-The Penguins are back where this abbreviated season began to face their most bitter rival. The biggest key to tonight's game isn't a secret. It's composure.
-The team which maintains the most mental discipline will win. The Penguins can't let someone like Zac Rinaldo get under their skin. If he takes a pot shot and the officials don't call it, don't try to settle the score. The Flyers thrive in chaos. Evgeni Malkin can't blow his top and take shots at Sean Couturier because of a few crosschecks in the corner.
-It appears Simon Despres will not play tonight. With Paul Martin back in the lineup, Despres is expected to be scratched in place of Mark Eaton. All we're going to say is the Penguins are 13-4 when Despres plays and 2-4 when he doesn't.
-The Flyers appear to be getting two important players back in the lineup tonight in Matt Read and Nicklas Grossmann. Read is a nice depth player who can score 20 goals in a normal season while Grossman is a big puck magnet who blocks shots.
-The Flyers have had a lot of issues this season but for once, goaltending doesn't appear to be one of them. The much maligned Ilya Bryzgalov has been one of the more stable elements for the Flyers. But they have played him a ton this season. In a compacted schedule, how fresh will he be come playoff time?
-Beau Bennett appears to be on the Penguins' second line for good now. He's not just getting a few looks on that line with Malkin and James Neal. He's shown the ability to keep up with those two dazzling talents in eight games. We're just curious where he'll be physically after 20 or 25 games.
-Another key as always against the Flyers will be special teams. If you can limit the damage the Flyers do either with the power play or short-handed, that will go a long way towards beating them.
-If Steven Stamkos owns the Penguins (and all teams really) in the left circle, Jakub Voracek seems to own the Flyers in the right circle on the power play. He always seems to rip the Penguins up in that position when he can pull the trigger.
-A slight change from today's morning skate as the great Joe Vitale appears to be scratched in favor of Dustin Jeffrey. Jeffrey certainly offers more scoring pop but not as much grit or acumen in the faceoff circle as Vitale.
-The Penguins' starters are Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, Brandon Sutter, Kris Letang, Matt Niskanen and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Flyers' starters are Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek, Luke Schenn, Kimmo Timonen and Ilya Bryzgalov.
-Their scratches are Kutis Foster, Mike Knuble and Harry Zolnierczyk.
19:27: Taking a pass from Giroux on the right wing, Voracek chops a one-timer which glances off the cross bar and deflects out of play.
19:23: Off an offensive zone faceoff, Grossman fires a shot from the righ point wide to the far side.
17:47: Bradyen Schenn digs a puck out of the right wing corner, turns and flings a wrister from the boards towards the cage. Fleury kicks it out despite a screen by Read.
16:49: Giroux glides into the offensive zone, uses Orpik as a screen and whips a wrister on net to the far side. Fleury is well above his blue paint and snags the puck with a fancy glove save.
16:00: Despite a pretty quiet crowd in Philadelphia, the Flyers have controlled play thus far with the bulk of offensive zone time possession.
15:15: Read pushes the puck up the right wing against Dery Engelland gives him the shot. Read snaps off a wrister which Fleury bats down and covers to freeze play.
15:00: Five minutes in and the Penguins have yet to record a shot on net.
14:39: A wrister from Matt Cooke is denied by Bryzgalov. That is the Penguins first official shot on net.
13:46: As Niskanen loses his stick, Braydon Coubrn flings a wrister from the left point wide on the near side.
13:23: A wrister by Bennett in the left circle is deflected wide.
11:56: Crosby settles a puck behind the net and tries to dish to Kunitz in the blue paint. Kunitz can't get a clean stick on the puck.
9:56: Taking a pass from Brandon Sutter, Cooke wires a slapper on net from the left wing. Bryzgalov eats it up. That's only the Penguins' second shot on net, each by Cooke.
9:23: Letang is in deep on the right wing and snaps off a wrister which Grossman blocks.
9:15: The first power play goes to the Flyers as Neal hits Giroux in the Flyers' slot after GIroux passed the puck. Kind of a weak penalty as Neal is called for elbowing Giroux. Either way, the Flyers have the power play. Sutter, Cooke, Orpik and Eaton take the ice.
