Penguins dispatch Flyers for 5th straight win
PHILADELPHIA — In the second period of a tied game Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia Flyers center Ryan White picked up a puck along the half-wall in his defensive zone and wheeled around the net. He had at least two steps on the nearest pursuing Penguins player, Phil Kessel.
By the time White reached the right-wing corner, Kessel had closed the gap and was in his hip pocket, pestering him relentlessly, hacking at his stick.
Turnover. Nick Bonino pass. Carl Hagelin slap-shot goal from the slot.
It was a key moment in a three-goal second period that led the Penguins to a decisive 4-1 victory over their intrastate rivals at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I thought we worked hard as a team tonight and were rewarded,” Kessel said. “We did the little things, and we got it done. That's a big win for us. Now we've got to keep going.”
The Flyers entered Saturday as the hottest team in the commonwealth, winners of eight of their previous 10 games. The Penguins have taken over that title, running their winning streak to five games and moving six points ahead of the Flyers in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race.
“I told our guys this after the game: I thought it was the most complete game that we've played to this point at both ends of the rink,” coach Mike Sullivan said.
The turnover Kessel forced wasn't the only play that carried the Penguins to victory. Trevor Daley and Chris Kunitz also scored second-period goals. Kris Letang tacked on an empty netter. The penalty kill gave the Flyers nothing on three power-play chances. Sidney Crosby had a pair of assists.
But Kessel's play was most indicative of how the Penguins dominated the game. They didn't do it with speed and skill. They never skated circles around the Flyers. They used a blue-collar approach to grind the Flyers down and carry two points out of town.
“When Phil engages like that down low, he's a big body. When he engages like that, he's hard to play against,” Sullivan said. “That's what we need more of from everybody to be the type of team we want to become.”
The Penguins dodged bullets in the first period. At least three odd-man rushes by the Flyers didn't turn into even one official shot on goal.
Most notably, in the game's first minute, Brayden Schenn hit the outside of the left post on a three-on-one.
In the middle of the period, Sam Gagner got off neither a shot nor a pass while skating up the right wing two-on-one.
Later, Claude Giroux could not get a pass across to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on a short-handed break.
“We got a little fortunate on those two-on-ones, especially the first one,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “He had an open net.”
After the Flyers took a 1-0 lead on a Radko Gudas point shot through traffic at 1:58 of the second period, the Penguins dominated the rest of the game.
During one long stretch of offensive-zone possession, Eric Fehr was tripped, and the Penguins scored on the delayed penalty call that followed.
Bonino made a cross-ice pass to Daley on the left wing for a short-side goal on Steve Mason that made it 1-1.
After Hagelin's goal gave the Penguins the lead for good, Crosby led a three-on-two rush and found Kunitz for a shot that went wide of the right post, bounced off the end boards and caromed in off Mason's skates to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
The Flyers were booed off the ice by the Philadelphia crowd.
“A good word would be ‘complete' for that period,” Bonino said. “Maybe for the whole game. Every line was doing the right things.”