PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins squandered a multi-goal lead in the final minutes of the Stadium Series game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 23. The Penguins made the same mistake again. Philadephia forward James Van Riemsdyk buried a rebound with just 18 seconds remaining to force overtime and Sean Couturier scored with just three seconds remaining in overtime. The Penguins again let a valuable point slip against Philadelphia and lost 2-1 in OT.
The Penguins otherwise held the advantage for most of the game but again could not seal the deal.
“I’d say for at least for two periods we were (in control). In the third period, they came hard,” Penguins goalie Matt Murray said. “They had a 4-on-2 in the last couple seconds. They got one…and it stings for sure.”
The good news was the Penguins got injured winger Bryan Rust back in the lineup. The bad news was star center Evgeni Malkin was out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury.
Neither team cracked the scoreboard until Penguins rookie forward Teddy Blueger pounded a Phil Kessel rebound into a yawning cage, just two minutes into the third period. The Penguins backcheck kept the puck in the zone and Philadelphia goalie Carter Hart who was spectacular served a pizza in the slot.
Blueger (4) was too happy to finish it.
The game was worlds different from the Round One playoff series last season which featured high scores and little shot suppression. Neither team registered much that could resemble high danger scoring chances until the Penguins gained some momentum in the middle of the second period.
On the same shift, Penguins center Nick Bjugstad had a 100-foot breakaway followed by a wide-open one-timer by Patric Hornqvist. Philadelphia rookie goalie Carter Hart made those saves and denied several more Grade A chances. At one moment in the second period, the Penguins led the shot tally, 22-9 and later in the period it ballooned to 25-11. The final tally of the second period was 18-7 for the Penguins.
The Penguins took nearly 74 percent of the shots and shot attempts in the second period. However, for the first time all season, the Penguins and their opponent were scoreless after two periods.
Philadelphia outshot the Penguins 19-9 in the third period and took early 62 percent of the shots and shot attempts. Philadelphia had 60 percent of the scoring chances.
Kessel also tied Craig Adams as the Penguins all-time leader with 318 consecutive games played.
The Penguins power play cooled considerably. Without Malkin, the Penguins were ineffective and struggled to set up the attack. In four power-play chances, the Penguins managed only three shots, though one of the opportunities was abbreviated by one minute in the third period when Phil Kessel was called for slashing.
With Hart pulled, Van Riemsdyk (25) snapped Travis Konecny’s rebound behind Murray with only 18 seconds remaining.
“Tonight we needed to defend harder. We needed numbers back,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.
Penguins wingers Kessel and Patric Hornqvist led all players with six shots each. Philadephia defenseman Radko Gudas led all players with seven hits. Erik Gudbranson led the Penguins with four hits.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray made 31 saves in regulation. He stopped five more in overtime. Hart stopped 34 before being pulled for the extra attacker, and 41 shots overall.
After the game, Sullivan said Malkin is week-to-week with an upper body injury. Blueger anchored the second line in Malkin’s absence.
It has been 16,000 days since the Flyers last won a Stanley Cup.