Kapanen scores twice; Pens welcome back fans with 5-2 win

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kasperi Kapanen scored two goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Tuesday night.

The Penguins won in front of their fans for the first time in almost a year, as state coronavirus restrictions were eased at the beginning of the month and spectators were allowed into the building. Penguins’ players raised their sticks and saluted the fans in attendance following the win.

Bryan Rust scored his seventh, and Cody Ceci and Mike Matheson added goals for Pittsburgh, which has won five of its last seven. Ceci’s goal came just 1:08 after Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee’s second goal made it a 3-2 game. Tristan Jarry stopped 40 shots.

The Penguins, who are tied for the most home wins since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, rebounded from one of their worst performances of the season, a shutout loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday.

Farabee scored twice for the Flyers, who had a three-game winning streak halted. Carter Hart made 22 saves for the Flyers.

Following a scoreless first period, Farabee and Kapanen scored 1:07 apart to open the second period. Farabee finished a give-and-go from Sean Couturier following a Penguins’ turnover at center ice . Kapanen tied the game on an unassisted breakaway.

Couturier established a career-high seven-game point streak with his assist on Farabee’s goal.

Kapanen scored his second goal of the game on the power play at 8:41 of the second and Rust gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead at 10:45 of the period. Rust finished Kris Letang’s point shot from the top of the crease.

PENS WELCOME BACK FANS

The Penguins received approval from Gov. Tom Wolf and the state health department to open PPG Paints Arena to 15% capacity, or 2,800 fans on Tuesday. The Flyers will welcome fans back to the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday against Washington.

Tuesday’s game was the first at PPG Paints Arena with fans since the Penguins hosted the Carolina Hurricanes on March 8, 2020. Fans sat in pockets of no more than four, spaced throughout the lower bowl and half of the upper section of the arena.

The early arriving crowd gave an ovation to Evgeni Malkin, as he left the ice last during pre-game warmups and jeered the cross-state rival Flyers before puck drop.

Giddy fans gave their team a standing ovation when they took the ice and an immediate “Let’s go Pens” chant broke out after the opening faceoff.

WHERE’S THE D?

Philadelphia entered Tuesday’s game coming off consecutive shutouts at Buffalo, but a series of defensive lapses helped Pittsburgh gain control in the second period.

The Penguins scored three goals and outshot the Flyers 13-3 to start the second period. Shayne Gostisbehere’s turnover at the Pittsburgh blue line led to Kapanen’s breakaway goal, which tied the game and ended the Flyers’ shutout streak at 160:11.

Kapanen slid the puck past an out-of-position Hart following a slick passing sequence with Rust and Jake Guentzel to put Pittsburgh in front, 2-1. Rust and Guentzel were at the crease, behind three Flyers’ defensemen on Pittsburgh’s third goal.

CROSBY ON COVID-19 LIST

Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby missed Tuesday’s game after he was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. Penguins’ assistant Todd Reirden was also not available because of coronavirus-related precautions.

Crosby’s 107 points against Philadelphia is more than any other active player and fourth all-time against the Flyers. In his last 13 games against the Flyers, Crosby has nine goals and 23 points.

Flyers-Penguins stream: Tuesday’s NHL on NBCSN matchup

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Pre-game Flyers-Penguins stream coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Flyers and Penguins meet on Tuesday night for the first game of a three-game set this week. Philly defeated Pittsburgh at home in their two previous games to open the 2020-21 campaign. The Flyers enter this matchup having won three straight games, while the Penguins have dropped two of their last three after being blanked by the Islanders 2-0 on Sunday.

With Sunday’s win over Buffalo, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault became the fifth active head coach (ninth all-time) to reach the 700-win milestone. The win tied him with Mike Babcock for eighth place on the all-time wins list.

Sidney Crosby, who will miss Tuesday’s game after being placed on the NHL’s COVID protocols list, is also nearing a few scoring milestones. He is closing in on 1,300 career points – a mark he could certainly reach this season. Crosby ranks second all-time in team history in goals, assists and points – trailing Mario Lemieux in each. He is 31 goals shy of reaching the 500-goal plateau.

