Sunday, April 1, 2012

Game 79: Penguins vs. Flyers Recap

The pregame as well as the first five minutes of the first period were all about the domination of the Pittsburgh Penguins. They seemed to have gotten off of the schneid when they beat the Buffalo Sabres. It was announced before the game that they would be getting their All-Star defenseman Kris Letang back. And they dominated the first five minutes of the game. But it was all downhill from there.

As was the case the last time the Penguins played the Philadelphia Flyers, they got off to an early two goal lead. Steve Sullivan got on the board first just 1:14 into the contest on a goal which was assisted by Pascal Dupuis who extended his points streak to 14 games. James Neal scored the second goal for the Penguins which forced Peter Laviolette to use his timeout early and it paid off.

Despite continuing to dominate, the Pens were only able to leave the period up by a singular goal. Claude Giroux scored late in the period off of a shot that slipped through the pads of Marc-Andre Fleury who was being screened by Scott Hartnell. The goal by Giroux may as well have been the de facto game winner because it shifted the tide of the game.

The Flyers tied the game early in the second period when Letang got caught napping in front of his own net. Max Talbot got behind him and deflected a pass from Zac Rinaldo past Fleury. The goal was only one of six shots that the Flyers accumulated in the period to Pittsburgh's 15. The difference was that they were able to capitalize on their chances.

For reason unbeknownst to most, even with Letang back, Dan Bylsma continued to employ the five forward power play. And to no one's surprise, it was largely ineffective and the best scoring chances usually came for Philadelphia shorthanded. Letang was finally put back on the power play when the Pens opened the third period with an opportunity. However, they weren't able to score on it until their final chance late in the game when the outcome was already decided.

The power play to start the third period for the Pens was negated when Chris Kunitz took an interference penalty. With the Flyers now with the man advantage, Wayne Simmonds gave them their first lead and the lead for good. Jakub Voracek and Marc-Andre Bourdon each scored to give the Flyers a three goal advantage and that's when things began to get chippy.

Late in the game, Sullivan notched his second goal which needed to be reviewed because it appeared to have hit the post. While play continued, Brayden Schenn cross checked Sidney Crosby on his way to the bench. That eventually led to Arron Asham retaliating and Deryk Engelland getting into a scrap with Simmonds. During that mayhem, Laviolette broke a stick which ended up in the Penguins' bench. That caused an altercation between coached which saw Laviolette and Tony Granato get ejected.

The loss for the Penguins eliminates them from contention for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and pulls the Flyers to within one point of home ice advantage. More intriguingly, it gave a preview of what a playoff series between these two teams will be like. Not to mention, they also cap the regular season with a game against each other. One thing does seem likely if nothing else. And that is that whoever comes out of a playoff series between these two will struggle to find anything left in the tank to make a run at Lord Stanley's Cup.

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