The Penguins may not control their destiny with respect to the DogeCoin East Division title, but response games like this certainly make the case that they have a real shot at sealing the deal when the Bruins, Caps, and Islanders all finish their seasons next week.
You simply have to hand it to them, too. They learned something from the egg they laid on Monday night and adapted.
Sure, they conceded 3 goals (on 2.87 expected), but they did make Jarry’s life a lot easier than they did DeSmith’s the night prior. To that end, they only gave up 8 high danger shots on the night in all situations and, at 5v5, did well to keep the Flyers to the outside. Of the 31 5v5 shots against, 20 of them came from the low danger areas of the ice.
If anything speaks to the team commitment after the moist garbage that was Monday night, it’s that.
It helps to be led by Sidney Crosby from time to time, too.
Full recap, and it’s a long one because there were 10 damn goals. You’ve been warned:
Only change to the lineup that fell Monday night in Philly saw Tristan Jarry return to the crease and start opposite Brian Elliott (and Max Legace backing up Jarry in place of the injured DeSmith).
Ready to answer back. pic.twitter.com/YtXzWFjloJ
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 4, 2021
Same lines for the Flyers, too.
Flyers lines and pairings:
— Jamey Baskow (@JameyBaskow) May 4, 2021
There were some plays and some hockey that took place through the first minute plus of this hockey match, but the biggest hockey play came in the form of a goal just 104 seconds into it.
PIT –1:44 – Pettersson; A: McCann, Gaudreau – 1-0
All about the Pens transition game, here.
Malkin’s line was at the end of a shift, having spent the bulk of it in the defensive zone and getting a clear. Philly dropped back to break it out, but the stretch pass missed its mark and found Freddy G jumping off the bench.
Malkin was floating in the neutral zone and slowed it up for Gaudreau to take it and hit the zone with speed. Konecny was the only Flyer not flatfooted, but the two defensemen were a little too deep to deal with Freddy, virtually allowing him a clean shot right to the corner.
The Flyers were scrambling at this point trying to get back into the play and two players, Konecny and Gostisbehere, jumped at Gaudreau to try to force the turnover.
But with the focus entirely on Gaudreau, no one picked up Pettersson activating down the wall to keep the play alive. He got checked a bit, but peep Gaudreau with that puck support coming in late.
Again, the focus stayed entirely on Gaudreau, creating a 2v1 with McCann and Pettersson against Hagg. Entirely too smart of a play by McCann to hold it that extra split second to wait until Hagg turned to him to fire the puck down to Pettersson all alone behind the defense for a goal so handsy it got an audition for the role of an overly touchy orderly in some hospital sitcom reboot.
McCann’s shot and skating get a lot of attention and rightfully so, but his playmaking and passing have been on full display this year. Second highest primary assists per hour on the Penguins roster at 5v5 this year and 28th best rate in the league, too.
Both teams took turns trading off looks at the net in what was a pretty high paced period. Crosby’s line visually looked good for the first time in a few games. Rust in particular was flying and, with 6:02 remaining in the period, that line through Guentzel drew the first penalty of the game when 59 got tripped behind Elliott’s net.
Second unit saw about 90 seconds of the 120 and looked menacing, but couldn’t find the back of the net. PP overall looked good and held the puck in the zone for almost the entirety of the penalty.
All in all, it was a fairly even opening frame. Pens almost exclusively lived in front of the Flyers net, generating three high danger shots and seeing 4 of their 5 scoring chances be of the high danger variety.
At 5v5, shot attempts were 16-15 in favor of the Flyers and shots on goal were 11-7 in favor of the Pens.
Second period opened with Mark Friendman just lowing the boom on Joel Farabee in middle of the slot. Voracek crosschecked him for it and Farabee dropped the mitts with his former teammate.
Second best chance on the PP came between Giroux and Couturier after Guentzel’s shot hit the corner and gave the Flyers an outlet.
But it was only the second best chance.
PIT –3:10 – PPG – Guentzel; A: Letang, Malkin – 2-0
Because the best chance was a cot tam goal.
We’ve seen it a lot over the last few years with the Penguins powerplay. If they lose the zone, they usually have trouble gaining it again.
But on this one, they did after Couturier’s chance and ended up winning a faceoff to remain in there. That’s when they really went to work being puck hounds down low, eventually setting up and getting Letang a clean look from the point.
Braun kicks his skate out, but knocks it into Guentzel. Pure goalscorer’s goal here from Guentzel- just get whatever you can on it and direct it towards the net and you have a chance. He just gets the toe on his stick on the biscuit here and that’s all it needed.
