Remember those final days of senior year, after the finals, after the prom, after the college acceptance letters were received, but you still had to show up? The Pittsburgh Penguins were there Monday night, and bigger plans await, but the Philadelphia Flyers are going nowhere, so they threw a kegger.
And just like a kegger, the Flyers got sloppy later in the night, while the Penguins gained their stride, but the Philadelphia rallied for a few late goals to create a blowout.
The Penguins found some hop in the third period, but it was too late. The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-2 at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.
Evgeni Malkin returned to the Penguins lineup, but the blue line was without Mike Matheson, so the Penguin had three new lines and a new defensive pairing. In addition to a level of disinterest, the Penguins were also adjusting to the changes. Their game finally materialized in the third period.
The addition of Malkin and the new blue line created three new lines and a new defensive pairing. The resulting lack of coordination, chemistry, and intensity spotted Philadelphia a 3-0 lead in the first period.
The Flyers attempted to let the Penguins back into the game with four consecutive penalties, including three in the early third period. Malkin returned to his spot on the top power-play unit. Jared McCann dropped to PP2.
The Penguins’ first goal was a power-play tally by Sidney Crosby (21) early in the third period. Near the goal line, Crosby neatly deflected Kris Letang’s pass behind Philadelphia goalie Alex Lyon.
The Penguins PP got the second tally. Jason Zucker gained position at the front of the net and deflected John Marino’s shot with 12 minutes remaining.
The Penguins PP was 2-4, but the team did not score an even-strength goal.
However, after the Penguins scored a pair, Flyers forward Joel Farabee (17) charged from the wall to the net and beat Jarry for the backbreaker. 5-2.
Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust were each a minus-3.
And this is why we predicted a few flat games in the final week and compared the Penguins last week to previous Stanley Cup winners. In other words, relax. This was a likely result, if not Monday night, then later in the week.
The Penguins activated Malkin on Monday afternoon, and for the first time in 23 games, the Penguins had a full complement of centers. Before Malkin was injured, he had an eight-game scoring streak with 12 points in that span but suffered a lower-body injury on March 16.
The Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in four of the previous six games, including a shootout win on April 15. After Monday, the Flyers have won five of seven against the Penguins (2-4-1), the only team among the East Division top four, which the Flyers have a winning record and have outscored in the season series.
One noticeable Penguins absence was Matheson, who is out week-to-week after goalie Tristan Jarry’s clearing shot hit him in the face on Saturday. Without Matheson, the Penguins lacked speed out of their zone and the accompanying offensive pressure.
Nearly six minutes into the first period, Flyers center Kevin Hayes (12) scored on a point-blank wrist shot. It appeared Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith made the save, but after several minutes of play, review officials determined the puck crossed the line before DeSmith gloved the shot. Count the goal. Rewind the clock. 1-0.
Later in the first period, after more domination, the Flyers scored a pair of goals 64 seconds apart.
After Kasperi Kapanen took an interference penalty, Shayne Ghostisbehere (9) unleashed a rising point shot through traffic which lit the lamp. 2-0.
After a recent rise in penalty killing, the Penguins PK has again fallen into the mid-20s.
The Flyers rubbed a little salt in the Penguins’ bad period when Travis Konecny kicked the puck into the slot for Claude Giroux, who was uncovered. Giroux (15) neatly snapped it past DeSmith. 3-0.
The Penguins had a couple of close calls. A pair of shots, including one by Kasperi Kapanen, got past Philadelphia goalie Alex Lyon but were swatted away as they slid across the goal line.
Philadelphia had 20 shots in the first period and generally controlled the Penguins. After the first 20 minutes, it was essentially over. The Penguins were flat again in the second period, and the Penguins’ deficit was too much to overcome.
Midway through the second period, the Malkin line was slow to get off the ice, and the Flyers had easy three on two, which more closely resembled a two-on-one or a one-on none. Rookie Wade Allison slapped a bouncing puck past DeSmith from 10 feet away. 4-0.
Claude Giroux (16) filled the empty net late in the third period. He had a three-point game (2-1). Robert Hagg (2) snapped a one-timer past Jarry in the final seconds, too.
Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith wasn’t sharp, but his jersey should have come with clothes pins because his team hung him out to dry. The Flyers fired 20 and 17 shots in the first two periods, respectively. DeSmith stopped 33 of 37 shots. He was not on the bench for the third period, and Tristan Jarry was in the net.
PHN will update DeSmith’s status as head coach Mike Sullivan updates the situation.
The Flyers had a 63% Corsi and 65%-35% scoring chance advantage in the first two periods.
Based on the scoreboard Monday night, the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals won to reclaim first place, but the New York Islanders lost and slipped to fourth.
So, the Pittsburgh Penguins are now in second place. Boston is in third.