Three second period goals from the Pittsburgh Penguins, including two from Kasperi Kapanen, pushed them over the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-2, on Tuesday night
On a night when it would have been easy to chalk up a quick loss to the Flyers for not having Sidney Crosby in the lineup, the Penguins played one of their better games of the season to pick up a huge win.
With Crosby out of the lineup, Evgeni Malkin slotted into the top line slot with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, but it was the depth players who truly impacted the Pens and drove them to a crucial cross-state victory.
With Kasperi Kapanen scoring two clutch second period goals and Mike Matheson and Cody Ceci scoring two crucial third period goals, the Penguins rode timely offense to the win Tuesday night.
However, it wouldn’t have been possible without Tristan Jarry weathering a heavily outplayed first period and a steady dose of high-quality scoring chances from the Flyers to stop 40 of 42 Flyers’ chances, good for a .952 save percentage.
No matter how many goals the Penguins score this season, especially with crucial players out of the lineup, the Pens goaltending will decide a lot this season. If Tuesday was any indication, the Pens will be in good hands—er, gloves—with Jarry heading forward.
In the first of three straight games against the Flyers, for the first time in team history playing the same team three straight times, Jarry was the backbone that allowed the Penguins to escape with a rather easy-looking 5-2 victory.
Despite being outshot and out-chanced at times throughout the contest, the Penguins rode strong goaltending and timely goalscoring from the forwards and defensemen to a huge win over a very strong division rival.
It’s hard to nitpick such an important win, especially without such an important player.
First Period – 0-0, tie
With 2,800 fans seated across the upper and lower bowl of PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins and Flyers contest was unlike any other the two have played this season.
It wasn’t noticeable through the TV broadcast, but according to those in the building, the nearly 3,000 strong were undeterred from making their voices heard. For the first time in over 350 days, Pens fans filled the seats at PPG Paints, but it wasn’t immediately helpful for the Pens.
With Crosby on the COVID protocol list and Pierre-Olivier Joseph sent back to the taxi squad, the Penguins debuted some new lines and pairings, and it’s highly possible the Pens needed a period to adjust.
With a 14-5 shot disadvantage through the first, Jarry was required to stand tall in net to provide the Penguins with a chance to bounce back in the second period.
In a truly touching, larger-than-hockey moment, the Penguins welcomed Oskar Lindblom back to PPG Paints Arena, his first time since overcoming a cancer diagnosis last season, on the day Mario Lemieux returned from cancer in 1993. It was a nice moment where fans were able to cheer for a man who fought so hard to get back on the ice.
The NHL is a brotherhood, and it was truly shown with Lindblom’s tribute, courtesy of Jeff Skversky’s Twitter account.
Second Period – 3-1, Penguins
Well, well, well. Crosby is out of the lineup for a period, and the Penguins decide to score on a power play and create numerous five-on-five chances.
Despite an early extended power play chance for the Penguins fizzling out, followed closely by a pretty give-and-go goal off a Teddy Blueger turnover from Flyers teammates Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee, with Farabee cashing in on an almost empty net after receiving a pass back from Couturier, the Pens battled back.
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Soon after the successful Flyers’ power play, Kasperi Kapanen picked off a Flyers’ pass and busted up the ice, showcasing his world-class speed. In on a mini-breakaway, Kapanen faked a heavy slapper and iced Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, collecting the puck and slotting it easily through his five-hole to level the score at one.
After a subpar 30 minutes of play, the Kapanen goal kickstarted the Penguins, chances coming fast and furious after the game-breaking goal from Kap. Cody Ceci took a cross-check, his head bouncing off the goal post, to bring another Pens chance not long after.
On the power play, the Penguins executed a beautiful tic-tac-toe play to set Kapanen up for another goal—wide open this time. Evgeni Malkin started the play at the blue line, firing a pass to Rust, who fired a pass across to Jake Guentzel, who fired across the crease to a wide-open Kap. 2-1, Pens.
In the quest for a hat trick, Kapanen was absolutely robbed by Hart on a cross-ice chance, Hart squeezing his arm to his body to take away a potential single period hatty chance. However, it didn’t take long for the Pens to create another strong chance.
Two minutes later, Kris Letang threw a puck on net, which bounced off Hart’s pads, and Rust was in place to slap the rebound past Hart to increase the lead to two goals.
Despite the two-goal lead, the Flyers led the game in shots through two periods, holding a 25-19 advantage. Jarry made a number of crucial saves through the period, including a pad save late in the period to rob the Flyers just before the buzzer.
Third Period – 5-2, Penguins
The Flyers had aspirations of making this a game, shown by Farabee cashing in another puck off Jarry’s first mistake of the game.
Jarry attempted the handle the puck behind the net, pushing a weak backhand out up the boards, and the Flyers jumped on it and created a chance that allowed Farabee to pounce on an easy chance in front of the net.
With a 3-2 lead, the Penguins were in danger of blowing a hard-fought lead. Until those depth players jumped back into the equation.
Continuing a trend of jumping on the Flyers after strong scoring chances, the Pens created another strong chance a minute after Farabee’s second goal. Cody Ceci started the chance, entering the zone and dropping a pass to Brandon Tanev. Tanev swung the pass across to newly acquired Mark Friedman, who fired a pass down to Jared McCann, who fired another puck across to Ceci, who buried the puck behind Hart.
It was another brilliant tic-tac-toe play from a few guys who wouldn’t normally be expected to connect on such flashy plays. Ceci has been nothing but a boon since signing a cheap, prove-it deal with the Pens last offseason.
With a 4-2 advantage, and Hart dashing across the ice to his bench, the puck wound up on the stick of Mike Matheson. And Matheson wristed a puck past the outstretched stick of Hart, from his own blue line, to score his second goal of the season and officially ice the game at 5-2.
The Penguins will play the Flyers again Thursday night and again Saturday afternoon, with both contests having a huge impact on the East division this season. Follow along with Pens Labyrinth as we go!