Penguins get much-needed win against rival Flyers
PHILADELPHIA — Matt Murray and the Pittsburgh Penguins won’t be submitting the video of their victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night to the Carnegie Museum of Art.
But looking at the standings and the calendar, it’s long past time for the Penguins to stop worrying about artistic merit.
Murray made a career-high 50 saves, including 28 during a second-period Philadelphia barrage, leading the Penguins to a 4-1 victory that snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Penguins increased their narrow lead in the race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference to three points.
“It wasn’t pretty, but they’re not always pretty,” Murray said. “They’re not always going to be easy. Tonight was definitely not an easy game, but we battled.”
With the Penguins taking two penalties and otherwise spending long stretches stuck in their own zone, the Flyers piled up a massive 28-8 shots advantage in the second period. Murray, making his return to the lineup after missing one game with an upper-body injury, didn’t flinch.
“I thought our defensemen battled hard in front of him, but Matt was really good,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “Matt was really good. He made some big saves for us. That’s the type of game that he’s capable of. He’s a real good goalie.”
Murray also caught a break.
Referee Kyle Rehman thought Murray gloved a Travis Konecny power-play shot from the right wing when in reality, the puck was loose in the crease, where Nolan Patrick knocked it in. The quick whistle kept the score 2-0.
“I got lucky,” Murray said. “I said thanks afterwards.”
The Penguins were also fortunate to survive a match penalty Evgeni Malkin took with a little less than five minutes left in the game.
With the Penguins leading 3-0, Flyers forward Michael Raffl punched him in the back of the head.
Malkin responded with a two-handed baseball swing that didn’t appear to make contact with Raffl’s face but could have caused a lot of damage if it did. Malkin said he knew it wasn’t wise to retaliate, but he didn’t think he committed a penalty.
“I looked at the replay,” Malkin said. “I know it was dirty, but I missed (with) my stick. Not touch his helmet or shoulder.”
Jakub Voracek shoveled in a shot at the left post with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left, but the Penguins held on until Kris Letang added an empty netter with 12.2 seconds left. It gave Letang sole possession of the team record for goals by a defenseman, set at 108 by Paul Coffey.
“We got it done, especially in the last five minutes there when we were on the kill,” Murray said.
The Penguins suffered a potentially significant loss on defense when Olli Maatta was hit by Phil Varone in the first period and left the ice favoring his left arm. Sullivan said Maatta is out with an upper-body injury and will be evaluated Tuesday.
“All our defensemen stepped up and played a huge role in this win,” Letang said.
The Penguins got three pucks past Flyers rookie phenom Carter Hart.
Sidney Crosby scored against the Flyers for the 40th time in his career when he slid in a puck the Flyers goalie lost sight of in the first period. Nick Bjugstad scored his first goal in a Penguins uniform in the second on a shot from the left faceoff circle off a Malkin assist. Jake Guentzel connected on a wraparound in the third.
“We’ve got to build off it,” Crosby said. “We all know how important the points are. To get a big win like this on the road, try to take the momentum back home now.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .