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Penguins

Penguins notebook: Second line provides scoring boost against Flyers

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, March 19, 2016, 6:42 p.m.
(From left) Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, Patric Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby celebrate after Kunitz's goal during the second period of the Penguins' 4-1 win over the Flyers.
(From left) Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, Patric Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby celebrate after Kunitz's goal during the second period of the Penguins' 4-1 win over the Flyers.

PHILADELPHIA — For the second straight game, the second line was second to none for the Penguins.

Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel combined for a pair of goals in a 4-1 victory in Philadelphia on Saturday, just like they did in a 4-2 win over Carolina on Thursday.

“We're getting used to each other,” Bonino said. “Just trying to utilize (Hagelin and Kessel's) speed. They're really quick, and anytime we can back the D off and get the puck in their zone, whenever we're in their zone, we're really dangerous.”

The line's emergence as an offensive threat is one of the big reasons why the Penguins have survived the first week of an expected absence of six to eight weeks for star center Evgeni Malkin. They're 4-0 since Malkin was injured March 11 in Columbus.

“That's a tough blow to our team. He's a really good player. He's hard to replace. I don't think we replace him with any one guy,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “But what we can do, for everybody that's playing more minutes in a more significant role, it's a great opportunity. We challenged them to embrace it.

“I think it's an indication of having a good team and the depth we have within our organization that we have different guys stepping up at different times that are helping us get the results. For me, it's hat's off to the players on our team. They're embracing the challenge. It's been a lot of fun to watch.”

Power-play problems

One area where the Penguins haven't been able to replace Malkin's production is on the power play.

They went 0 for 3 on Saturday to drop to 1 for 12 since he got hurt in Columbus. They went 1 for 24 when Malkin missed 10 games with a lower-body injury last month.

Phil in Philly

The Penguins dominated the Flyers in the second period Saturday, earning a 16-5 shots advantage and scoring three consecutive goals. The effort was led by the puck pursuit of Kessel, who is known for his speed and shot more than his work on the forecheck.

Don't think his teammates didn't notice.

“He was a machine out there,” Hagelin said. “I think he won a lot of battles, used his body and skated a lot of pucks down. That's going to be one of the big things for our line to do. If we can use our wheels, we're going to have a good chance at getting chances offensively.”

Crosby climbing in scoring race

Sidney Crosby recorded two assists Saturday to move into third place in the NHL scoring race with 74 points in 70 games. Four months ago, on Nov. 20, he was 139th.

Looking ahead to Capitals showdown

The Penguins have about 26 hours to bask in their rivalry win. They face President's Trophy favorite Washington at home Sunday evening.

“It's important we come out tomorrow with the same kind of urgency and same kind of intensity,” Hagelin said.

Not gloating over dominant victory

Several Penguins players passed on an opportunity to gloat about moving six points ahead of their bitter intrastate rivals in the Eastern Conference standings.

“I'm not really looking at the standings right now,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “I'm looking at how our team is doing and how we can get better. The most important thing is we're winning games and we're playing as a team and we play for 60 minutes.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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