Greetings from a wonderfully cool, crisp and breezy day in Pittsburgh. It's a very sunny day in early spring. It's a day you wish you were outside. Consol Enery Center:
-Some dope parked along the Island on Washington Place and now they're getting towed:
-A Ron Francis jersey with a captain's "C:"
-A Penguins official confirmed Alexei Ponikarovsky is making his IceTIme debut:
-Some sights around the arena. Kevin Stevens:
-One of those hard-to-find Marc-Andre Fleury Team Canada jerseys:
-Daniel Carcillo and Claude Giroux:
-SIdney Crosby World Juniors:
-The Penguins' scratches are Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and Eric Godard.
-The Flyers' scratches are Jeff Carter, Riley Cote, Matt Carle and Michael Leighton.
-Marc-Andre Fleury and Johan Backlund.
-How bad much Brian Boucher be right now if they're tossing Backlund to the wolves here?
-We'll take Jeff Jimerson in a battle of against wolves:
-We don't even know what that means, but it makes sense.
19:06: Off a bad line change by the Flyers, Pascal Dupuis rushes the puck up the right wing and rockets a wrister high of the cage.
18:58: Arron Asham rushes the rebound up the right wing. With Mark Eaton pressuring, He tosses a knuckler at the cage. With Scott Hartnell crashing in, Fleury has trouble gauging the puck and allows it to flutty bey his blocker on the far side. Absolutely brutal. Completely inexcusable. Blair Betts gets the only assist. Flyers 1-0.
18:40: Crosby snaps off a quick wrister from the right point. Backlund fights it off despite traffic.
16:30: Maxime Talbot drops Ian Laperriere into the boards in the corner on the right wing.
15:41: Daniel Briere gets by Jordan Leopold behind the Penguins net and tries a backhanded wraparound from the left side. Fleury is able to slide over and deny it.
14:04: Brook Orpik chucks a wrister at the cage from the right point. Backlund knocks it dead with his blocker. Not exactly the best rebound to give up. Dupuis is right there in the slot but chops the puck wide.
13:29: From the right corner, Hartnell distrubutes a pass to Darroll Powe in the slot. Powe whips a wrister on net. Fleury fights it off.
11:40: Backlund raches out and covers a loose puck just behond the crease. Talbot comes barging in and scrums a bit with Laperriere.
11:04: Crosby rushes the puck up the right wing and whips it right into the lap of Dupuis just outside the blue line in the slot. It banks off Dupuis and enters the offensive zone. Crosby picks it up with speed and whips a wrister on net which Backlund eats up. If Crosby had scored there, Dupuis would've gotten credit for the worst assist ever.
9:03: Jay McKee takes a pass at the left point and chops a slapper at the cage. Backlund reaches out and gloves it.
8:16: Mike Rupp mashes Ryan Parent into the boards in the left corner.
7:29: Crosby picks up a loose puck behind the cage and deals a nifty backhanded pass to Alexei Ponikarovsky trailing. Ponikarovsky jabs a quick shot wide on the far side.
7:21: Orpik steps up at the left half wall and chops a slap pass into the slot. Backlund is off his angle. Alexei Ponikarovsky is right there in the crease and make a nice re-direction off the right post. Argh. So close.
6:14: Fleury goes behind his net and plays a puck. He snaps it out to a teammate. Claude Giroux just can't help himself and decides to make contact with Fleury. They exchanges a few shoves/punches. Giroux gets called for holding. HOLDING A GOALTENDER!?!? How do you do that? Only the Flyers. What a dumb penalty. Crosby, Ruslan Fedotenko, Ponikarovsky, Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang take the ice.
5:36: Goligoski fails to keep the puck in at the right point and allows it to clear the zone.
4:14: The Giroux penalty is killed. The Penguins did nothing with that chance.
2:59: After about 30 second of Penguins possession off a delayed penalty, the Flyers touch up. Matt Cooke decides to start something with the fairly harmless Oskars Bartulis. No idea why. James van Riemsdyk is called for hooking Tyler Kennedy. Crosby, Goligoski, Letang, Bill Guerin and Ponikarovsky take the ice.
2:22: Crosby blasts a one-timer from the right point. It hits a body in front and deflects to Letang coming off the left half wall. Letang, Ponikarovsky and Guerin all take chances at a rebound but Backlund is able to cover it up.
1:49: Goligoski takes a pass at the top of the slot and whips a wrister though traffic which goes wide to the left of the cage.
