By Connor Thomas
Last night, the second game in a 3 game series out in Pittsburgh between the Flyers and Penguins started disastrously for Philadelphia. The Flyers dropped the opening game 5-2 back on Tuesday, so with backup goalie Brian Elliott in net, the orange and black were looking for a much better showing in game 2. Again, they did not get off to a great start. Just 2 minutes and 46 seconds into the 1st period, Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang threw a shot on goal that defenseman Travis Sanheim inexplicably tried to catch out of the air with his glove and ended up tipping the puck past Elliott and into the net. The quick 1-0 lead was not enough for the Penguins, as just 34 seconds later defenseman Mark Friedman, who was placed on waivers by the Flyers just last week, followed up a 2 on 1 Pittsburgh breakaway by depositing a rebound through the 5-hole. Elliott did a great job to stop the initial break, but another questionable glove play, this time by Claude Giroux, led to the puck being knocked right to the front of the crease for Friedman. Already down 2-0 with less than 3 and a half minutes gone, the Flyers could have already considered the start a nightmare. But the Pens weren’t done, creating a 3 on 2 break off of a Sean Couturier turnover just 30 seconds later. Shayne Gostisbehere was caught entirely out of position, allowing Jared McCann to slip behind him to the back post where he received a great pass from Jake Guentzel that he tipped into an open net.
Down 3-0 just 4 minutes into the game, and with the Pens on pace to score 45 goals, the Flyers called a timeout and attempted to stop the bleeding. The wake-up call seemed to work, as the defense tightened up and Philly began to look like their typical competitive selves. Following an interference penalty on Pittsburgh, the Flyers were even able to get on the board midway through the 1st as Couturier ripped a slap shot top shelf over Tristan Jarry’s glove side. The rest of the period and the start of the 2nd saw the game slow down a little bit for both sides, but the physicality began to ramp up. The Flyers got another breakthrough 6 minutes into the 2nd, as a wide open Oskar Lindblom stuffed one off of Jarry’s pads, finding Giroux on the rebound, who slid the puck behind the Pens net minder. With a 3 goal lead turned to 1, Pittsburgh seemed to tighten up, sensing that what looked like a blowout early was beginning to slip away. The rest of the 2nd and much of the 3rd period was uneventful on the scoreboard, as the teams traded shots but not goals. With 6 minutes left, the Flyers finally got the 3rd break they were looking for, as a Giroux shot caught Scott Laughton in front of the net and ricocheted past Jarry. A 3-0 game just 4 minutes into the contest turned into a tie game with only 6 minutes left.
The momentum was fully on Philly, and everyone in the building and on the ice could feel it. The nightmare start for the Flyers had turned into a nightmare for the Penguins, and Giroux, playing the part of Freddy Krueger, ended Pittsburgh’s night by stuffing in a timely pass from Nicolas Aube-Kubel for Philly’s 4th and final goal with just 2 minutes left. The Pens empty net push came up empty, and the Flyers comeback was complete. Giroux was a force in the 4-3 win, notching 3 points on 2 goals and an assist. Elliott also deserves credit for coming back from a very tough spot he was put in mainly by some shoddy defense, to shut the Penguins down for 56 minutes of game time. The two teams will play the rubber match of the series Saturday at 1pm, as the now 12-5-3 Flyers will look to again take care of the 12-9-1 Penguins.