PIT –5:44 – Crosby; A: Pettersson – 3-0
Next shift for the Crosby line and it looked like the rout was on. Dump in and Guentzel, who had done this all night, was the first man in on Elliott. He rushes Elliott into trying finding a teammate before he was ready and Crosby was in, stealing it and finding Pettersson on the weak side point to step into one, get a fortuitous bounce that Crosby managed to just slip the little blue pill into his stick to extend it around Provorov and direct the puck on net.
Just a little play that you really only see Crosby make and make fairly consistently. This is really where you knew he was On One.
This would also be Bryan Rust’s last shift of the period, but he returned to start the third (SPOILERS) after a slimeball little play out of Konecny.
Looks like knee on knee. Super dirty. pic.twitter.com/cCh6BqOXSP
— 𝙹𝚊𝚜 (@j_a155) May 5, 2021
PHI –8:21 – Braun; A: Allison, Provorov – 3-1
But the Flyers just kept hanging around and a few minutes later, they put together a really great shift that started 200′ away from the Pens net.
The Blueger line looked poised to grind them down below the net, but ZAR couldn’t eat it enough in the corner and the Flyers turned defense into offense pretty quickly, moving it to the weak side of their own zone to relieve the pressure.
The Deadpool guy turned on the jets and sent it in deep, keeping the Pens from being able to get a change and keeping the Blueger line pinned in their own zone for an extended shift.
Not a whole lot wrong here, but they did struggle to get the puck under control and out of the zone with the Flyers bearing down on them. Eventually, a point shot made it to Jarry and chaos ensued for control of the puck and it was Justin Braun coming away with it and finding the back of the net. Just a tough break all around, but a great shift from the Flyers. Credit where it’s due.
A few minutes later, Crosby and Konecny would both head off to the box after Crosby finished his check, Konecny put him in a headlock and ripped his helmet off, and Crosby responded by taking him down to the ice.
Oh hell yeah it’s time for caps fans to give us a shitty side by side of Crosby/Konecny and Wilson/Buchnevich and “wondering what the difference is”
— layds (@Layds_) May 5, 2021
Crosby was still on the ice after the 4v4 ended and McCann went off for tripping after the ref show missed him getting tripped up by Aube-Kubel. PK did what it had to do at one end and nearly did it at the other when Blueger sent Dad Carter in on a breakaway, but he was denied by Elliott.
PHI –18:40 – Carterurier; A: Sanheim, Giroux – 3-2
But just as the Dad nearly giveth, he taketh away.
Again, it was the Flyers in transition after winning a puck battle in the corner. Giroux makes a nice move after exiting the zone to slither into the middle of the neutral zone and effectively take Carter out of the play.
As Carter re-engages, Giroux slips Sanheim flying up the right wing to hit the offensive zone with speed, drawing Letang in and doing The Center Drive.
Letang steps to Couturier, who’s looking to give it back to Sanheim for the deflection, but instead just finds Carter’s skate as he tracks Sanheim.
Again, tough break here for Jarry and the Pens but thems the breaks sometimes. Just hate to see late period goals against these guys to make it a 1 goal game.
Really disjointed, whistle-laden start to the period which, for the Penguins, was fine as it took full minutes off the clock in the slowest, most meaningless way imaginable.
Where there was some flow, Giroux and Co. threatened, but Jarry was up to the task to deny the Flyers captain.
Pens started seeing the Flyers racking up shots and shot attempts in high volumes, but they held the fort and ended up getting rewarded for their hard work.
PIT –7:49 – Zucker; A: Malkin, Kapanen – 4-2
This one started in the Pens own end of the ice after a Konecny shot went wide and slingshotted up the wall.
Zucker makes this play and makes it a lot and it’s one that normally doesn’t show up when he’s getting slaughtered on the bird app. But he bodies the hell out of Myers at the point, keeping Myers from being able to play the puck and allowing Malkin to pick it up and exit the zone. Malkin’s pass, however, doesn’t make it to Kapanen, but Kap stays on it and ends up blocking down Sanheim’s stretch attempt.
No idea what Kapanen is doing here after he takes control though. Only assumption is he’s just going for a little skate until the calvary arrives.
They did, but he ended up forcing a pass to the net front that got picked, but the Finn stayed on it and picked Giroux’s pocket.
Right place, right time for Malkin again, who draws the attention of all 4 Flyers in the defensive zone.
You’ll note that none of them had any clue Jason Zucker was just sitting in front of the net waiting for this all to unfold. Big time goal from Zucker to give himself 2 in as many games.
Hands haven’t totally been there all season for 16, but he maybe looks like he’s starting to heat up at the right time.
