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PHN EXTRA: Hobbled Pens Report Card & Analysis vs. Philadelphia Flyers

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The ice was slushy, the rain was falling. Or was that sleet? The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers fulfilled every part of the rivalry from borderline dirty hits, great goals and plenty of drama. The Penguins played with just four defensemen for more 45 minutes and had to play extra time when Philadelphia scored a pair of goals in the final three minutes, including a softy with just seconds remaining, and another softy in overtime for a 4-3 win.

Matt Murray was disgusted with himself. We’ll have a separate story on Murray and his reaction.

With 18 seconds remaining, Jake Voracek fired the puck to the net from the wall and it dribbled through Penguins goalie Matt Murray, untouched.

Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin were huge losses following the brawl which ensued after Philadelphia banger Wayne Simmonds crumpled Dumoulin with a high hit along the wall. Dumoulin was woozy leaving the ice and don’t be surprised if Letang has a neck injury after he tumbled to the ice with a stick beneath his neck.

To the game–there was one beyond the rain, the bungee jumping mascot and the debate if Simmonds’ hit was clean.

The Penguins pulled their 2016 playbook off the shelf, blew the dust off it, and executed it fairly well. The Penguins shot from all angles, they used the shots to pressure Philadephia down low, they stood at the Philadelphia blue line to disrupt the breakout, and above all, they kept the game very simple.

“I thought for the most part, we had complete control of the game. We had control of the game in the third period,” said Mike Sullivan. “Our guys did a really good job. They made good decisions with the puck.”

The Penguins mostly showed remarkable discipline and executed their game plan. They deserve credit for adapting. They could have been stubborn and forced controlled zone entries. Instead, the Penguins took the zone entries on an as available basis. The Malkin line had a few in the first period entries, and the Crosby line was a perfect mix.

One issue did become abundantly clear, however. Longtime readers will know I’ve held my fire this season. For a simple game to work, all three players on the line must be willing to battle for the puck, or at least pressure it. Passengers don’t work…The Malkin line had a passenger for the first 38 minutes.

Tactically, the Penguins changed course in the second period. They had a good forecheck in the first period and were on top of Philadelphia. However, that game requires energy.

“For sure. Anytime you can help the defense out or help the goalies out, especially when you go down to four defensemen–they did an unbelievable job. That’s crazy going out there every other shift.”

In the second period, the Penguins were conservative. Their 1-2-2 which functions like a 2-3 or even a 3-2 when things are going well, became a true 1-2-2 in the second period. Numerous times, the Penguins fell back into the “counter-attack” version of the 1-2-2 instead of the attack mode.

At least in the second period, Philadelphia ran headlong into it.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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