8:42: Imagine this, the Flyers slice apart the Penguins' penalty kill to score. Giroux controls the puck in the left circle, surveys the offensive zone and sneaks a cross ice pass to Voracek who snaps in a wrister from the left circle for a goal. That was too easy. In the aftermath, Neal leaves the penalty and ends up tangling with Hartnell. Hartnell apparently didn't appreciated Neal's hit on Giroux. They drop the gloves and Hartnell throws a few rights before officials step in. Hartnell and Neal each get roughing minors while Hartnell gets an additional unsportmanlike conduct minor. That gives the Penguins their own power play. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Martin and Letang take the ice. Giroux and Kimmo Timonen get assists. Flyers 1-0.
7:55: And were off and running. Crosby pokes a puck by Couturier at the right point, fakes a slapper from the slot and deals to Letang on the left wing. Letang jabs a shot at the net which Grossmann blocks. The rebound kicks to Kunitz in the left circle. Kunitz immediately whacks it on net and beats Bryzgalov to the far side. Quick goals in a Penguins-Flyers game? No way. Letang and Crosby get assists. Flyers 1, Penguins 1.
6:56: Niskanen trips up Schenn near the Penguins' net. Schenn sold the penalty. Another penalty for the Flyers.
6:50: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Voracek hammers a one-timer from above the left circle. Fleury makes the inital save but allows the rebound to bounce behind him. He smother the rebound to freeze play.
6:30: Giroux lifts a wrister from the left circle. Despite a great screen by Simmonds, Fleury eats it up.
6:23: Voracek chucks a wrister from the left circle. Fleury eats it up.
6:13: Voracek whps a wrister on net from the left point. Fleury fights it off.
5:26: Short-handed, Dupuis hammers a slapper form the left wing over the cage.
4:57: Erik Gustafsson chops a one-timer from the center point. Fleury eats it up despite traffic.
4:54: A power-play goal by Zac Rinaldo? Sure why not? Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Grossman chucks a wrister from the left point. FLeury kicks out the puck. Rinaldo fights off a check from Engelland and punches it into the cage. The Niskanen penalty had just expired so it's not technically a power-play goal. A bad goal all around to allow. Grossman and Maxime Talbot get assists. Talbot beat Crosby on the faceoff to create the inital shot by Grossmann. Fire Ray Shero. Flyers 2-1.
3:38: Bennett takes a pass at the right poitn and chucks a wrister towards the cage with Malkin driving down the slot. It hits off Malkin and deflects wide to the right of the cage.
2:43: Vorcek settles a puck in the right circle and whips a spinning wirster wide to the near side.
1:43: An inexcusable goal. Timonen corrals a puck at the left point and snaps off a wrister. Engelland is right in front of Fleury and ends up screening him. The puck saisl by Fleury's right shoulder and hits twine. Awful. Just awful. Rinaldo and Ruslan Fedotenko get assists. Flyers 3-1.
0:52: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Timonen chucks a wrister
0:23: Bennett whips a wrister from the slot which gets blocked.
0:15: With Crosby taking the draw, Neal tries to shoot the puck on the Penguins' "quick draw" play. The puck is partially blocked and trickles in on net. Bryzgalov covers. Crosby and Neal each poke for a rebound but nothing doing. The Flyers give Neal a little grief. Officials give Neal a slashing minor. A really tight call. The Flyers get another power play. Sutter, Cooke, Martin and Orpik take the ice.
0:07: Yikes. This is just ugly. The Penguins win a faceoff in their own zone for once but fail to clear the zone. Voracek takes a pass at the left point and hammers a slapper. Sutter leans down to block it. The puck hits his side and trickles into a cluster of bodies in the slot. It bounces through legs an sticks and goes through Fleury's five hole. A brief video review confirms the goal. The Flyers take a three-goal lead. Wow. Timonen gets the only assist. Flyers 4-1.
0:00: End of period. Tanner Glass drives to the FLyers net and tries to start something. He ends up with a roughing minor as does Simmonds. Flyers 4, Penguins 1.
-How frighteningly familiar is all of this? The Flyers taking full advantage of the Penguins' lack of discipline and getting a few lucky hops on top of everything.
-The odd thing is, the Penguins aren't in full out meltdown mode trying to settle individual scores. The officials have called a tight game. The Flyers have recognized that and adjusted their game accordingly. The Penguins haven't and have taken a few penalties.