0:57: There's a second-chance rebound Dan Bylsma loves. Just as the van Riemsdyk penalty is killed, Kunitz controls the puck in the right corner and deals a pass to Leopold at the left point. Leopold pumps a slapper on net. Backlund makes the save but boots a bad rebound out to Kunitz on the right wing. Kunitz makes a wonderful play to knocks the puck dead with his right foot to his forehand. He rips a wrister and buries it behind an out-of-place Backlund. What a wonderful play by Kunitz. Backlund can't give up that rebound. The "Hey Song" is always wonderful. Leopold and Fleury get assists. Flyers 1, Penguins 1.
0:00: End of period. Flyers 1, Penguins 1.
-If you take away two bad plays be the goaltenders, this is a scoreless game. Things have been very even. The scoring chances have been even and the hitting has been as well.
-Overall, it's been pretty entertaining. Plenty of hitting and plenty of skating.
-This game has been pretty tame by Penguins-Flyers standards.
-Aside from his bad rebound on the Kunitz goal, we like what Backlund has done so far. He's doesn't look overwhelmed at all at the prospect of facing the defending Stanley Cup champions.
-We like Jordan Leopold the more and more we see him. He just seems to know what to do in every situation on the ice. We're not sure what Ray Shero has planned for next season, but they should try to re-sign this guy if the money is right. He might be their second-most complete defenseman after Gonchar right now.
-Shots are tied, 7-7.
-Asham leads the game with two.
-Letang leads the game with 9:02 of ice time.
-Chris Pronger, who has been quiet once again against the Penguins, leads the Flyers with 7:57.
-The Flyers lead in faceoffs, 11-6 (65 points).
-Winston Churchill Mike Richards is 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Jordan Staal is 3 for 6 (50 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
-Long-time EN contributor Eric Politowski sends in this jersey foul felony:
18:28: Ponikarovsky snaps off a pass from the left wing just to Crosby entering the offensive zone on the right wing. Crosby gains the blue line, pulls up and deals a pass back to Ponikarovsky on th opposite wing. From the faceoff circle, Ponikarovsky whips a heavy wrister low. Backlund closes his five hole and boots out the puck.
17:43: As Fleury fights off a wrister by Powell in the slot, van Riemsdyk runs into Fleury and knocks him over. That's two minutes for goaltenders interference. Letang, Goligoski, Crosby, Ponikarovsky and Guerin take the ice.
17:23: Off the right half wall, Crosby grips and rips a wrister
17:13: Goligoski loses the puck at the right point. Blair Betts, a quality penalty killer, steals it and races up ice. With Letang pressuring, he snaps off a wrister which beats Fleury by his left foot but clunks off the post. Soooo close. The Penguins got lucky there.
16:59: Crosby lugs the puck up ice, blows trhough Gagne at the blue line and Kimmo Timonen at the right faceoff circle. Crosby tries to sneaks a fore hand shot by Backlund but can't get it by him. What an effort by Crosby. He created that chance all by himself.
15:43: The van Riemsdyk penalty is killed. Not the best effort for the Penguins.
15:07: Gagne snaps off a wrister from the slot. Fleury is just outside his crease and makes the save. As he tries to track down the rebound, he's run over by Ville Leino who basically hip checks Fleury's face. Fleury's taken out of the equation. That gives Gagne a chance to sneak in and push the puck under Fleury's glove hand. It's ruled a goal initally by an official. The Penguins' protest. A meeting takes place near the scorers booth with two offiicals, Churchill Richards and Orpik. After some chatting and a meeting with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, the call on the ice is reverse. Officials explain Fleury was inteferfered with. That's fine. We agree, but how is there not a penalty? Either way, the goal doesn't stand.
14:41: Mike Rupp slams Scott Hartnell into the boards just to the right of the Penguins' bench. Hartnell's sticks napps as he stumbles to get up. He goes to the bench and rips a stick out of a teammate's hands.
14:21: Play is halted. Churchill Richards stands face to face with Rupp but doesn't look too eager to challenge him. Hartnell skates into Rupp's vicinity but an offcials steps between the two to prevent any fireworks.
13:57: What. An. Effort. Ponikarovsky makes a nice one-touch pass between his legs on the left wall in his own zone. Crosby picks it up and carries it up ice. He gains the Flyers' blue line and cris-crosses with Dupuis. Crosby snaps off a wrister from the slot. Backlund makes the inital save. Dupuis gets by Timonen and is able to flick a little fluttering backhander by Backlund on the glove side. That was all effort by Dupuis. What a pass by Ponikarovsky let Crosby gain the zone with speed. Crosby and Ponikarovsky get assists. Crosby and other mob Dupuis along the boards. The "Hey Song" always has effort. Penguins 2-1.
