Penguins Make Third-Period Lead Stick This Time, 5-1
The Pittsburgh Penguins, like most people, will be turning their clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.
But before Daylight Savings Time arrived, they flipped the calendar back to a time when they could not only take a lead into the third period, but come out of it with one, too.
They led Philadelphia, 2-1, after 40 minutes at PPG Paints Arena Saturday afternoon, then scored the only three goals in the final period in what became a 5-1 victory.
It was coach Mike Sullivan’s 400th victory as an NHL head coach, and was a decidedly different result from the one Thursday, when the Penguins watched a 3-1 lead in the third melt into a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.
They are tied with the Islanders for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Washington beat the Islanders, 5-1, Saturday night.
With fourth-line center Nick Bonino out of the mix because of a lacerated kidney, Mike Sullivan reconfigured all four of his forward lines. They looked like this:
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker-Evgeni Malkin-Alex Nylander
Drew O’Connor-Mikael Granlund-Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen-Jeff Carter-Josh Archibald
The most significant moves were on the right side, where Rust was bumped up to the top line, Nylander — who is on emergency recall — got an audition with Zucker and Malkin and Rakell, who did not have a goal in the previous 10 games, was dropped down to the third unit.
Rakell seemed to take the switch in stride, because he deflected a Marcus Pettersson shot past Flyers goalie Carter Hart at 5:52 of the opening period for his 22nd of the season.
The second assist went to Granlund, his first point since being acquired from Nashville 10 days ago.
The Penguins’ lead didn’t last long, however, as Kiefer Bellows beat Casey DeSmith with what appeared to be an unscreened wrist shot from well above the right circle at 10:04.
Philadelphia had the better of play during those 20 minutes, as evidenced by the Flyers’ 13-7 edge in shots on goal.
One of their most dangerous came about 10 seconds before the intermission, when Owen Tippett burst past Pettersson and broke in alone on DeSmith, who managed to get enough of Tippett’s shot to send it over the crossbar.
The Penguins fared much better when the second period began, in part because the Flyers were assessed six minutes in penalties during the first 6:11.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were ineffective, to be charitable, during their first power play, but capitalized on their second chance with the extra man to take a 2-1 lead. That goal came on the front end of a double-minor Flyers rookie Tyson Foerster was assessed for high-sticking Brian Dumoulin.
Sidney Crosby scored it, driving a slap shot past Hart from outside the right dot at 6:49 for his 29th. Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang received assists.
The Flyers essentially were down two men when Crosby scored, Tippett having been felled and immobilized when he blocked a Letang shot.
Philadelphia’s power play, the lowest-ranked unit in the league, got a chance when Granlund was penalized for cross-checking at 15:27, but failed to capitalize.
Carter actually got a breakaway as time was winding down on Granlund’s minor, but was unable to beat Hart.
Philadelphia defenseman Cam York tripped Guentzel 32 seconds into the third, but the Penguins were unable to generate an insurance goal. Their best chance came when Rakell steered a Guentzel feed wide of a mostly open net.
Zucker gave them some badly needed breathing room at 14:24, however, when he scored his 23rd, off an assist by Pettersson.
Guentzel rubbed it in with an empty-netter at 18:22 and Granlund beat Hart with 55.8 seconds left to give the Penguins their margin of victory.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will play Game 4 of their five-game homestand Sunday, when the New York Rangers visit PPG Paints Arena at 4:05 p.m.
Now take care of Rangers
Casey DeSmith, you are ri-diculous! And so are you, Mike Sullivan! #400Wins
It takes a lot of imagination to criticize Sullivan. On average, he has 40 wins per season. There are problems with this team, but Sully is not one of them.
Great game Casey, cool as cucumber. ” Ice Man”