-Fleury hasn't been good, but how do you really blame him for this mess? Other than the Rinaldo goal which admittedly swing things in the Flyers' favor, he has been almost helpless. The first goal by Voracek looked like a passing drill. The third goal by Timmonen was a horrible screen by Engelland and the fourth goal by Voracek was off a fluky hop.
-The Penguins' special teams defense has been atrocious tonight. And it's almost a carbon copy of what happened last season in the postseason. The Flyers are just picking apart the offensive zone with the man advantage with their puck movement.
-Faceoffs have been huge for the Flyers. They have won 8 for 12 draws in the Penguins' zone. That's really the biggest part of their success thus far.
-The great Joe Vitale would presumable help that number.
-The Penguins' offense has been almost as bad. They are maintaining little int he way of offensive zone possession. Killing a ton of penalties will hurt that end of your game, but the Penguins had next to nothing going on when they were playing five on five.
-The Flyers have a dominating 18-4 lead in shots.
-Voracek leads the game with six.
-Kunitz and Cooke each led the Penguisn with two.
-Letang leads the game with 7:52 of ice time.
-Grossman leads the Flyers with 7:09.
-The Penguins have a 16-15 lead in faceoffs.
-Sutter is 5 for 8 (63 percent).
-Giroux is 6 for 12 (50 percent).
-Grossman leads the game with three blocked shots.
-No one else has more than one.
20:00: Tomas Vokoun enters the game.
19:20: Giroux lifts a wrister from the left wing which Vokoun fights off with this blocker.
19:15: Crosbys snaps off a wrister from the slot which Grossman leans down to block.
18:22: A wrister by Neal is knocked dead by Bryzgalov and covered.
17:27: Jeffrey lifts a wrister from the left wing. Bryzgalov knocks it dead.
17:19: Hartnell lifts a shot from the right wing. Vokoun turns it away.
16:39: The Penguins lines are all shuffled. Dupus is on with Cooke and Jeffrey. Off some hard work down low by Dupuis, Jeffrey has a chance in the slot but his shot is blocked by Giroux.
15:53: Neal punches a one-timer form the left circle which Bryzgalov fights off despite a screen.
14:57: Dupuis rips a wrister from the left wall wide on the near side.
14:30: The Penguins swarm the net and cut the lead to two. A point shot from Orpik hits a bodies in front and rattles around. Crosby controls the rebound, swoops around to the left of the cage and deals a backhanded pass to Dupuis above the blue paint and he whips a wrister into the cage as Bryzgalov struggles to maintain position. A hard-working goal. Crosby and Kunitz get assists. Flyers 4-2.
12:10: Off a strong rush into the offenive zone by Malkin, Bennett taps a puck to Neal on the right wing. Neal has his stick break as he attempts a one-timer and the shot is missed.
11:47: Buckle up. It's on. Simmons has the puck stripped on a tenacious play by Bennett in the Flyers slot. HBennett turns and deals to Neal in the right wing corner. Neal snaps off a shot/pass to the blue paint. Malkin drives to the cage and the puck is re-directed on net. What a play Bennett to steal that puck. That's something you would see Pavel Datsyuk do. The Flyers call their dreaded time-out to get organized. Flyers 4-3.
11:01: The Penguins get a chance to tie the game as Luke Schenn is called for tripping Crosby. Kunitz, Neal, Letang, Malkin and Neal take the ice.
10:10: Off a tap pass from Letang, Malkin hammers a one-timer from center point which Bryzgalov knocks dead and covers.
9:33: Malkin hammers another one-timer from center point. Bryzgalov eats it up despite traffic.
9:01: Schenn's minor is killed. The Penguins didn't do much with that chance.
8:09: Jeffrey races up the left wing and whips a wrister wide of the cage to the far side.
7:35: Letang swipes a half one-timer from the left point. It hits a skate in front.
6:56: Hartnell swats a shto from the left point. Vokoun makes the save depsite not appearing to see the puck.
6:19: Driving off the left wing, Voracek tries to deal a feed to Hartnell on the left wing. The pass isn't perfect and Hartnell shoots wide.
4:13: Okay. Really? What is up with his rivalry? The third line gets in on the act. Cook controls a puck near the cage, circles around on the left wing wall and deals to Kennedy positioned above the right circle. Kennedy has his stick cocked and cranks a one-timer w hich blows by Bryzgalov who was screened by Sutter and Bruno Gervais. Peter Laviolette pulls Bryzgalov for Brian Boucher. What in the world is going on? Cooke and Sutter get assists. Flyers 4, Penguins 4.