10:01: McKee tosses a wrister at the cage from the left point. Craig Adams takes a tumble and actually blocks the shot.
8:43: Off a give and go with Ponikarovsky, Dupuis whips a wrister from the slot. Backlund fights it off.
6:57: Fedotenko snaps off a pass from the defensive zone to Ponikarovsky entering the Flyers' zone with speed. Ponikarovsky grips and rips a wrister from the left faceoff circle. Backlund makes the glove save.
6:42: Off a faceoff win, Braydon Coburn blasts a slapper from the top of the slot wide to the right of the cage.
6:24: From the right wing Jordan Staal fires a slapper to the far side. Backlund has some trouble with it it dribbles off his glove hand wide.
5:27: Ponikarovsky sneaks a wrister on net from the right wing. Backlund steers it into the corner.
5:12: Ponikarovsky is ripping it up today. He backhand shuffles a loose puck onto the net. Backlund covers it. A scrum develops. Crosby is in the middle of it. Officials step in and break it up.
5:05: Attendance is announced as 17,132, a complete standing-room only sell-out. It is the team's 154th consecutive sell-out.
4:25: Talbot carries the puck up the right wing, gains the blue line, cross into the slot and whips a wrster on net. Backlund makes the save.
3:41: van Riemsdyk works the puck up the right wing, gets by Goligoski and forces a backhander into the crease. Fleury holds it out. Powe comes crashing in, digs the puck off the left side of the cage and punches it back into the crease. Fleury and a defender keep it out. A scrum develops. Rupp gets a little too animated and is sent off for roughing. Staal, Cooke, Leopold and Mark Eaton take the ice.
2:55: Somehow, the Flyers ice the puck while on the power play.
2:08: Timonen chops a slapper from the right point. Fleury gloves it.
1:45: Crosby and Adams create a two-on-one against Lukas Krajicek. Crosby keeps the puck and from the left wing he snaps off a wrister right into Backlund's chest. Backlund hangs on to eat it up.
1:41: The Rupp penalty is killed. Somehow the Flyers looked even worse on the power play than the Penguins.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Flyers 1.
-We don't want to be a buzzkill, but if the Flyers don't put a shorthanded breakaway shot off a post and the officials don't overturn a goal call, this might be a Flyers' lead.
-That said, we love the way the Penguins are playing. They're attacking the zone, being disciplined and really just not making a ton of mistakes.
-The Penguins may have found something here with the Ponikarovsky-Crosby-Dupuis line. They have a chemistry. Their passes are tape to tape and they're creating chances. Whenever Malkin returns, they should keep this line intact.
-Fleury has rebounded well after giving up that brutal first goal. But what else would expect from him?
-Backlund continues to look strong. That said, both of his goals came off less than stellar rebounds.
-The Penguins have a 24-19 lead in shots.
-Crosby leads the game with five.
-Churchill Richards and Hartnell each lead the Flyers with three.
-Pronger leads the game with 17:33 of ice time.
-Letang leads the Penguins with 17:10.
-The Flyers have a 21-18 edge in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Giroux is 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Staal is 7 for 12 (58 percent).
-Krajicek leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Leopold and Eaton have the Penguins' only blocked shots.
20:00: Brian Boucher has replaced Backlund. No word if the change is health related.
18:05: McKee is nabbed for Carcillo. Carcillo has been really quiet all day. Adams, Leopold, Talbot and Eaton take the ice.
17:24: Talbot gets clipped at the blue line by a high stick from Pronger. Talbot falls in a heap holding his face. No blood thankfully. Pronger gets two minutes. Four-on-four for 1:19.
16:31: Fedotenko mashes Krajicek along the boards in the right corner in the Flyers' zone. That might've been the least violent check in NHL history.
16:16: Off a turnover by Dupuis in the Penguins' zone, Gagne breaks in on a mini-breakaway. He attempts to go backhand to forehand but Fleury attempts a pokecheck and knocks the puck away. Huge play. Fleury lost his stick int he process. He's lucky the officials didn't nab him for tossing his his stick.
16:05: The McKee penalty is killed. The Penguins will have a power play for 41 seconds.
15:24: Pronger's penlaty is killed.
12:28: A makeshift line of Crosby, Cooke and Fedotenko comes through. Crosby controsl the puck behidn the Flyers net. He taps a pass to Cooke to the right of hte cage. Cooke jabs at the puck and puches it wide. Fedotenko controls the rebound and taps a little backhanded pass to Cooke in the slot who lifts a wrister by Boucher on the stick side. That goals as a combination of some slick passing and hard work down low. Fedotenko and Crosby get assists. The "Hey Song" is always a combination of some slick passing and hard work down low. Penguins 3, Flyers 1.
