Saturday, February 18, 2012

Game 58: Penguins vs. Flyers Recap

There is one thing that is a certain when the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers get together to play hockey and that is unpredictability. You never know what you are going to get when these two teams play and Saturday afternoon was no different. This game was filled with a ton of penalties - most of them bad calls - and a lot of back and forth play. The only thing that happened in the game that was typical of a Penguins/Flyers match-up was Scott Hartnell making an early exit for doing something stupid.

This game was essentially a four point game for the Penguins. After the bad loss they took against the Ducks and the Flyers blowing out the Sabres, the Flyers were two points up in the standings coming in to this game. It also didn't help that New Jersey also passed the Penguins in the standings in what is an extremely congested Atlantic Division.

Ilya Bryzgalov started the game in goal for the Flyers. He is the one that Philadelphia threw a ton of money at in hopes of fixing their goaltending issues. Instead, Sergei Bobrovsky has largely outplayed him for most of the year. Bryzgalov did not start this game off well as a little over three minutes in he allowed a goal by Matt Cooke to give the Penguins the early lead.

Late in the first period is where the penalties started to get outrageous for both teams. Four out of the last six minutes of the first period were played with someone in the box and that favored the Flyers. Jaromir Jagr scored two goals from almost the same position on the ice just 18 seconds apart. One of them was during a 4 on 4 and the other was on a power play.

The score remained 2-1 in favor of the Flyers for almost an entire period after Jagr gave them the lead. The second period continued the string of penalties for both sides. More than half of the period was played with someone sitting in the penalty box. This time, the Penguins taking penalties worked in their favor. Jordan Staal and Cooke each scored shorthanded goals to give the Pens the lead. Cooke's goal was the most impressive because he did it during a 5 on 3 situation. That would be the end of Bryzgalov as he would be replaced by Bobrovsky. Cooke's goal looked like it was going to stand up as the last goal of the period. That was until Deryk Engelland made a bonehead play by trying to cut back with the puck in front of his own net. He lost an edge and Eric Wellwood chipped the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury for his first goal of the season and to tie the game going into the final period of play.

The third period was the outlier. It was largely penalty free and it was dominated by the Penguins. The Pens retook the lead 37 seconds into the period when Dustin Jeffrey collected a rebound of a Cooke shot to score his fourth goal of the season. Pascal Dupuis scored just a minute and a half later to give the Pens the first multi-goal lead for either team and it stayed that way. James Neal added another goal which marked the first time he has scored 30 goals in his career.

This wasn't just a huge win for the Penguins in the standings but it was a huge win for their confidence. The Flyers are one of the teams that the Pens struggled to beat early in the season. They have turned a corner when it comes to competing against the top tier teams in the Eastern Conference. They do still need to take care of business against the bottom dwellers though. The Buffalo Sabres are one of those teams and the Penguins will see them on Sunday during Hockey Day in America in an attempt to build and capitalize off of this win against Philadelphia.

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