The Philadelphia Flyers missed an opportunity to jump ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the standings Wednesday night, losing 5-2 to their cross-state rivals. The loss extended the Flyers winless streak to four games and leaves the team just three points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the last playoff spot.
Conor Sheary scored two goals for the Penguins and Sidney Crosby recorded three assists. Jake Voracek and Travis Konecny potted the goals for the Flyers.
Even though the Penguins finished the first with a 1-0 lead, it may have been the refs that were the most active in the first period. Within 14 minutes, the officials called six penalties; four on the Flyers and two on the Penguins.
Besides the second penalty called on Robert Hagg for boarding, which wasn’t boarding at all, the other penalties were penalties. However, the repeated whistles and different man-situations had a slowing effect on the game as both teams struggled to get into a rhythm.
After a few bad attempts on the man advantage, the Penguins cashed in on their fourth opportunity. Evgeni Malkin hit Phil Kessel across the crease for a wide open shot to put the team up 1-0.
The Flyers never had a chance that matched that, but in the dying minute Claude Giroux’s pass to Valtteri Filppula hopped over the Finland native’s stick erasing a golden chance.
The second stanza saw the action revert to the players. Unfortunately for the Flyers, it was the Penguins who took most of it.
But the Flyers couldn’t have started out much better. Within the first three minutes, Jake Voracek was rewarded with his 15th of the season after his centering pass to Nolan Patrick was deflected in by Derick Brassard.
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) March 8, 2018
Four minutes later, Philly had a 2-1 lead when Travis Konecny put in an odd goal-front scramble.
What is this sorcery, Travis Konecny? 😱😱 pic.twitter.com/saDzjywnwg
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) March 8, 2018
For a couple minutes after that goal, the Flyers held all the momentum, including a strong shift from the fourth line. Then a TV timeout took place. In just over 10 minutes after that, Philadelphia gave up three goals and ended the period trailing 4-2.
Jamie Oleksiak got the scoring started with a point shot that deflected off of Robert Hagg and/or Andrew MacDonald, but Conor Sheary was the real star for the Pens.
He banged in a rebound from Sidney Crosby on a 2-on-1 to retake the lead for the Pens and then with just 39 seconds left, scored off a deflection to give the team its two-goal lead heading into the second intermission.
The Flyers may have let up three goals in the second stanza, but the third was the most frustrating. The team never had extended pressure in the offensive zone and only a few chances.
Philly was even awarded a power play on an Evgeni Malkin tripping penalty, but couldn’t set up in the offensive zone to get any looks at the net.
With 1:41 left in the game, Malkin put the puck in an empty net to earn the Pens a 5-2 win.
This game had the feel of a playoff tilt to it. The crowd was into it, even when it wasn’t going the Flyers way and with Philadelphia Eagles like Mychal Kendricks and Jason Kelce in the building, it had a special feel to it. It was a shame the Flyers couldn’t feed off it. With each day, it seems more likely that the Flyers and Penguins will meet in the first round of the playoffs. For a rivalry that’s been a little dull lately, tonight was a good night to show that there could be some excitement.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol tried matching up the Filppula line against Sidney Crosby and to the surprise of no one came away on the wrong end. Crosby had three assists and Sheary scored twice off two of the assists. Getting positive matchups against the Penguins isn’t easy and with Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal, the matchup made more sense than Filppula, Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise against the Carolina Hurricanes’ Jordan Staal last week. Hopefully this is a sign that Sean Couturier needs to match up against Pittsburgh’s best player.
The Flyers only faced one full two-minute penalty kill (two were ended because of Penguins penalties, one because of a goal), but the shorthanded unit looked good. Their sticks were in passing lanes breaking up plays, and besides the one goal, the Pens couldn’t do much. Where Philadelphia struggled was the power play. The team had five opportunities, including one in the third, and couldn’t do anything with them. You have to capitalize those chances against a team like Pittsburgh.
Thursday, @ Boston Bruins, 7 P.M.