12:01: Dupuis is sent off for tripping Ville Leino. Staal, Cooke, Orpik and Letang take the ice.
11:54: Timonen cranks a slapper from right point. It hits van Riemsdyk in front and drops him. van Riemsdyk's rough game continues as he labors to the bench. During a stoppage, Hartnell returns to the ice from the locker room.he's greeted with boos.
10:10: Talbot and Crosby create a two-on-one against Krajicek. From the right wing, Talbot pushes a pass to Crosby. Crosby one-touches a shot on net as he's falling. Boucher makes the inital save. Crosby slides into Boucher and pushes the puck back on net. Just as the net comes dislodged, the puck goes in. An official immediatley signals no goal.
9:03: Fleury eats up a shot by Giroux. In a shocking display, Hartnell shoves Orpik into Fleury. Kunitz, Oprik and Letang all take exception. Orpik gets up. Hartnell tries to DDT him. As Letang tries to pull Hartnell away, Churchill begins to punch Letang from behind. What guts from a true leader. He wouldn't challeng big Mike Rupp face to face after Rupp dropped Hartnell. But he has no problem punching the smaller Letang from behind. And that's the captain. No wonder these guys are choking like dogs down the stretch. Orpik and Hartnell get matching minors. Four-on-four.
7:47: Letang jabs a quick shot on net from the right point. Boucher gloves it.
7:03: Hartnell and Orpik return to the ice.
5:47: Hartnell centers a pass into the slot. It gets tipped slightly but Krajicek takes the pass and rips a wrister about 32 feet over the cage.
5:36: Crosby puts a shoulder into Hartnell along the boards. Both players fall to the ice with Hartnell on top. Hartnell's knee ends up in Crosby's chest. Hartnell gets a roughing minor. Huh? That's kind of a bunk call. Are they calling him for landing on Crosby's chest with his knee? Weird. Either way, the Penguins get a power play. Crosby, Ponikarovsky, Goligoski, Letang and Fedotenko take the ice.
5:29: And the Penguins convert immediately. Crosby wins the faceoff and controls it in the right corner. He flicks a backhander into the slot for Fedotenko. Fedotenko punches a shot on net immediately. Boucher makes the ssave but give up a rebound. Fedotenko recovers and it punches it by his blocker. What another nice effort down low by Fedotenko. He's having a wonderful game. Bad rebound by Boucher. Crosby gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is always wonderful. Penguins 4-1.
5:15: Play is halted as Rupp is hunches over at his blue line in front of his onw net in discomfort. He's sent off for cross checking Carcillo into the boards. It looked like Carcillo might have caught Rupp with his skate on the way down. Staal, Cooke, Eaton and Leopold take the ice.
5:01: "GO-HOME FLY-ERS! GO-HOME FLY-ERS!"
4:36: Daniel Briere decides to make an appearance and chops a slapper on net from the right wing. Fleury makes the save.
3:15: Rupp's penalty is killed. The Penguins didn't allow much there.
0:45: "GO-HOME FLY-ERS! GO-HOME FLY-ERS!"
0:13: Ryan Parent picks up a loose puck at the right point and cranks a slapper on net. Fleury is waayyyy out of his crease challenging the shot and makes a dazzling glove save. He's showered with "FLERRR-EEEE! FLERRR-EEEE!" chants.
0:00: End of game. The "Woo-Hoo" song is played. Penguins 4, Flyers 1.
-When things seem bleakest, a good old fashioned visit from the Flyers and their shoddy goaltending always seems to cure the Penguins. The Penguins were a much sharper team over the course of the entire game and took advantage of some mistakes by the Flyers' netminders to claim this game.
-That said, this is a different game if Simon Gagne's goal stands. And the Flyers were pretty upset about the call after the game. Said Gagne:
"It’s something that you think you got the lead. I had no idea they were going to take the goal away. You’re very excited. On the road, you get a lead, 2-1. At that point I thought we were playing pretty good. You take the goal away and they score almost two minutes after that. That was a really tough one to take."
-Said Ville Leino who was the one who bumped into Fleury on the goal:
"I saw a rebound there and I went for the rebound, hit the puck and (Fleury) was out of the net. So I just kind of afterwards fell there. I think it should be a fair goal."
-Was he hit into Fleury?
"I don’t know if I was, but it’s just kind of one of those situations that happens when you go after the puck and the goalie is right out of the goal. I didn’t really hit him. It was just a fair battle there. Still, he had a chance to make a save there and it went under his glove."
