There was a time when trips to Philadelphia never ended well for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
There also was a time when the Liberty Bell wasn’t cracked.
OK, so there was no overlap, but both were long, long ago.
And while the Liberty Bell never will recover, the Penguins’ 4-1 victory over the Flyers Friday evening at the Wells Fargo Center is the latest bit of evidence that they certainly have.
Fact is, only a few of their current players were alive for even a tiny portion of the Penguins’ 15-year, 42-game winless streak (0-39-3) on the far side of the Commonwealth during the 1970s and 1980s. Most of them are accustomed to returning home with a couple of points anytime they visit.
Sidney Crosby surely should be by now, since he’s often the primary reason the Penguins win there. He scored their second goal Friday, giving him at least one point in 20 of his past 22 games against the Flyers.
Ryan Poehling has been introduced to that reality, too. He visited the Wells Fargo Center Friday for the first time as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and had his first two-goal game since being acquired from Montreal this summer.
Indeed, he and fellow fourth-liners Teddy Blueger and Josh Archibald were responsible for most of the Penguins’ offense, accounting for three goals and four assists.
The victory was the Penguins’ fifth in a row, their longest such streak of the season, and raised their record to 11-7-3. The Flyers, meanwhile, are 0-6-3 in their past nine.
The Penguins sputtered at the start of the game — Philadelphia recorded five unanswered shots during the first two minutes — but didn’t need long to tilt things in their favor, as they were credited with the next eight shots.
The Flyers got their best scoring chance midway through the period, when Zack MacEwen deked past P.O Joseph and moved in on Tristan Jarry, only to have his backhander stopped by Jarry’s right pad.
Archibald put the Penguins in front to stay about a minute and a half later, backhanding a Blueger rebound past Philadelphia goalie Carter Hart for his fourth of the season at 11:37.
The goal was made possible when Flyers defenseman Justin Braun shanked a pass attempt in the left circle, allowing Blueger to get control of the puck and force Hart to make a save.
Falling behind was nothing new for Philadelphia, which has given up the first goal in 15 of its 21 games.
Crosby doubled the Flyers’ deficit with 30.5 seconds to go before the intermission, as he deflected a Marcus Pettersson shot past Hart for his 11th of the season and the 52nd of his career against Philadelphia. That goal, on which Kris Letang received the second assist, broke a tie with Mario Lemieux for the most any opponent has gotten against the Flyers.
It also proved to be the game-winner, bumping Crosby’s franchise-record total to 81.
(Crosby’s penchant for scoring against Philadelphia might explain why the Wells Fargo Center crowd usually spends so much time chanting “Crosby’s pucks, Crosby’s pucks.” That’s what it sounds like, anyway.)
Pettersson lost a fight — but undoubtedly won a lot of respect from his teammates — at 2:04, when he fought Flyers tough guy Nicolas Deslauriers after Deslauriers delivered a hard hit on Letang. Pettersson’s selfless act inspired memories of Max Talbot fighting — and being beaten by — Flyers winger Daniel Carcillo during the 2009 playoffs, a move Talbot’s teammates credited with inspiring their comeback in what became a series-clinching victory.
If Deslauriers outpunching Pettersson was intended to give the Flyers a spark, it didn’t work, because Poehling got position on Philadelphia defenseman Ivan Provorov and deflected in a Blueger shot 55 seconds later to make it 3-0. Jeff Petry received the second assist on that goal, Poehling’s third.
He added No. 4 at 13:37, off assists from Blueger and Archibald, driving Hart from the game and purging any shred of suspense about the outcome that might have remained.
Although Jarry denied MacEwen on a penalty shot at 7:17 of the third to preserve his shutout bid, he couldn’t prevent Kevin Hayes from scoring from below the left circle at 10:04.
Mike Sullivan rewarded the fourth line for its performance by making it the No. 1 forward unit on a power play the Penguins were awarded during the final two minutes of the game.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will return home to face Toronto Saturday at 7:08 p.m.