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Breaking Down the Flyers Tying Goal; Inexcusable Coverage

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins blew it. Just 18 seconds from victory and reducing their magic number to 13 points they watched the final play. Quite literally, the Penguins forwards were caught as spectators in the neutral zone and Philadelphia buried their chance. James Van Riemsdyk snapped the one-timer past Penguins goalie Matt Murray.

The play is simple to break down. Or should we say “breakdown”? For the full game analysis and report card–Check it out here.

Let’s start with Stage 1. The Penguins are in good position. Jared McCann and Bryan Rust are at the red line with 27 seconds remaining. The puck is in front of them.

Stage 2: Very quickly, things go south as McCann got too aggressive and was caught in between the puck and the play. Within a heartbeat, he was behind the puck. Rust also didn’t adjust. He remained on his wall position despite no play or players to guard. Simply, he was caught flat-footed. He needed to retreat to his zone.

We’ve circled Rust and used a black arrow to indicate what he should have done. As you can see, he didn’t retreat to his zone to defend.

Also, Crosby was thrust into a snap decision. The headman pass for Sean Couturier was a touch too far. Crosby had the choice to step forward in an attempt to break it up or retreat to defend the oncoming four-man rush.

Crosby should have known no one was behind him and McCann was trapped up ice. He should have retreated. He didn’t. Rust and Crosby are strikes two and three on this play.

Stage 3: Note that Rust is still in the same position, which is neither guarding an opponent or creating an obstacle for them. He’s essentially out of the play because he didn’t adjust to the overload to the right wing wall.

Crosby has committed forward.

Stage 4 (Below): Warning sirens should have blared. Rust failed to get into the play. McCann failed to get back and Crosby gambled and lost.

The Penguins are now “on the wrong side of the puck.”

On the positive side, the Penguins defensemen played this very well. Jack Johnson and Brian Dumoulin contained the threat to the right wing and the high slot.

Stage 5: JVR is wide open at the hashmarks. He made a good shot on Murray–low glove hand. However, as part of Stage 5, in addition to acknowledging the mistakes of McCann, Rust and Crosby, Murray could have made this save. He was in position. Notice Murray already favoring the glove-side post because the Flyers were on the right-wing.

Game. Set. Match.

“We needed to defend harder. We needed numbers back,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said.

Just one more “number” would have done the trick. Instead, the Penguins have a sour taste and a four-game road trip ahead.

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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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