Photo by Patrick Smith via Getty Images
The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins had their first battle for Pennsylvania on October 29th, 2016. For those concerned, Flyer Andrew MacDonald sat out for the game.
“We played as a team, we were aggressive. We played the way we wanted to. Friday we talked about our game, what kind of team we want to be. Tonight was that team we want to be.”- Reflections of Claude Giroux
Some wild, weird and wonderful things happened this night.
One of them was the Philadelphia Flyers Jakub Voracek scoring at 9:48 into the 1st period. Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas assisted. The Orange and Black scored in the 1st period for the 2nd time in 9 games. It can be good to be a trendsetter, and is even better breaking said trends.
In like manner, Wayne Simmonds made his mark on the scoreboard at 13:02, with Shayne Gostisbehere and Brayden Schenn assisting. The Flyers were unfortunately, not able to enjoy their 2-0 lead for very long. Thereupon, Penguin Sidney Crosby scored over Mason’s shoulder, first at 15:44 and again at 16:27 on the power play, tying the game in a mere 43 seconds.
“He’s known from that area, he gets it up and they had a little passing play before hand. Gotta be better,” said Flyers goalie Steve Mason.
The Penguins acquired the lead just 12 seconds later due to Matt Cullen’s contribution, ending the 1st period with the Philadelphia Flyers down 2-3. Evidently, a lot can happen in less than a minute.
Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol shared his thoughts; “I thought we needed one more save tonight in the first period, just one of those. They’re tough plays. They made some good plays there. A night like tonight you probably need a save there on one of those.”
The Philadelphia Flyers replaced Steve Mason with Michael Neuvirth as goalie in the second period.
The second period had excitement and intrigue.
Pittsburgh committed 5 penalties, the most of any period of the game. 3 were against Jakub Voracek, with 2 being holding penalties from Ian Cole.
Although Evgeni Malkin scored at 9:38 at even strength, making the score 4-2, their lack of control haunted the Penguins. Accordingly, a hit to Claude Giroux from David Warsofsky at 6:28 made Philadelphia Flyers fans nervous as he left the ice. He would leave and return a few times before staying the rest of the game. In spite of this, he would vindicate himself before the period was over. The Flyers Captain, on the power play, with Wayne Simmonds and Radko Gudas assisting, made it a one goal game at 3-4 at 13:16 in. This is Giroux’s first goal of season. After assisting 9 other goals, he now has one of his very own. This also sent the message that he was back and able to repay Pittsburgh’s kindness.
At the same time, Gudas’ contribution to the goal was a fabulous sight to behold; he scraped from his knees and swatted the puck to get it to Simmonds. This is the Radko Gudas who plays best for his team. The one with zero penalty minutes who learned his lesson after a belated season debut due to suspension.
“I got a little bit lucky, those pucks are flying by so I was just trying to do my best,” said Gudas, “Lucky for me I stayed on the blue line and Simmer made a great play and G even a better shot.”
Furthermore, Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek also avenged himself at 15:28 with a penalty shot and tied the game 4-4.
To say nothing of the penalties, the ratio of shots on goal between the teams is noteworthy. While the Philadelphia Flyers had 15 shots on goal, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a scant 5. Be that as it may, 1 of those shots became goals for Pittsburgh. That is 20% accuracy vs the Flyers 13.3% from their 2 goals of the second period.
The third period had considerably less to cheer or ponder about than the rest of the game. Evgeni Malkin scored the game winner, his second goal of the evening, at 8:33 in the period.
“It’s a tough loss but it was one of our better games, that fifth goal was a lucky bounce but that’s the way it goes,” said winger Jakub Voracek, “We had a few minutes to tie it.”
Once again, the Flyers had more shots on goal than the Penguins (15-9) but were not able to turn those shots into goals.
In contempt of their efforts, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4.
They won the battle of Pennsylvania. They get all of it now. Harrisburg, Allentown, Hershey’s Chocolate World, all theirs now.
Now, consider how events came to be this way. Penalties and their aftermath, once again, played a part in the game. Overall, the Flyers committed 3 penalties and the Penguins committed 5. As previously mentioned, both teams capitalized on their opportunities; each scored a power play goal and Philadelphia made good on a penalty shot. The management of the power plays, penalty kills and shots kept the score close enough to make a comeback win feasible. The big, burning question is; were the 3 power plays not scored on and the 1 penalty they could not kill enough to change the out come of the game? With the final score so close, it is possible that the penalty situation could have made the difference between victory and defeat.
For the Flyers, they had a slight edge with face offs won (53% vs 47%), had more shots on goal (42-27) and fewer giveaways (8 vs 11). Even with these advantages, there were tiny cracks for Pittsburgh to slither into.
That said, there are larger factors at work that have a larger impact.
One being that Mason had a rough minute in the 1st period letting in 3 goals in 55 seconds. The turn over by Mason contributed to the wrap around goal from Cullen that Mason did not see coming. Sidney Crosby’s second goal had some stoppable qualities to it. Mason may not have been able to stop all three goals, but stopping one or two was possible and can make the difference between tying a game or even winning.
Though there were not many turnovers, 2 did lead to goals. One from Mason and One from Couturier.
Flyer Sean Couturier took responsibility for his play and had a balanced view of the game; “I think we outplayed them, honestly, they had two lucky bounces: a bad turnover by me and then that winning goal there, not even a dangerous shot. It goes off one of our guy’s shin pads and bounces right to him back door.”
The Penguins made fewer shots and had few turnover opportunities, but they were making the best of those possibilities when they did arise. If they found an inch, they took a mile. They could have made some of the mistakes they made and won, but not all of them.
“The second and third we played pretty good, good enough to win, they got players who makes a lot of plays out of nowhere. They’re a good team,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. “It’s definitely frustrating now. It’s not the record we want to have. We got to be positive in the way we played. We got 73 games left and it’s not like we’ve never been in this position before. Guys care in here. Same story as other years. We’ve had bad starts but we find a way to get our s— together.”
The Philadelphia Flyers were playing well and still outplayed; correspondingly, it was a close game that came down to small mistakes that made big opportunities for their opponent.
“We didn’t make very many mistakes in the second two periods,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “Fifty-plus minutes where you’d say it’s a blueprint of how you want our team to play. … We don’t have to change anything. We have to tighten up a couple of things. Tonight, it wasn’t enough. Sometimes that’s the way the game is. There’s no solace in it, but also there’s no discouragement either.”
For his goal and efforts, Claude Giroux dines on tasty penguin soufflé, but a grilled cheese sandwich of victory is something only winners eat.
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