Tale of Tape: Penguins vs Flyers

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On Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center (12:30 pm ET, NBC) – here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Philadelphia: 45-24-9, 3rd in Atlantic Division.
Leading scorer: Claude Giroux (27G-59A-86P)

Pittsburgh: 48-24-6, 2nd in Atlantic Division.
Leading scorer: Evgeni Malkin (48G-54A-102P)

Dec. 8, 2011 – Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2. The Flyers were a point behind the division-leading Penguins going into their first meeting of the season. The Penguins, who were playing without Sidney Crosby for the first time following his original attempt to return from a concussion, were outshot 15-8 over the first period. Danny Briere netted the first goal of the contest just 6:38 minutes into the game. In the second, Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell each found the back of the net to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.

Pittsburgh staged a comeback attempt with goals from James Neal and Malkin, but Pittsburgh still ended up surrendering its hold on the division.

Dec. 29, 2011 – Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 2. Although they were held off the scoresheet in their opening matchup against Pittsburgh, two former Penguins turned Flyers — Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot — made their mark in this game. Both of them scored and Jagr had some fun at the expense of the Penguins’ crowd by saluting them following his goal. However, it was rookie Matt Read that ended up netting the game-winning goal for Philadelphia.

On the Penguins side of things, Tyler Kennedy led the charge with a goal and an assist. Jordan Staal found the back of the net for the 15th time and extended his goal scoring streak to three-games.

One of the keys to the Flyers’ success was their ability to shutdown Pittsburgh’s hottest player, James Neal. They snapped his eight-game point streak and limited him to just two shots on goal.

Feb. 18, 2012 – Pittsburgh 6, Philadelphia 4. The Flyers couldn’t stop Neal this time, but he wasn’t even their biggest problem.

Things started off well enough for Philadelphia, with Jagr scoring twice within the span of 18 seconds to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead going into the second period. They managed to maintain that lead for most of the frame, but then Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis and Brooks Orpik were each handed two minute minors just 33 seconds apart.

That gave Philadelphia the man advantage, which was something they apparently could not handle that afternoon. Staal and Matt Cooke netted back-to-back shorthanded goals to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead. You can check out Cooke’s goal below.

Eric Wellwood managed to tie the game back up with 1:19 minutes remaining in the second period, but things got even worse for Philadelphia in the final 20 minutes. Pittsburgh’s Dustin Jeffrey scored just 37 seconds into the third period. Dupuis and Neal added two insurance goals as the Penguins finally beat the Flyers.

March 18, 2012 – Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2 (OT). The Penguins were riding high on an 11-game winning streak going into this contest and they had recently gotten Crosby and Kris Letang back. At the same time, Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had been nearly flawless in the weeks leading up to this meeting.

The Penguins struck first, with goals from Craig Adams and Malkin in the first and second periods respectively. However, given that the Penguins outshot Philadelphia 27-10 over the first 40 minutes, Bryzgalov deserves some credit for keeping the game close.

His efforts paid off in the third when the Flyers finally made their counter attack. Kimmo Timonen and Hartnell both beat Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury in the first five minutes of the third. The game went to overtime where Hartnell just barely beat the buzzer to give the Flyers’ a 3-1 series lead.

A ‘weird game’ and a tough loss, but Preds feel good about their chances

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PITTSBURGH — “It was a weird game,” said Pekka Rinne, pretty much nailing it.

The Nashville Predators had just lost, 5-3, after keeping the Pittsburgh Penguins without a shot for almost two full periods of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Rinne, the Conn Smythe Trophy favorite heading into the series, only saw 11 shots the whole night. Four of them beat him, including one that bounced off his own defenseman to put the Preds down, 3-0, in the first period.

Nashville eventually battled back to tie it at three, thanks to a couple of power-play snipes and an even-strength tally by Frederick Gaudreau. But Jake Guentzel‘s goal at 16:43 of the third, on a shot that broke the Penguins’ unfathomably long stretch without one, proved to be the winner. Minutes later, an empty-netter sealed it for the defending champs. 

“At the end of the day, my job is to make the save,” said Rinne, “and at the end of the game I’m disappointed I couldn’t help my team. We showed a lot of character. I thought that we played a great game. I think we have a lot of things that we can take away from this game, a lot of positives.”

Captain Mike Fisher had no idea that his Preds had held the Penguins shotless for 37 minutes, a stretch that went from 19:43 of the first when Nick Bonino‘s one-handed pass bounced off Mattias Ekholm‘s pads into the net, all the way to Guentzel’s winner.