The Penguins received approval today from Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania State Department of Health to reopen PPG Paints Arena to fans at 15% capacity (2,800). The Penguins will make tickets available to Tuesday’s game against the Flyers on a priority basis to season ticket holders only.

[PRE-GAME COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins
WHERE: PPG Paints Arena
WHEN: Tuesday, March 2, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: John Forslund, Pierre McGuire
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Flyers-Penguins stream stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
James van RiemsdykSean CouturierJoel Farabee
Claude GirouxKevin HayesNolan Patrick
Oskar LindblomScott LaughtonJakub Voracek
Michael RafflConnor BunnamanTravis Konecny

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Travis SanheimJustin Braun
Robert HaggPhilippe Myers

Starting goalie: Carter Hart

PENGUINS
Jake GuentzelEvgeni MalkinBryan Rust
Brandon TanevJared McCannKasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerSam Lafferty
Colton SceviourJosh Currie – Anthony Angello

Marcus Pettersson – Kris Letang
Michael MathesonJohn Marino
Mark FriedmanCody Ceci

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

Sidney Crosby added to COVID protocol list, won’t play vs. Flyers

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[UPDATE: The Penguins were 5-2 winners without their captain.]

The Penguins announced that Sidney Crosby will be added to the NHL’s COVID protocol list, and won’t play against the Flyers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Mike Sullivan also notes that the team canceled their Tuesday morning skate due to COVID protocols.

While Crosby was placed on the COVID protocol list, it’s not a guarantee that he tested positive.

From the NHL:

“COVID Protocol Related Absences” can be the result of a number of factors including, among others: (1) an initial positive test which remains unconfirmed until confirmatory testing is completed pursuant to the Positive Test Protocol; (2) mandated isolation for symptomatic individuals pursuant to the Positive Test Protocol; (3) required quarantine as a high-risk close contact in accordance with the Positive Test Protocol; (4) isolation based on a confirmed positive test result and/or; (5) quarantine for travel or other reasons as outlined in the COVID-19 Protocol.

Along with Tuesday’s game, the Penguins are also currently scheduled to face the Flyers on Thursday and Saturday. From there, the Penguins face the Rangers on Sunday and Tuesday (March 9).

It’s not immediately clear if Crosby will miss more games. Teams are not required to say exactly how long a player on the COVID list might be out.

As of Monday, there were four players on the NHL COVID protocol list: John Hayden (Coyotes), Patrik Nemeth (Red Wings), Kaapo Kakko (Rangers) and Tomas Hertl (Sharks).

We’ve seen other prominent NHL players reach the COVID protocol list, whether they tested positive or not. Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid rank among the most noteworthy, and now Sidney Crosby is included in that group.

Again, the specifics regarding Crosby landing on the COVID protocol list are not yet clear, though.

Reminders of NHL COVID protocol after Crosby lands on list

Back in December, the NHL detailed the procedure for players who tested positive for COVID — from those who are symptomatic to those who are asymptomatic. Here’s how that procedure would work out.

• For symptomatic players that test positive. From the league protocol:

A positive test of an individual who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 shall not be subject to further confirmatory testing under this Protocol. Such individual’s COVID-19 positive status will be considered confirmed if, in the opinion of the treating physician(s), there is no basis to doubt the individual’s COVID-19 positive status. These individuals shall be required to isolate until medical clearance is obtained. The Club Physician shall immediately coordinate contact tracing with their infectious disease consultant and local health authority

And the protocol for symptomatic players that test negative.

Individuals who develop infectious respiratory symptoms, but who test negative for COVID-19, shall have their clinical care and clearance managed by the Club Physician in consultation with the Club’s infectious disease expert, and they shall continue to be monitored with daily PCR testing

• For asymptomatic players that have an initial positive test the following procedure will be followed.

