Penguins punish struggling Flyers
PHILADELPHIA — Dan Bylsma did not want to say it.
“But if they win that game, they're only six points behind,” Bylsma said of the Penguins' archrival, the Philadelphia Flyers.
They did not win — and a 4-1 victory by the Penguins at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night served as a big blow in the opening round of the Commonwealth Cold War.
The Penguins are 10 points ahead of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division with about 10 percent of the season completed.
Third-period goals by centers Sidney Crosby (sixth) and Evgeni Malkin (third) sealed the Penguins' third straight victory.
Crosby extended his streak of games with a point to seven.
Malkin is on a five-game run, with seven points over that span.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is shining brightest among the Penguins, and that was true over the final 20 minutes.
He stopped all 12 shots, eight of which — including three on two Flyers' power plays — came when the Penguins were clinging to a one-goal lead.
Fleury is off to the best start of his career: 6-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .932 save percentage, and all of it after he was benched during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Hopefully it shuts up a lot of people on the blogs,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “I don't know how many times I'm going to say it, but we never lost faith in ‘Flower.' Everybody goes through rough patches.”
The Flyers are going through one right now. They have lost seven of eight games and scored only nine goals. They are on their second coach.
Still, a power-play goal by winger Wayne Simmonds with two seconds remaining in the second period turned around a contest the Penguins had controlled because of their neutral-zone congestion and goals by wingers Jussi Jokinen (fourth) and Chris Kunitz (third).
Before Simmonds' goal, the most interesting thing about this contest was a Penguins power play cut short because of a scoreboard malfunction.
Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn received a minor penalty for tripping with 59 seconds remaining in the first period.
The Penguins did not score, and their power play carried over into the second period. Coburn's penalty should have expired at 18:59, but he was let out of the box at 19:18.
Bylsma said his understanding was that a 20-second intermission advertisement on the video board accidentally ran off time for the Penguins' power play.
Once play resumed with Coburn of the box, there was nothing the Penguins could do, Bylsma said.
NHL officials in Toronto were investigating and planned to contact both club general managers.
The Flyers likely will review video of their third-period performance and wonder how they failed to sneak another goal past Fleury.
That goes especially for Simmonds.
With Orpik serving a hooking penalty, Simmonds had parked himself to the left of Fleury as the Flyers swarmed the crease. Fleury, his front-jersey Skating Penguin crest pinned to the blue paint of the crease, sprawled to snag with his left glove Simmonds' shot 1:21 into the final period.
“I like to flop around a lot,” Fleury said. “It's probably not the best thing, technically, to do. But it works for me.
“I'm always looking for the puck.”
He is finding it at lot early on.