PITTSBURGH — Matt Murray said “It stings,” and later repeated, “It really stings.” The Pittsburgh Penguins let another slip through their fingers against the Philadelphia Flyers. With the extra attacker, the Flyers had a 4-on-2 break and scored. Then they scored again in overtime and the Penguins completed a rough weekend with a 2-1 OT loss to Philadelphia at PPG Paints Arena.
A 4-on-2 break in the final seconds of a hockey game is inexcusable.
“Tonight we needed to defend harder. We needed numbers back,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.
Statistically, the Penguins should have dominated the Flyers on the scoreboard as well. However, the Penguins didn’t get enough clean looks to accompany their significant zone time and pressure. Nick Bjugstad had a 100-foot breakaway after the Penguins blocked a pass in the defensive zone. Patric Hornqvist had a clean one-timer after Dominik Simon created a turnover with a dogged backcheck, but so many of the Penguins chances were deflected or short angles.
The Penguins had their way breaking out of the zone the Philadelphia forecheck was aggressive, but the Penguins early plan eas effective. The Penguins used a simple chip off the wall to a rusher at center ice. The Penguins were able to escape the perils of the forecheck and gain zone entry with regularity.
When Philadelphia adjusted, so did the Penguins. The Penguins began launching a player up the middle after Philadelphia ventured to take away the walls. That too worked for the Penguins.
Ultimately, Philadelphia took advantage of the Penguins lack of scoring punch from the blue line. Philadelphia was willing to risk space at the top of the zone in exchange for three low defenders. Those low defenders prevented the Penguins from getting second-chance opportunities or clean looks.
The Penguins had looks but Flyers rookie goalie Carter Hart was also very good.
Such a strategy may not be effective when the Penguins have Kris Letang in the lineup. Justin Schultz could be more aggressive, and he began to push the puck deeper in the second period, even snapping a one-timer from point-blank range.