The Penguins seemed headed to one of their worst losses in what has been a disappointing season for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. Trailing 3-1 and on their heels, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel took over in the third period and they wound up with one of their best wins.
“I think when you look at the way the game played out, in a lot of ways it was a microcosm of our season,” coach Mike Sullivan said after his team rallied for a 5-4 victory in overtime over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Indeed, it was. The Penguins played great at times…and awful at other times.
“We had a pretty good first period, got a timely goal from Jake (Guentzel),” Sullivan said. “Come out the second period, don’t play the right way and give away a ton of scoring chances. Come out in the third period, play with a Penguins’ identity.
Things certainly did not look good for the Penguins heading into the third period.
The Flyers scored three goals in the second to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead and seemed on the brink of ending their seven-game losing streak.
Worse, Penguins goaltender Matt Murray left the game with a lower-body injury with just under 4 ½ minutes remaining in the second period following a collision with Jakub Voracek and was replaced by rookie Tristan Jarry.
Murray had to be helped off the ice. Sullivan said Murray would be evaluated Tuesday morning.
Yet two goals in the span of 39 seconds energized the crowd and the Penguins. The first marker came on the power play by Patric Hornqvist, in the crease. The second tally, an unassisted breakaway by Bryan Rust, quickly drew the Penguins into a 3-3 tie just 1:46 into the third period.
The Flyers, though, went back ahead with 4:41 left on a breakaway goal by Matt Raffl, who stole the puck from Penguins defenseman Matt Hunwick at the Penguins blue line — one of two Jarry allowed on just 10 shots — and the Penguins appeared sunk.
Yet Guentzel’s second goal of the game with just 1:02 remaining in regulation sent the game to overtime and Sidney Crosby won it 1:48 into the extra session when he tipped in Kris Letang’s slap shot from the right point.
Jake Guentzel #1 Star
While Crosby got the game-winner with his 10th goal of the season, Guentzel was the game’s No. 1 star as he finished with two goals and an assist. Guentzel has scored six goals in his last six games, giving him 11 for the season, which ties Phil Kessel for the team lead.
“The second goal felt really good because it came at such a big moment and helped us win the game,” Guentzel said with a smile. “We worked really hard to get back in the game and it was a little deflating when they went back ahead.
To be able to answer that goal was huge, not just for me but for the team. It was a good win for us.”
Which came on the heels of another good win in the Penguins’ previous game last Saturday when they toppled the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins made sure Monday night they didn’t lose that momentum during a season in which they have failed to gain much traction while compiling a 13-10-3 record.
“Nobody was happy to have such a big difference from the first to the second for no reason,” Crosby said in describing the locker room mood during the second intermission. “They got some power plays and got some momentum that way, but we have to be able to grab games back when that happens, and we didn’t do that.
“But we responded and came out and found a way to get back in it.”
And, somehow, eventually win it.