  • Following the initial positive, the player will be isolated and contact tracing will begin.
  • A confirmatory test will be conducted 24 hours later. If that test is negative, a second test will be conducted 24 hours after that. If that second test is negative, a third confirmatory test will be conducted 24 hours after that. If any of those tests come back positive the player will remain isolated and contact tracing will continue.
  • If all three confirmatory tests come back negative the player will be allowed to exit isolation, resume training, while the contacts will also be released from isolation.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Our Line Starts podcast: MacKinnon dominates outdoors; Matthews MVP favorite

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Kathryn Tappen, Patrick Sharp, and Dominic Moore recap the outdoor games in Lake Tahoe. They reflect on Sidney Crosby‘s incredible career in Pittsburgh. Plus, they pick their early season Hart Trophy winners.

Start-9:30Outdoor games at Lake Tahoe recap
9:30-13:30 – Thoughts on the Doc Emrick: The Voice of Hockey
13:30-17:20 – West Division odds presented by PointsBet
17:20-20:45 – How would teams fair in different divisions?
20:45-26:15 – Sidney Crosby’s 1,000 games
26:15-31:20 – Cold Brew Check fueled by Dunkin’ – Hart Trophy predictions
31:20-33:20 – What separates Auston Matthews from other superstars?
33:20-End – Should the league enforce a dress code?

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The weekly podcast will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Malkin, Kapanen power Penguins’ OT win over Capitals

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Through much of the season, Pittsburgh hasn’t gotten what they hoped for from Kasperi Kapanen. In making the difference in the Penguins’ 3-2 OT win vs. the Capitals on Tuesday, the team can point to what they expected from Kapanen.

Thanks to a calm, well-placed setup from Teddy Blueger, Kapanen scored the overtime-winner on Tuesday. Kapanen also collected an assist in this one, using his speed and skill to respond to a recent benching.

Penguins stay hot; Capitals maybe fortunate to get a point

Through the first period, the Penguins generated a 12-6 shots on goal advantage. That territorial advantage carried over through the middle frame, as the Penguins doubled the Capitals’ shots on goal through 40 minutes (30-15).

Despite that discrepancy, the two teams ended up tied 2-2 through the first two periods, and then a more even (scoreless) third.

Generally speaking, the Capitals stayed in this game by pouncing on mistakes from the Penguins.

That said, Pittsburgh continues to put wins (or at least points) together lately. By beating the Capitals, the Penguins improved to 10-6-1 on this turbulent season. They’ve won five of their last six games. The Capitals were the only team to beat the Penguins during that span, while Tuesday’s OT loss drops them to a scrappy 9-5-4.

Neither Alex Ovechkin nor Sidney Crosby could get on the board in this one. (Not necessarily for a lack of trying.)

Instead, many eyes were on another star.

“Good and bad of Malkin” on display

Not that long ago, PHT explored what might explain the struggles of Evgeni Malkin. At times this season, we’ve seen far more of the bad than the good — at least by Malkin’s Hall of Fame standards.

There was a mix of good and bad from Malkin as the Penguins faced the Capitals on Tuesday, too.

For one thing, the Capitals somehow left the Penguins star all alone to redirect a power-play goal into Washington’s net. (Even a star like Malkin could use the occasional break like that.)

But, as you can see in the video below, there were moments Malkin might want back. Watch Patrick Sharp and Dominic Moore discuss possible blown assignments/questionable line changes.

(The Athletic’s Jesse Marshall pondered if Malkin’s occasionally lackadaisical line changes might be a “wind” issue on The Hockey PDOcast. Something to watch as the season goes along, whether Malkin gets his legs back or not?)

Overall, the Penguins might feel heartened by signs of progress from Malkin, even with those lower moments vs. the Capitals. With that goal on Tuesday, Malkin’s now on a three-game point streak.

It wasn’t the prettiest game for the Penguins, or Malkin. They almost certainly want to improve, but there’s something to work on. Washington might have a little more to mull over, though.

Also: Penguins forward Jason Zucker left this game with an injury:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.