Darroll Powe, Marc-Andre Fleury

Flyers set to play post-Crosby, Malkin Penguins for first time

It’s hard to believe since they are cross-state and division rivals, but the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t played against the Pittsburgh Penguins since December 14th, as Adam Kimelman from NHL.com points out. In that time, the makeup of that Penguins has changed considerably, with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin going down with serious injuries.

Yet while the team isn’t quite as dynamic from an offensive standpoint, the Penguins have remained competitive through solid defense and an impressive all-around work ethic. They trail the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference-leading Flyers by five points and Philadelphia has one game in hand, so tonight’s game is still pretty important even though Philly has a healthy lead. The gap might be too large for them to close in such a small time, but it’s far from impossible to imagine if they win tonight.

While Pittsburgh doesn’t overwhelm you with star power anymore, the Flyers are aware that they still must prepare for a challenge. Kimelman writes that the team is giving the Penguins plenty of respect as they prepare for the game.

“They’re missing a couple key players, but … they’ve still been playing pretty well,” defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “They always play hard. They’re good system-wise and if you’re not ready to compete, you’re going to lose the game. We have to go out there and compete and play a full 60 minutes.”

Timonen and his defense partner, Braydon Coburn, likely would have seen a lot of Crosby and Malkin. Obviously they won’t have to deal with that challenge, but Coburn said it doesn’t change how he approaches his job.

“They always play the same system,” Coburn told NHL.com. “They’ve got great players over there, they seem to work well together. They have good team chemistry. Their depth is excellent because they have two top players out of their lineup and doesn’t really seem like they’ve missed too much of a beat.”

It’s difficult to gauge what kind of ceiling this Penguins team has if Crosby cannot return (or even if he does, really). Games like these might be a solid measuring stick, though. The Flyers could just about guarantee a division title tonight if they take a win, so both teams have plenty to play for. We’ll keep you updated about this and other big games tonight at PHT.

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.