After a lengthy review, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang’s wrap-around stuff eeked across the goalline and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in OT on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. The win gave the Penguins an extra point against their division rival and snapped a three-game losing streak.
“I knew it was close. I didn’t know 100% if it crossed the entire goal line. But I knew it was close and in the scrum, I told the referee right away–I said, ‘you should check it.’ So. I think it was on the screen, too, so people started cheering,” Letang said.
It was indisputable.
Without Sidney Crosby, Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson, Chad Ruhwedel, who are in COVID protocol, and injured players Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin, the crumpled Pittsburgh Penguins limped into battle against arch-nemesis the Philadelphia Flyers.
Even head coach Mike Sullivan entered COVID protocol on Thursday afternoon, and assistant coach Todd Reirden ran the Penguins bench. The Penguins had a regulation win within their grasp until a late turnover by defenseman Mike Matheson led to Scott Laughton (3) roofing a blast over Tristan Jarry’s glove hand from slot.
The beleaguered Penguins earned a point in 60 minutes.
“I firmly believe that when your team is going through struggles and you’re having a tough time getting a win–to give up a goal with three minutes to go is not a real great thing to have happen to a team that’s not really sharp and kind of fighting it a little bit,” Reirdan said. “I was happy with our response to be able to gather that point and not give in while the opposition was pushing pretty hard there and then ultimately get our second point.”
It’s been a week full of adversity for the Penguins. They got Sidney Crosby back and immediately lost him to COVID. They got Kris Letang back, then lost 50% of their blueline. Losing a head coach hours before a game can’t be easy, either.
However, as the Penguins have done many times before, they rallied. Only 16 seconds into the game, a couple of Penguins did uncovered “drive-bys” past the Flyers net. Brock McGinn (3) was the second and surprised Flyers goalie Carter Hart with a neat deflection, top-shelf. 1-0.
It was an important confidence builder for a lineup beset by absences.
Tristan Jarry was brilliant in the first period. He stopped all 17 shots, and they were increasingly tricky saves, to boot.
Jarry was equally good in the second period, too, which allowed the Penguins to create just enough opportunity. It was Flyers goalie Carter Hart who faced 16 shots in the second period but only stopped 15.
Late in the second period, Jake Guentzel and Jeff Carter crossed at the offensive blue line Guentzel had just enough space for a 35-foot wrist shot, but he fanned.
However, Guentzel had another moment for another shot. It wasn’t Guentzel’s hardest shot ever, and it wasn’t even well placed, but it slipped through Hart for the Penguins important second goal.
“Yeah, I mean, just kind of a fluky goal. You go, you know, you go on the streaks. I mean, it’s what it takes to find the back of the net there. So it definitely felt nice and hopefully, they can keep coming now,” Guentzel said.
Juuso Riikola led all players with four hits in the first period. He had one more in the second, too.
The Philadelphia Flyers tied the game early in the second period with a power-play goal, just the second one scored on the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.
Travis Konecny (4) had enough space on the doorstep for a turn-and-scoop over Jarry. The Penguins power play is ranked first in the NHL and allowed just one goal in their previous 20 kills.
Philadelphia almost tied the game later in the third period. Defenseman Kris Letang tied up Konecny near the net, and a deflection off their sticks fluttered just over the Penguins net.
The Penguins PK redeemed itself late in the third period after a two-on-none breakaway with McGinn became a Penguins penalty. Hart made the save on McGinn and the puck hung in the air. As McGinn played the puck at shoulder level, Flyers defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen skated at McGinn.
The Flyers did not score on the resulting power play.
PHN’s 3 Stars:
3. Brock McGinn
The Penguins zippy winger was impactful on Thursday night. He scored the first goal and nearly had another on the two-on-none late in the third. m. He was always an inch away from a big goal. Three shots. Two hits. One goal.
2. Carter Hart
The Penguins put 34 shots on Hart and they earned a few high-danger chances. Hart did a good job of avoiding bad rebounds or scrambles in front to force OT.
1. Tristan Jarry
The Pittsburgh Penguins best player. Jarry stopped all 17 shots in the first period after Philadelphia turned the game against the Penguins. With a depleted lineup, a goalie has to be big. Jarry was bigger. He stopped 34 of 36 shots in regulation.
He made a few more big saves in regulation.