Sidney Crosby scored once and added two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins recapture control of the series two games to one, defeating the Flyers 5-1 in Game Three at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday afternoon.
After a dishing out a 7-0 drubbing in the Game One of the series, the Penguins lost home ice advantage Friday night when they fell to the Flyers 5-1, evening the series at one game a piece. The Flyers hoped to roll that momentum over into Game Three, as the series shifted back to Philadelphia. Playing in front of their home fans, clad in orange from ice to rafters, the Flyers brought that precise intensity that early in the first period. Philadelphia jumped out to a quick shot advantage over the Penguins, forcing goaltender Matt Murray to make a handful of ten-bell saves. Despite the initial flurry, Murray stood tall between the pipes for a large majority of the game, stopping all but one of the Flyers’ 27 shots on the afternoon.
Just past the half way point in the first period, it would be the Penguins who opened up the scoring on a wrap around goal from Sidney Crosby. Crosby received a cross-ice pass that split two Flyers defensemen and scuttled in front of goaltender Brian Elliott, but was unable to handle it with the stick. The Penguins’ captain booted it toward the back wall, quickly recovered, and found himself opposite an out of position Elliott. Crosby neatly tucked it away, beyond the outstretched stick of Shayne Gostisbehere, giving the Penguins the 1-0 lead.
The series electricity intensified as the period progressed, resulting in 14 hits for the Flyers and 13 for the Penguins. One of the top rivalries in hockey was officially heating up after a tumultuous Game Two seemingly trekked across the Keystone State and trickled into Sunday’s contest.
The Flyers would take one penalty throughout the remainder of the first period, compared to the Penguins’ two, but nothing would come of any of the trio of man advantages. Killing off the Brandon Manning tripping penalty resulted in a fifth consecutive Penguins’ power plays without a goal.
The Flyers trailed the Penguins 1-0 after one period of play despite outshooting them 11-4 and outpacing them for a majority of the first 20 minutes.
The lethal Penguins’ power play, which was the top special teams unit in the NHL this season, netting goals on 26.2 percent of their chances, couldn’t be contained for an entire series, as Pittsburgh took advantage of a Claude Giroux slashing penalty that occurred just 1:12 into the second period. It took the Penguins almost the entirety of their power play to strike, scoring with less than 30 left on the man advantage. After the puck got fired in on the net, Brian Elliott made an initial save, but was unable to entirely secure the rebound. Patric Hornqvist positioned himself in front of Elliott to snatch the puck away, flipping it to Phil Kessel below Elliott. Kessel was able to slide the puck to Derick Brassard to the left of Brian Elliott and around a flopping Andrew MacDonald. Brassard buried one past Brian Elliott, who was potentially screened out of position by his falling defenseman. The Brassard goal gave Pittsburgh a two goal lead, 2-0.
Less than four minutes later, this time on a four-on-three power play, the Penguins would strike once more on the man advantage. Evgeni Malkin set up in the high slot, opposite Kris Letang, and received a feed from his point mate. Malkin used a well executed Sidney Crosby screen to snipe one past Elliott blocker side high for his second goal of the playoffs. This gave the Penguins a 3-0 advantage.
It didn’t take long for the Penguins to strike again. In fact, Pittsburgh tied an NHL Playoff record by scoring just five seconds later to make it 4-0. Sidney Crosby won the ensuing faceoff, snuck the puck around Claude Giroux, split two Flyers’ defenders, and found himself alone right of the faceoff circle. He quickly shuffled the puck across the slot to an awaiting Brian Dumoulin, who beat Brian Elliott with a quick wrist shot to make it 4-0 Pittsburgh.
The Flyers were able to find some life a little more than midway through the second period on a rifled shot from Travis Sanheim. With just over six minutes to play in the second period, Sanheim received a feed from Jakub Voracek at the very top of the point. Sanheim wasted little time in firing the puck at the net, splitting four Penguins in the process, and beating Matt Murray glove side for the Flyers’ first tally of the game. The goal was Sanheim’s first career playoff goal, and it cut the Flyers’ deficit to three, 4-1.
That’s how the third period would come to a close, but not before the Flyers would get another chance with the man advantage, wrapping the second and third periods with about a minute of power play time each.
Philadelphia was unable to do anything with the additional attacker on either side of the break, as the Penguins killed off the Flyers’ fifth power play opportunity of the afternoon. The Flyers would get one more chance with the man advantage, but failed to score, finishing the day 0-6 on the power play.
The Penguins, however, would score one final time while the Flyers were shorthanded, this time with Voracek in the box for high sticking. Less than a minute later on the ensuing power play, Justin Schultz would find the back of the net for the first time this postseason, extending the Penguins’ lead back to four, 5-1. The goal was the third power play goal for the Penguins in the contest.
Despite out-shooting and out-hitting the Penguins in Game Three, the Flyers were thoroughly dominated from the latter stages of the first period on. With the loss, the Flyers are now down two games to one in this best of seven series. Game Four will, once again, be at the Wells Fargo Center. Puck drop is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7 p.m. You can hear all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli, producer and www.975thefanatic.com contributor