The Philadelphia Flyers enter the unchartered territory for the first time in 2020-2021, visiting the Penguins (and their fans.)
PPG Paints Arena welcomed 2,800 fans to cheer the Pittsburgh Penguins against the in-state rival Philadelphia Flyers. For the state of Pennsylvania, rivalry hockey is officially back. The Flyers prepared to face the Penguins for the first of three back-to-back games in Pittsburgh. Tonight, Carter Hart went head-to-head against his sparring partner, Tristan Jarry. Could Hart continue to build upon his shutout versus the Buffalo Sabres, or would Jarry right his wrongs versus Philadelphia?
Without Sidney Crosby, the Penguins looked to Evgeni Malkin. Malkin, who averages a little more than a point with Crosby absent, was earmarked with Jared McCann to be a game-breaker. Former Flyer, Mark Friedman, made his debut for Pittsburgh tonight. Would Chuck Fletcher regret risking Friedman on waivers? The elephant in the room needed answers.
Discipline goes a long way in winning hockey games. In the first period, Jarry bailed the Penguins out of a few precarious positions. Philadelphia peppered Jarry in the first period, taking a favorable shot advantage. The powerplay helped, but the Flyers were able to create scoring chances during even-strength scenarios too.
Jarry was spectacular while a man-down. Philadelphia needed to take advantage of powerplay opportunities, but Pittsburgh shined on the penalty kill. Great goaltending bought the Penguins enough time to erase the Flyers’ momentum. Towards the end of the first period, Pittsburgh assumed control. They would begin the second period with 1:45 left on a powerplay as Claude Giroux served two-minutes for hooking.
Disrupting Jarry for a moment was Joel Farabee and Sean Couturier. Both Philadelphia forwards passed the puck enough to get Jarry out of position before Farabee finished the scoring play. It looked like the Flyers would run away with the momentum early on, but this was the calm before the storm. In front of the home crowd, the Penguins sought to get back into the game.
Kasperi Kapanen made his impact early and often. Shayne Gostisbehere risked a pass across the blue line, stolen by Kapanen. He tied the game, faking a slapshot into a wrist shot past Hart. Philadelphia didn’t have an opportunity to build its lead.
Again, Kapanen scored, this time on the powerplay. Jake Guentzel recovered a shot in close on Hart, who made the save. He allowed a juicy rebound which Kapanen cleaned up. Now, Kapanen has a breakaway even-strength goal and a powerplay goal. More importantly, Pittsburgh took the lead.
Hart didn’t receive much help from his defense on more than a few occasions in the second period. Gostisbehere had a few miserable shifts, which translated to two Penguins goals. The latest came on his inability to clear a rebound from the crease, allowing Bryan Rust to add to the lead. If Hart couldn’t make a clean save, he was paying for it on second-chance shots.
Pittsburgh continued to receive great goaltending from Jarry. James van Riemsdyk had a close-in scoring chance, but Jarry made the blocker save. To this point, the Penguins were able to turn away every Flyers powerplay chance. Notably, Philadelphia needed to take advantage of special teams. They began the third period on the powerplay with Malkin in the penalty box.
Throughout the beginning of the third period, Pittsburgh kept outhustling the Flyers. Not until a minute past the halfway point of the period did Philadelphia narrow the lead. Once again, Farabee solved Jarry. Typically, the Penguins goaltender is sure-handed but bobbled the puck away. Farabee made him pay, scoring his second of the night.
In a similar fashion to the second period, the Flyers gave away a goal as soon as they scored one. This time, Cody Ceci scored, and Mark Friedman notched an assist. Ron Hextall was smiling down on Pittsburgh as his draft pick from Philadelphia had an impactful debut. On the scoring play, the Penguins had a four-on-three advantage in transition. That was the latest example of a lax Flyers defensive performance.
Later, Hart attempted to empty the net for a man-advantage. Before he could get to the bench, Michael Matheson scored from the neutral zone. All aspects of Philadelphia’s game were disastrous. They seemed lost on the ice. Pittsburgh performed like a team who stuck to their gameplan and made it work, winning 5-2.
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. The puck drop is scheduled for 7pm. All of the action will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia and ESPN+.