5 things we learned from Penguins’ loss to Flyers
Moments after the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 4-3 in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL Stadium Series on Saturday night, coach Mike Sullivan said he would be able to better assess his team’s performance after watching the game on video.
Here’s some unsolicited advice for Sullivan: Don’t bother.
An outdoor game played in a steady rain provided quite the spectacle for the announced crowd of 69,620 at Lincoln Financial Field, but as a good test of which hockey team was better on a given night, it failed miserably.
The Penguins jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Their first goal, by Sidney Crosby, was made possible by a failed pass between Philadelphia’s Travis Sanheim and Jakub Voracek that would have been completed easily under normal conditions.
Their third goal, by Evgeni Malkin, hit goalie Brian Elliott in the glove, popped up over his head and banked in off his skate. Even acknowledging Elliott’s struggles against the Penguins over the years, does that shot go in at the Wells Fargo Center?
The Penguins blew a two-goal lead in the final four minutes of regulation and lost on a Claude Giroux goal in overtime.
Minutes before the Flyers comeback started, Penguins goalie Matt Murray went to the bench to change his headband and wipe his face with a towel because the rain was getting in his eyes.
“I thought we deserved a better outcome, but whether you deserved it or not doesn’t really matter,” defenseman Jack Johnson said. “An environment like that, there’s a lot of bounces. There’s a lot of fluky things that happen.”
Here are five other things we learned from Saturday night’s game.
1. Bottom line
Even if the game had been played on the streets of South Philadelphia, the point the Penguins gave up could prove costly.
The Penguins are tied with Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. There are 20 games left in the season. They’re dealing with injuries to key players on defense. Every point is critical.
2. Murray’s woes
Murray is 14-5-1 with a .929 save percentage since returning from injury Dec. 15. Reports of his demise are greatly exaggerated. What the Penguins need him to eliminate from his game are the ill-timed gaffes that have plagued him in his last two starts.
It’s a better problem to have than a shoddy save percentage, but it’s a problem all the same.
3. Signs of life
One of the biggest problems facing the Penguins are the slumps Patric Hornqvist and Phil Kessel are mired in.
On Saturday night, Hornqvist recorded his first point in 14 games, an assist, and Kessel fired six shots on goal. That’s probably a good sign for them.
4. Power outage
The Penguins were incensed when a slashing call on Matt Cullen started Philadelphia’s comeback late in the third period. Conversely, the Penguins didn’t go on the power play once in the game.
According to Penguins historian Bob Grove, it was the first time the team went without a power play in 288 all-time regular-season meetings with the Flyers.
5. Television interest
The novelty of outdoor hockey hasn’t worn off with television viewers.
According to NBC Sports, the 16.9 rating in Pittsburgh was the largest ever for a regular-season game in the market, excluding the Winter Classic. The Philadelphia market drew a 6.3 rating.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .