Flyers rally to hand Penguins stunning, brutal loss

Flyers Penguins

Sometimes you can make too big of a deal out of one game.

It is easy to get caught up in the moment and overstate things in the immediate aftermath of a win or a loss.

But it may not be overstating things to suggest that the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night could end up having a pretty significant impact on the East Division playoff race.

Not only did the Flyers win in regulation, making it a four-point swing in the standings, but they did so while overcoming a 3-0 deficit against a team they are in direct competition with for one of the four playoff spots in the division.

Even before the puck dropped on Thursday this had the feel of a significant game. The two teams were tied in total points (with the Flyers having two games in hand) and any win in regulation was going to be a big shift in the standings. Given the games in hand situation it is one the Penguins probably needed more, and four minutes into the game it looked like they were well on their way to getting it thanks to three goals in a 71-second stretch to jump out to a commanding lead.

So what happened?

Instead of finishing the job, they went into a 56-minute shell, allowed Philadelphia to dictate the pace of the game, and slowly watched their lead evaporate until it was completely gone.

It was the same story they have been dealing with all season when they have struggled. Bad defensive zone play, careless play with the puck, and a power play unit that has completely sucked the life out of their games every time it hits the ice. Their two attempts at the man-advantage on Thursday perfectly captured the self-destructive force it has been all season.

Their first attempt came just a couple of minutes after Jared McCann scored to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead. It was an opportunity to build on their lead and bury an opponent that had clearly stumbled at the start.

[Related: Sidney Crosby removed from COVID protocol list]

The Penguins responded by recording zero shots on goal, never getting set up, and never looking organized. Just a few minutes later the Flyers scored on their power play opportunity and the tide had officially shifted. Their second opportunity came in the third period when they were still ahead by a goal with a chance to add on some insurance, and it was just as futile. The Flyers tied it just a few minutes later, setting the stage for Claude Giroux‘s game-winning goal with less than three minutes to play.

Pittsburgh’s power play has the talent to be a game-changing force. But it’s only changed games in the wrong direction for them.

Their defensive zone coverage and puck management are big issues, and both hurt them on Thursday. But do not excuse the consistently bad power play.

Why this game matters so much

Yeah, it’s only one game. Yeah, the two teams play again on Saturday. But this game is so significant because of the nature of the shortened season and the playoff format. You don’t have as much time to make up ground. You are only playing against teams you are competing with directly for playoff spots. If you are the Penguins, entering that game in the position they did (out of a playoff spot), and jump out to a 3-0 lead against a team you are in close competition with, you absolutely can not come out of that game with zero points in the standings. You just can’t. You need something out of that.

When you look at the standings you see the Penguins sitting in fifth place, two points back of the Boston Bruins and Flyers.

That may not seem like a lot. It is one game. But keep in mind that the Penguins have already played two more games than both teams.

If you look at the current point projections you see just how much work the Penguins have to do to make up that ground.

That is a lot of ground.

If there is a positive development for the Penguins it is that they have already played the most challenging part of the schedule, and it concludes on Saturday with their next game against the Flyers.

The second half of their season features several games against the New York Rangers, as well as all of their games against the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. So there is a chance to make some ground and collect points, assuming they can beat the teams they are supposed to beat. But as they approach the halfway point of their season they have quite an uphill fight sitting in front of them.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Scroll Down For:

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

    Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

    Harry How/Getty Images

    CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

    The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

    The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

    The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

    Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

    Getty Images

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

    The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

    The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

    Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

    The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.