The Penguins hit the road again, this time in style, making their way back to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Flyers for the third time this season. Heading into the game, the best-of-four series between the two rivals was tied at a win a piece, Pittsburgh having won in Philadelphia and Philadelphia having won in Pittsburgh. And while it appeared as though fate was going to swing the series in favour of Philly, with the Flyers gaining an early 4 to 1 lead, the Penguins would come marching back to take the game by a goal, the scoreboard reading 5 to 4 in favour of the boys in black and gold after sixty minutes. The Comeback Kids? Let’s hope not…
Early on in the first, Pens net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury was tested time and time again by an aggressive Philly squad, including a 2-on-1 less than five minutes into the game. With almost eleven minutes off of the clock, Penguins forward James Neal was called for an elbow, sending the Flyers to the power play. Who else but Jakub Voracke to score a power play goal and give Philly a one goal lead. Neal would emerge from the box only to come face-to-face with Scott Hartnell – literally. Neal would be sent back the box with a roughing call, with a match going to Hartnell and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty served by Danny Briere on behalf of Hartnell. With the man advantage, it was Chris Kunitz tying the game for Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby would work to keep the puck in the Flyers zone, providing an opportunity for Kris Letang to send a pass –albeit errantly – to Kunitz who would flip into the net behind Ilya Bryzgalov, tying the game with 12:05 off the clock. The final seven minutes of the period, however, weren’t as kind to the Penguins as the Flyers scored three unanswered goals. Zac Rinaldo would beat Fleury with a snap shot to regain the lead for Philly with just under five minutes left in the first. Kimmo Timmonen followed up with a snapshot of his own at 18:17 while Voracek earned his second power play goal of the evening with just eight seconds left in the first frame. (James Neal had been called for a slash with sixteen seconds left in the period.) Heading into the first intermission, Pittsburgh was down 4 to 1.
Pittsburgh’s net-minders would trade places to begin the second with Tomas Vokoun placing himself between the pipes. Five and a half minutes in, Pascal Dupuis earned the Penguins second of the night, cutting the Flyers lead in half. The Pens owned Philly’s zone and Crosby was able to pass a shot off to Dupuis who took advantage of the fact that Bryzgalov was down and out of position while sniping a wrist shot into nothing but empty net. Building from that moment, James Neal earned goal number three for the team a minute and a half later. Parking himself in the corner, Neal attempted to send a shot to a net-crashing Evgeni Malkin only the puck would ricochet off the skate of Philadelphia’s Brayden Coburn and into the net and suddenly, it was a one-goal game.
With 8:59 off the clock, Philly’s Luke Schenn was called for a trip, sending Pittsburgh to the power play for the second time this evening. The Flyers were able to kill it off but they couldn’t prevent Tyler Kennedy from tying the game with just over four minutes left in the period. Kennedy’s one-timer from above the circles beat Bryzgalov over his shoulder while Brandon Sutter provided the screen. With that goal – the Penguins third unanswered in a ten minute span – Ilya was pulled in favour of Brian Boucher. Neither team could pull ahead and after forty, the game remained tied at four apiece.
It would take Chris Kunitz just 18 seconds to give Pittsburgh the lead for the first time in the game. Starting off in the neutral zone, the Pens would make their way down ice, Kunitz and Crosby earning a 2-on-1, with Kunitz’s wrist shot beating Boucher. Philadelphia came close to tying the game but a tip above the crossbar by Hartnell was ruled a no goal. Pascal Dupuis earned himself a two-minute sit-down when he was called for interference with 9:47 left in regulation, but the Pens killed the penalty no problem. Boucher was pulled in the final minute but to no avail as the Penguins would maintain the one goal lead, scoring four back-to-back to take a two-to-one series lead.
Kris Letang had 23:59 of ice time while Paul Martin, in his first game back following being sidelined with a lower body injury, had 23:54. James Neal recorded six shots on goal while Chris Kunitz had 4, contributing to the 22 Pittsburgh sent toward Philadelphia’s net-minders. Fleury and Vokoun faced a total of 32 shots. Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby each had a three-point game.
Pittsburgh will head north once again this weekend, this time travelling to Toronto where they will meet the Leafs at center ice on Saturday. Game time is 7:00pm.