In Game 2, the Pittsburgh Penguins should have beat the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins outshot the Flyers by a nearly two to one margin and controlled large chunks of the game but lost Game 2, 5-1 at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins penalty killing unit yielded a pair of goals when they failed to block a wrist shot from the point and allowed a wide-open Nolan Patrick to get a puck on the back door.
Trailing 2-0, Sidney Crosby whiffed on an open net in the final seconds of the second period and that was the end of the Penguins chance to win Game 2.
The Penguins controlled territory but the Flyers made adjustments to prevent the Penguins from playing on the rush. The Flyers were aggressive on the puck but used a 1-2-2 through the neutral zone to slow down the Penguins attack and packed the defensive zone.
The Penguins response was to try to break the compressed defense by shooting from high in the zone and hoping for rebounds or deflections.
By moving the game to a quagmire in the dirty zones, the Flyers minimized the Penguins talent advantage on the wings. The Penguins also passed up a lot of shots, despite 35 shots on goal, which left the Flyers collapsed zone somewhat unchallenged.
Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel were swallowed up, 5v5.
The Flyers PK unit emulated the Washington Capitals late season wrinkle by stacking the blue line to limit the Penguins power play rush. The Penguins were 0 for 4, including one power play which included only a scant set up. The Penguins will need to do as they did against the Capitals–chip and chase.
In the first period, Flyers goalie Brian Elliott, though he looked like a bit like a teenager who first discovered tequila, made all of the saves. Matt Murray did not. Elliot settled in and stopped nearly everything else. Murray wasn’t much needed and didn’t play the final five minutes (the Penguins pulled the goalie for an extra attacker).
Did the Penguins play as well or better than Game 1? No. They had chances, they were intense, but they didn’t have a counter for the Flyers “muck-it-up” strategy.
Matt Murray: C
Murray could have made a couple more saves for the Penguins. Murray stopped 15 of 19 shots–if he made 16 or 17 saves, the game would have had a different tone.
The first two goals, specifically, could have been saves. After the Penguins fell behind 2-0, they began to press. Midway through the second period, the Flyers had a trio of odd-man breaks in a two-minute stretch.
Big saves change games. The Flyers got them. The Penguins didn’t.
Penguins PK: D
The Flyers were 2 for 4, including the first goal of the game. That first goal gave the Flyers life, as the Penguins were about to reinforce the lessons taught in Game 1. However, the Flyers got the goal and felt better about themselves.
Two Penguins defenders, Riley Sheahan and Brian Dumoulin, failed to block a wrist shot from the blue line. It wasn’t a blast, it was a wrister from 55 feet. That isn’t leaving the goalie out to dry, but it is asking the netminder to track the puck through four bodies.
“The special teams were the difference in the game,” Mike Sullivan said curtly.
Overall, the Penguins PK looked soft, as they did down the stretch. That falls under the category of letting the Flyers back in the series, more than it does the Flyers making a comeback.
Patric Hornqvist: B-
While many of you will argue this grade, the end result matters. Hornqvist was the Flyers tormentor for the first half of the game, however, he lost his composure and took a couple bad penalties. He stopped being a tormentor and became tormented.
Remove those penalties, and Hornqvist gets an A. One bad penalty may be a mulligan, but two gets major points docked.
On the plus side, Hornqvist was the Penguins most dynamic forward. He scored the Penguins lone goal on the rush–one of the few forwards and few moments when the Penguins got on the rush–and drove the Flyers defensemen crazy. As he regains his composure for Game 3, Radko Gudas may beware.
Phil Kessel: Incomplete
Has anyone seen Kessel excel at 5v5 in weeks? Kessel and Brassard continue to be the soft spot in the Penguins lineup. In Game 2, head coach Mike Sullivan added grinder Zach Aston-Reese to the line for a net-front presence. However, Kessel was ill-equipped to deal with the gritty game which required dirty hands and there were few rebounds to find. Kessel passed up too many shots and was otherwise a non-factor.
Brian Elliott: A
Point to the Penguins special teams and Elliott as the deciding factors. Elliott didn’t give juicy rebounds as he did in Game 1. Elliott stood his ground after a very shaky first period. The ability to rebound is a veteran’s advantage. Elliott did just that.
Elliott stopped 34 of 35 shots, including Sidney Crosby on a breakaway.