“I knew they weren’t getting too many chances and we were playing pretty strong,” said Fisher. “We found a way to get back in it, but it wasn’t our night.”

Defenseman P.K. Subban, who had a goal called back in the first period after video review determined that Filip Forsberg was a hair offside, was characteristically positive afterwards.

“That’s hockey,” said Subban. “That’s just what it is. And if we just play the way we did, minus some of the mistakes that we made, I like our chances. We’ll be better next game, that’s for sure. I’m sure they’re going to be better. … This is going to be a long series.”

Penguins avoid collapse, beat Preds in crazy Stanley Cup Final opener

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PITTSBURGH — The game of hockey can be crazy at times.

Then you have nights like Monday, when it gets really crazy.

In a game that often made no sense at all, the Penguins built up a 3-0 lead, blew that lead, then rallied late to beat Nashville 5-3 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

So, uh, where to even begin with this?

Let’s start with the game-winner. Jake Guentzel, who was on the verge of being a healthy scratch for tonight’s affair, scored with less than four minutes remaining to snap an eight-game goalless drought.

Now, consider the circumstances under which this goal was scored.

Guentzel was facing tremendous pressure to get his offense going. And the shot he scored on was Pittsburgh’s first in 37 minutes of action. During that time, the Pens recorded the first zero-shot playoff period since NHL began tracking SOG in 1957-58.

Guentzel’s goal also came after Nashville had staged a furious, wild three-goal rally to even things up.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissions and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Preds, with Sissions and Gaudreau finding the back of the net less than four minutes apart in the final frame. Gaudreau, who up until a few weeks ago was playing in the Calder Cup playoffs, looked as though he was primed to become the next unlikely postseason hero.

But it wasn’t to be.

Because there were other equally unlikely developments on the night.

Heck, we haven’t discussed the first period yet. Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary and Nick Bonino scored in a span of 4:11 in the opening frame, a flurry filled with fortuitous bounces and breaks. Malkin’s tally came on a 5-on-3 man advantage, after Calle Jarnkrok and James Neal were whistled for simultaneous penalties. Bonino’s marker was an own goal, knocked in by Preds d-man Mattias Ekholm.

Oh, and there was that disallowed marker.

Perhaps you heard? It was an ignominious start for the NHL on its biggest stage. Seven minutes in, the Preds looked to have taken a 1-0 lead when P.K. Subban‘s blast beat Matt Murray. But hold on. Pens head coach Mike Sullivan quickly challenged and, upon review, it was deemed that Filip Forsberg entered the Pittsburgh zone illegally.

More, from the NHL’s situation room blog:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesmen, NHL Hockey Operations staff determined that Forsberg preceded the puck into the attacking zone, nor did he have possession and control before crossing the blue line.

This ruling came just hours after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman defended offside challenges in his state-of-the-league address.

Crazy is right. And fitting, given what transpired tonight.

Video: Guentzel, Penguins regain lead after 37-minute shot drought

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Luck keeps going the Pittsburgh Penguins’ way in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Nashville Predators kept firing away at Matt Murray, holding the Penguins without a shot on goal for a whopping 37 minutes and managing to tie the contest 3-3 after falling behind 3-0.

It was a ridiculous display … and then Pittsburgh got its next shot.

Jake Guentzel scored on that attempt, roofing it past a struggling Pekka Rinne. It’s the sort of thing you can’t even dream up.

Pittsburgh also added an empty-net goal, so Nashville needs an epic final 30 seconds if they hope to avoid a crushing Game 1 loss.

Predators hold Penguins without a shot in second, now down 3-1 in Game 1

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There’s little sense denying the Pittsburgh Penguins’ luck through 40 minutes against the Nashville Predators in Game 1.

Through the first period, some favorable calls and a lucky bounce or two helped Pittsburgh generate a stunning 3-0 lead. Pittsburgh ended the opening frame with a burst of activity after a strong start to the Stanley Cup Final by Nashville.

The Predators regained their composure and confidence in the second, resulting in a dominant display on the ice (if not on the scoreboard).

The Penguins only managed couldn’t even manage a single, measly shot on goal against Pekka Rinne during the middle frame, but unfortunately for Nashville, some dominant puck possession only resulted in a goal by Ryan Ellis.

A 3-1 deficit is digestible, if frustrating, for Nashville. We’ll see if they can get back into Game 1 in the third period.

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