Counting his last game against Tampa Bay on Jan. 30, Malkin has three assists in his last two games.
Philadelphia was denied a goal in the second period due to a quick whistle. Murray failed to glove a shot but perhaps he thought he snared it and did a little glove show to the shooter. Neither the referee or Murray realized the puck was behind Murray. Philadelphia easily poked the puck into the empty net, but the whistle blew a moment before.
“I knew,” Murray told the Penguins television broadcast. “I guess I sold it well enough.”
With five minutes remaining in the game, Jake Guentzel (27) scored on a wraparound goal. The game appeared to be over until Malkin received a match penalty for high sticking. Philadelphia spent most of the final five minutes of the game on the power play.
Jakub Voracek (14) scored a power-play goal but Kris Letang (13) scored the empty net goal, which pushed Letang past Paul Coffey for most goals by a Penguins defenseman in franchise history. Letang also played over 31 minutes.
Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta suffered an upper-body injury early in the first period and did not return.