In a game where momentum was a hot potato, the Penguins got a tip-in goal from Bryan Rust (13) off of a perfect Sidney Crosby feed at 2:25 of overtime Sunday afternoon for a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Put it right where I want it,” Rust said of the setup by Crosby, who also scored another jaw-dropping goal.
The win gave the Penguins a season series sweep for just the second time, and allowed them to stiff-arm the Flyers, who could have matched the Penguins in points with a regulation win. The Penguins scored five goals in each of the four wins in the series.
Overtime became a necessity for the two points when Sean Couturier pulled Philadelphia into a 4-4 tie with 42.6 seconds left.
“It was an intense game, playing the Flyers,” said Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, who had three assists. “Tough to give up that goal late. I thought the guys did a great job in overtime trying to get that two points.”
Rookie Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim scored his second NHL goal for a 1-0 lead at 5:03 of the first. From above the left hash marks, he threw the puck across grain and hit the far top corner.
Derick Brassard tied it 1-1 for a six-game point streak. Conor Sheary made a strong defensive play in the neutral zone and flipped the puck over the blue line to set up Brassard on a breakaway. Brassard (21) wristed it past Alex Lyon’s blocker at 9:38 of the first.
Philadelphia regained the lead, 2-1, less than two minutes later when Brandon Manning sailed an unscreened shot over goaltender Matt Murray’s left pad from the top of the left circle – a goal Murray surely wanted back.
Murray finished with 41 saves as the Penguins gave up a whopping 45 shots.
“We haven’t been as good at getting in shot lanes and making it hard for teams to get the puck to the net,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “It seems like every shot is getting to the net.”
The Flyers outshot the Penguins 14-6 and got both of their goals from defensemen in the first.
The Penguins, who had no shots on their only full power play of the first, opened the second with 1:48 remaining on a man-advantage.
They not only scored on that, but also on an ensuing delayed penalty to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead less than three minutes into the second.
Phil Kessel found Patric Hornqvist down low. From along the extended goal line to Lyon’s right, Hornqvist (24) pulled the puck around the front of the goaltender and sent it just inside the far post for a 2-2 tie 37 seconds into the second.
With Murray pulled on a delayed penalty, Evgeni Malkin (42) got the puck at the top of the left circle, faked a shot, slid slightly toward the slot and threaded the puck between the skates of defenseman Andrew MacDonald and past Lyon to make it 3-2 at 2:37.
Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol then yanked Lyon – three goals on 11 shots – for Petr Mrazek.
Jordan Weal – who entered the game with seven goals, 17 points — picked up his third point of the game when he scored into a gaping net behind Murray on a Shane Gostisbehere rebound for a power-play goal at 17:10 of the second and a 3-3 tie heading to the third.
“We gave up some chances that we’d like to have back, but that’s what’s going to happen in these games,” Rust said. “They’re a good team; we’re a good team. It’s a hard, playoff-type game. They’re going to get their momentum swings, and we try and manage them as best we can.”
SCrosby (26) quickly gave the Penguins a 4-3 lead. He outmaneuvered Sean Couturier, normally a strong defensive center, as he moved down through the left circle while handling the puck with one hand and beat Mrazek to the far side. It wasn’t the twice-batted-puck goal he scored Wednesday, but it was a still a jaw-dropping play.
Schultz picked up his third assist.
That’s how it stayed until there were 42.6 seconds left, when Couturier scored on a short rebound from a crowd around the crease to tie it 4-4 and set up overtime.
“This is a resilient group,” Schultz said. “We knew we had the overtime coming to try to get the two points, and we got the job done.”
Analysis and Report Card:
–by Jake Holmes
Sidney Crosby: A
He took the game over. Crosby’s forechecking ability created chances throughout. One example was a pass in the third period to Jake Guentzel. He created the turnover in the offensive zone, widened his stance and found Guentzel on the backhand for a glorious scoring opportunity.
Justin Schultz: B+
It was a three-assist night for the Penguins defenseman. His most impressive attribute today was, naturally, his passing ability. Early in the game he sought out a breaking Patric Hornqvist with a perfect lead-pass, and his feed to Evgeni Malkin on the Penguins’ third goal was of high difficulty as well, threading through the sticks of two defending Flyers.
Matt Murray: B
One of Matt Murray’s best qualities as a goaltender is between his ears. He struggled early but continued to fight through his forwards’ poor defensive positioning. Brandon Manning’s goal went low glove, and he saw it all of the way. A puck that needs to be stopped. His rebound control was sketchy, but as the game progressed, the Penguins netminder stood on his head, making quality saves, particularly on redirects from Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek.
The start to the game was problematic. Wingers did not seem to have the ability to defend the point, and the penalty kill continues to be an issue. The coaching staff’s effort was extremely impressive to improve upon the defensive positioning of the wingers during the first intermission. Not to mention the line switches of Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust. Look for those lines to remain the same moving forward.
Penalty Kill: C-
One for three isn’t a great mark, but putting into consideration that the Penguins have given up nine power-play goals in their last 23 kills, that is an improvement percentage-wise. The unit has also allowed goals in seven of the last eight games. The good news is that this can improve. The zone coverage by the back end was somewhat better today. However, the clearing attempts are awful. The Penguins need to use the boards to get the puck through the neutral zone for better clears. Opposing point players are having way too easy a time keeping the puck in the zone.
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