-Ian Laperrierre had some pretty level-headed responses about the play:
"It wasn’t an explanation. It was more like telling us to stop screaming at him. It’s tough for the referees. There’s nothing we can do about it. We’re screaming at him. We just have to forget about it and don’t lose energy screaming at the referee. We shouldn’t let that bother us at this time of the year."
"We can’t make a big deal out of it. It’s over. We just have to move on. You scream at the ref and if you think about it, you just burn energy that you need out there. We got to realize that right now and we should be mature enough to know that."
"It took a little while but we did. We had no choice. For the next five minutes after that, everybody was still screaming at them. Like I said, it’s not like they’re going to change their decision."
"It is tough, but what can you do? You can talk about it until tomorrow but it won’t change anything. It’s not like he’s going to apologize to us and go back and change it again. It’s a matter of moving on and not letting stuff like that rattle you. But we did."
-We're going to side with the Flyers here. Fleury was out of his crease and Leino appeared to get tripped up by a defender. Frankly, it's a call which was probably 50/50. But it could have very easily been ruled a legit goal for any other team in the league.
-That said, it happened at the Flyers' expense so we're not going to cry.
-What a rebound game by Marc-Andre Fleury. Heck, what a rebound just within the game by Fleury. That first goal by Asham was terrible. But he was able to push that aside and come through with a composed effort.
-We loved the line combination of Alexei Ponikarovsky, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. Dan Bylsma should keep that trio intact regardless of Evgeni Malkin's health.
-We never realized how good of a passer Ponikarovsky is. For a big man, he has a delicate touch with the puck.
-Ruslan Fedotenko was fantastic today. And it was just his stats. He was strong along the boards and in the high traffic areas. He looked like he had more confidence today.
-The Penguins entire blue line was strong, especially Kris Letang. We were a little critical of him in Washington, perhaps too critial. But he was a force in all three zones today. With Sergei Gonchar out, he has eaten up a lot of ice time.
-We really thing the Penguins should re-sign Jordan Leopold after this season. No one on defense outside of Sergei Gonchar is more composed in all situations.
-The Flyers should keep their goaltenders in packing peanuts. They keep getting hurt. Flyers goaltender Johan Backlund re-injured a wonky groin which he has had issues a few weeks ago and was pulled prior to the start of the third period.
-He had two bad rebounds which directly led to goals, but all things considered, Backlund looked good. He was pretty despondent after the game over not being able to finish his NHL debut. We kind of felt bad for him.
-Brian Boucher was just awful.
-Jay McKee has looked good in his two games filling in for Gonchar.
-Is it us, or has Mike Rupp just been really aggressive as of late?
-The Penguins do officially clinch a playoff berth.
-And they do move back into first place in the Atlantic division for a few hours at least. The have 93 points to the Devils' 91. New Jersey hosts the Canadiens at 7 p.m. Should the Devils get two points, they get the first tiebreaker on having played fewer games.
-The Flyers look like a team which is just beaten. They had passion, but they were just out of it. Very few of their players appeared to be on the same page.
-Considering how awful their goaltending situation is, the Flyers might miss the playoffs.
-The Penguins ended up with a 31-27 lead in shots.
-Crosby led the game with six.
-Gagne, Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere each led the Flyers with three.
-Letang led the game with 26:11 of ice time.
-Pronger, who has been a non-factor in most of these game against the Penguins, led the Flyers with 24:52 of ice time.
-The Flyers had a 31-30 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Claude Giroux was 7 for 10 (70 percent).
-Staal was 13 for 19 (68 percent).
-Lukas Krajicek led the game with four blocked shots.
-Leopold, Mark Eaton, Rupp and Craig Adams each had one blocked shot.
-Fedotenko's goal was the 150th of his career.
-Dupuis had his 18th goal of the season. His career high of 20 was set in the 2002-03 season with the Wild.
-Before he left the lineup due to an abdominal injury, Kunitz had 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 30 games. Since he's come back, he has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 16 games.
-Kunitz's goal was his 50th point as a Penguin.
-Cooke now has 14 goals. His career high of 15 was set in 2002-03 with the Canucks.
-Fleury's win was the 19th of his career against the Flyers, by far his most against any one opponent.
-The Penguins finish with a 5-1-0 record against the Flyers. Since the lockout, the Penguins have a 20-8-0 record against the Flyers.
-Dupuis moved past Greg Hotham for 97th place on the franchise's all-time points list. Each player has 74 points, but Dupuis (32) has more goals than Hotham (11).