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Penguins Top Flyers, 7-6; Playoff Fate Back in Their Hands



The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t just win a wild hockey game Sunday.

In addition to defeating Philadelphia, 7-6, at PPG Paints Arena, they regained control of their playoff fate.

The victory, which allowed the Penguins to complete their homestand 2-1-1, means they have the possibility — mathematically, at least — to overtake the four teams separating them from third place in the Metropolitan Division. And the guaranteed spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs that comes with it.

Of course, whether they have the capability to take full advantage of the possibility remains to be seen.

The Penguins (26-21-8) have 60 points, tying them with the New York Islanders for sixth place in the Metro. They are one point behind Washington, two in back of New Jersey and trail the Flyers by seven.

The Penguins can pass all of them because they have two games-in-hand on the Islanders, three on New Jersey, one on the Capitals and four on Philadelphia. Of course, doing so would entail winning all of those games.

This victory might have been costly, though, because first-line right winger Bryan Rust, who scored their second and third goals, left the game in the third period with an unspecified upper-body injury and did not return. There was no immediate word on the severity of his injury.

Rust’s center, Sidney Crosby, paced the Penguins with a goal and three assists, after having a fourth assist taken away after the game.

Lars Eller was guilty of a horrific turnover early in the first period, and the puck ended up in the Penguins’ net a few seconds later.

Eller’s clearing attempt from along the outer edge of the right circle in the Penguins’ end hit the leg of Philadelphia center Scott Laughton, triggering a sequence that ended with Travis Sanheim deflecting Laughton’s wrist shot from above that circle past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry at 2:11.

Spotting the Flyers a 1-0 lead didn’t seem to rattle the Penguins. though, and Sidney Crosby — who else? — pulled them even at 9:38 by knocking a loose puck past Philadelphia goalie Cal Petersen from the left side of the crease.

The goal was Crosby’s 32nd of the season and 55th in 87 career games against the Flyers, the most of any active player against one opponent. Assists went to Rust and Rickard Rakell.

Rust made it onto the scoresheet again at 17:15, as he set up in front of the Flyers’ net and deflected a Marcus Pettersson shot from the high slot behind Petersen for his 17th. Pettersson and Crosby got the assists.

The Penguins controlled play for much of the opening period and seemed poised to take a chokehold on the game, but it tilted dramatically in Philadelphia’s favor early in the second.

Flyers winger Tyson Foerster made it 2-2 by flipping a shot past Jarry from the right side of the crease 55 seconds after the intermission, and Eller was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking at 1:52.

The Penguins were able to kill the first of those penalties, though, and Philadelphia’s Morgan Frost hooked Reilly Smith on a near-breakaway at 4:14 to negate the balance of the Flyers’ man-advantage.

The Penguins got a full two-minute power play of their own when Sanheim tripped Rakell at 10:12, but they needed just 63 seconds of it to reclaim the lead.

Rust got the goal, his second of the game, at 11:15, throwing a shot past Petersen from above the right circle, with assists going to Erik Karlsson and Crosby.

Philadelphia got another penalty just 39 seconds after Rust’s goal, as enforcer Nicolas Deslauriers was called for roughing Jansen Harkins after Harkins dropped Philadelphia defenseman Jamie Drysdale with a big hit in the neutral zone. Drysdale went directly to the Flyers’ locker room for medical attention.

The Penguins’ power play, a source of frustration so often this season, struck again while Deslauriers was in the box to go up, 4-2.

Emil Bemstrom, acquired from Columbus Thursday, threw a shot by Petersen from the bottom of the left circle at 13:38. Smith and Kris Letang received assists.

The Flyers countered at 16:33, as Eller lost a faceoff to Sean Couturier in the right circle in the Penguins’ end. Couturier pulled the puck back to Sanheim, who beat Jarry from above the circle.

That goal shifted the momentum to the Flyers, and Philadelphia’s ultra-aggressive penalty-kill pulled them even at 17:36, as Laughton scored their 14th shorthanded goal of the season.

Evgeni Malkin took an ill-considered hooking minor in the offensive zone at 3:26, but the Penguins got through that unscathed and moved back in front little more than a minute after his penalty expired.

Drew O’Connor got it, beating Petersen from along the goal line to the right of the net at 6:41 for his ninth of the season and third in the past three games. Malkin and Valtteri Puustinen got assists.

Rakell, who had not scored in the previous 15 games, put the Penguins up by two at 8:38, when he scored from along the goal line to the left of the net.

The Penguins’ comfort zone shrank almost immediately, however, as Flyers defenseman Cam York beat Jarry from above the left hash at 10:10, and Rakell got a tripping minor at 11:32.

However, the Penguins managed to kill that penalty, and Kris Letang restored their two-goal advantage with a shot from above the right circle at 15:13. It was his seventh of the season, three of which have come in the past two games.

The Flyers replaced Petersen with an extra attacker and Crosby got a tripping minor at 17:30, and Foerster put in a shot from inside the left circle at 17:58 to cut the Penguins’ lead to 7-6.

The Penguins hung on, however, and raised their record in their past seven games against the Flyers to 5-0-2.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice Monday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, where they will start a four-game road trip against the Canucks Tuesday night.