It had to happen some time, but surely the Pittsburgh Penguins would have preferred that their winning streak would end against … oh, any of the other 28 teams in the NHL besides the Philadelphia Flyers.
Yet their cross-state rivals were the team to halt their winning streak at 12 games, as the Flyers took the lead in the Atlantic Division (as well as the Eastern Conference and NHL) by beating the Penguins in a tightly fought game on Versus tonight.
One thing that didn’t end was Sidney Crosby’s point scoring streak. Crosby has now matched his longest career span with at least a point in 19 consecutive games (20 goals and 18 assists for 38 points, including three game winning goals and two hat tricks).
Crosby’s two assists weren’t enough for the Penguins to win this game, so now the Flyers own a one point lead over their division rivals atop the entire NHL.
Philadelphia never trailed in the game, taking a 1-0 lead with Claude Giroux, a 2-1 lead with Nikolai Zherdev and finally got the 3-2 game winner thanks to a deflection goal by Scott Hartnell.
One positive thing for the Pittsburgh Penguins is that Evgeni Malkin made a mark in his return from injury, scoring both of his team’s goals on the power play. (Of course, he also coughed up a costly turnover, so it wasn’t all roses for the struggling Russian.)
Marc-Andre Fleury made some amazing stops and kept the Penguins in the game (stopping 34 out of 37 shots), but Brian Boucher did just enough to earn his third win in a row (stopping 21 out of 23 shots).
It’s been one of those under-the-radar stories the past month: while Pittsburgh made big noise with their red-hot streak, Philadelphia kept right behind them most of the way. Now after all that bombast, the Flyers are still ahead of the Penguins in the standings.
From the looks of things, it should be an awfully fun race to watch … especially when the two teams line up against each other.