PHI –10:23 – Konecny; A: Marino’s skate, Giroux, Gostisbehere – 4-3
But the Flyers just would not die.
And again, it’s in transition.
And again, it’s off a Penguin skate.
Marino’s Dan Attempt did not connect with Sceviour. Landed in such a way that Gostisbehere could throw it up to Giroux for the hook and ladder to Konecny entering the zone. He’s looking pass the whole way here and finds Marino’s skate.
PIT –12:33 – Crosby; A: Rust, Guentzel – 5-3
Just knew Crosby wasn’t done, though.
Flyers tried to clear their lines here, but Letang came flying in to pick the clearance and send it right back down their throats.
Again, it’s Guentzel first in on the puck, harassing the hell out of the orange devils. Rust jumping in to support Guentzel meant Letang could activate down the wall to lock the puck in, eventually working it back down low for Guentzel to chase.
Crosby’s just circling the zone like a goddamn shark while Guentzel and Rust combine down low and draw the attention of a Flyers team defending like a beer league team that slammed 3 cases of Bud diesels in the parking lot.
As soon as Rust got this puck, there was only one place he was going with it.
As soon as Crosby went down to one knee, there was only one result.
Crosby with a crazy little missile. pic.twitter.com/0gtnp8mdHR
— geoff (@geoffwithano) May 5, 2021
A few minutes later, with about 4 and a half to play, the Flyers pulled Elliott for the extra skater. Bold, exciting move that more teams losing to the Penguins should do.
PIT –15:53 – ENG – Friedman; A: Blueger, Aston-Reese – 6-3
This time, it was the Pens winning a battle in the corner and catching the Flyers in transition. Redemption city for ZAR on the assist, but give Friedman some credit here for having the stones to just fly the zone as soon as he sees Gostisbehere pinching down from the point.
Absolute dirtball play from Gostisbehere on the crosscheck as Friedman buried it. Gave the Penguins a powerplay and Crosby a chance to get the HT.
PIT –16:57 – PPG – Marino; A: Crosby, Guentzel – 7-3
Love that Sullivan sent 4/5 of the top unit out. Errey said on the broadcast, and this is paraphrased, that if the Flyers are going to be dickheads like that and take that kind of cheapshot, send the big guns out and bury one.
That’s exactly what they did. Ludicrous pass from Crosby when they got set up, through all 4 penalty killers, over 2 sticks and under 1.
- The unadjusted data in this one are all skewed because of score effects and all of that jazz, but we’ll chat about Crosby’s line here. In 11:43 of 5v5 play, they generated 15 shot attempts, allowing 12. They also controlled the quality, owning a 56.11% share of expected goals and generated 7 scoring chances, allowing 3. They’ve struggled a bit, but Rust was flying all night, leading all Pens forwards with 5 shot attempts (tied with McCann) and 3 shots on goal at 5v5. Crosby led the team with 4 shots on goal in all situations (tied with Letang), with 3 coming at 5v5 (on 4 attempts). He also led all Pens forwards with 3 scoring chances at 5v5. They’ve had their struggles as of late, but this wasn’t one of them.
- Leading the team in 5v5 shot attempts with 6 and shots on goal with 4: Kris Letang. He also had 3 scoring chances to go with a score and venue adjusted 54.71% share of shot attempts and 56.93% share of expected goals (also score and venue adjusted) at 5v5.
- Jason Zucker and Marcus Pettersson, the latest whipping boys, are trending up, baby. Pettersson has been super noticeable the last week or so activating in the offensive zone. He had 4 shot attempts and 2 scoring chances at 5v5. He and Marino should really start seeing second pair minutes, especially with Matheson out. On Zucker: not sure anyone works harder than him. Great to see him starting to get rewarded and it’s couldn’t come at a better time.
- In the first Scoreboard Watch of the season, the Islanders and Bruins both fell in a shootout to the Sabres and OT to the Devils respectively, with each of the playoff bound teams blowing leads in the process.Caps were off, but have a Wednesday night game at MSG against a very pissed off Rangers team before seeing these Flyers on Friday and Saturday.
The Islanders arguably have the best chance to make up some ground when they host the Devils on Thursday and Saturday.
All the while, the Bruins play host to the Rangers on Thursday and Saturday and wrap up their season with makeup games at home to the Islanders on Monday and in Washington on Tuesday.
All this to say there are still a lot of points at stake and it looks like it’s all going to come down to those last two. Games in hand don’t mean anything if you don’t win them.
- Note: All data herein via Natural Stat Trick
Pens start the final miniseries of the season on Thursday when the Sabres come to town. Gotta bury them and keep the heat on. Do it.