(TORONTO, ON) — For the first time in 140 days, the Pittsburgh Penguins played a game against an opponent. The result didn’t matter as much as the processes and the ability to get ready for the best-of-five Qualifying Round against the Montreal Canadiens, which begins on Saturday. But, it also matters just as bit as neither the Penguins nor their arch-rival Philadelphia Flyers want to lose to the other.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was in the lineup after missing practices most of last week. Penguins goalies Matt Murray and Tristan jarred split the game between the pipes, as the Penguins forced overtime. However, Philadelphia grinder Scott Laughton beat Jarry on an OT breakaway for the 3-2 win.
After a rough game, including a couple of turnovers, Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin elevated his game in the third period. The Penguins trailed 2-1 later in the third period until Malkin began to apply offensive pressure. After darting through the Philadelphia defense and being stopped by goalie Brian Elliott, Malkin’s efforts were eventually rewarded.
Several minutes later, Penguins winger Jason Zucker buried a Malkin rebound to tie the game, 2-2.
“I thought we got better as the game went on. I thought it was a sloppy game, especially in the first couple periods,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I guess it’s probably to be expected with the long layoff
Decades from now on a hockey broadcast not yet imagined, Conor Sheary will be remembered as the player who scored the first post-pause goal in the NHL and the first-ever NHL goal in July.
Just five minutes into the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins top line flexed their ability. Crosby center rushed towards to Philadelphia net, which created a passing lane for LW Jake Guentzel. Sheary put himself in the lane then roofed the shot from the right-wing circle over Philadelphia netminder Carter Hart.
Hart played the first two periods, and it was the only goal he allowed.
Each team had only six shots in the second period, but Philadelphia broke the Penguins for a pair in the second half of the first period. Sean Couturier, who scored 59 points this season (22g, 37a), scored the first Flyers goal since March.
Crosby and rookie defenseman John Marino crossed signals and left Sean Couturier open in the high slot. Couturier’s shot took a hard left turn off the shin pads of Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson and past Murray.
The Philadelphia forecheck, and a snow buildup on the ice contributed to an otherwise head-scratching defensive turnover by Evgeni Malkin in the final seconds of the first period. Philadelphia center Kevin Hayes quickly pounced on the errant pass into the slot for a 2-1 Philadelphia lead.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were 0-2 on the power play. Philadelphia was 0-1.
“It was fun to be back out there. We understand we’re going to be stepping on the ice for a pretty important game Saturday,” Crosby said. So, we were trying to get our feet under us and get as sharp as we could.”
Murray stopped 10 of 12 shots. Jarry stopped all seven shots he faced until Scott Laughton beat him on the OT winner.
PHN will update the story after the players and coaches’ media availability.