3:43: Adams and Luke Schenn race for a puck in the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone. Schenn dumps
3:24: Adams tries to chip and chase the puck up the right wing and is held up by Grossman. That's two minutes for interference. That was a weak call.
3:21: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Letang strikes a one-timer from the left point wide of the cage.
2:51: Letang has a shot from above the left circle blocked by Talbot. Fire Ray Shero.
2:36: Off a short-handed give-and-go, Couturier snaps off a wrister which Letang leans down to block. Letang is smarting after that and heads to the bench.
2:17: A slapper by Martin from the right point is wide.
1:24: The Grossmann minor is killed. Not a lot going on there for the Penguins.
0:30: Briere makes an appearance an has a shot from the slto blocked by Eaton.
0:00: End of period. Flyers 4, Penguins 4.
-How do you make any sense of anything in this game or rivalry? It exists in chaos. Any and all of the "laws" of hockey cease to exist when these two teams match up.
-The really weird part about this game is the officiating. The officials are calling this game REALLY tight. Very little is being allowed. It's kind of kept each team honest.
-After barely getting a sniff with the puck in the offensive zone, the Penguins dominated puck possession in the second. This period was a complete reversal from that perspective.
-That was really the key to the Penguins' better defensive effort that period. They didn't allow the Flyers to possess the puck nearly as much in the offensive zone. Can't score if you don't have the puck.
-How good has Beau Bennett looked tonight? He just seems to fit perfect with Malkin and Neal. He plays the game at their speed and he has adapted to the physical play of the game at this level.
-We're not sure how either goaltender can be fairly judged in this game. Trying to gauge a goaltender's skills in a game like this is like trying to rate someone's kite-flying skills in a tornado.
-The Flyers have a 21-16 lead in shots.
-After getting shredded in the first period for shots, 18-4, the Penguins dominated the second period, 12-3.
-Letang leads the game in ice time with 16:06.
-Coburn leads the Flyers, 15:16.
-The Flyers have a 23-21 edge in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Giroux is 12 for 20 (60 percent).
-Jeffrey is 4 for 7 (57 percent).
-Grossman leads the game with five blocked shots.
-Orpik leads the Penguins with two.
19:50: Hartnell has chance in tight ona three-on-two rush but Vokoun fights it off.
19:43: ... What? Off the ensuing rush, a three-on-one the other way, Crosby taps a pass to Kunitz on the right wing, Kunitz whips it into the open cage by a helpless Boucher. Crosby and Dupuis get assists. The Penguins get their first lead of the night. Penguins 5-4.
19:29: Off a turnover by the Penguins' in their own zone, Brayden Schenn taps a pass to Simmonds all alone in the slot. Simmonds over skates the puck and misses the wide open chance.
17:58: Neal snaps off a wrister from the right circle to the far side. Boucher's right leg kicks it out.
16:38: After some strong work down low by Crosby and Dupuis, Niskanen wires a slapper from the left point whch Boucher rejects.
15:41: Adams knocks over Couturier at the Penguins' blue line.
14:59: A puck bounces to Grossman at the center point of the Penguins' zone. He appears to have a clean shot but Kennedy dives to poke check it out of the defensive zone.
14:22: Luke Schenn chips a wrister from the right point. Orpik blocks it.
13:33: Coburn chucks a wrister from the right point which is off the mark.
13:19: Some actual defense. Malkin tries to sneak a pass off the right wing to Bennett in the left circle. Bennett is wide open in the left circle but Coburn slides down to poke puck away. That's probably a goal without Coburn blocking the pass.
12:56: More defense. Hartnell has a wide open chance in the left circle. Bennett hustles back on a backcheck and deflect the puck out of play.
12:53: The Flyers strike off another offensive zone faceoff win but the goal is waved off immediately. Giroux beats Crosby on the draw in the left circle. Timonen whacks a one-timer from the left point. It rises up as it approaches the cage. Hartnell lifts his stick up high and taps the puck down behind Vokoun. Officials immediately signal a high stick and wave off the goal. A brief video review confirms the call.
11:10: Brayden Schenn pushes a wrister on net from the left circle t the far side. Vokoun kicks it out with his right skate. A surprisingly tough save.
9:47: Tough spot here for the Penguins as Dupuis is called for interference against Grossman. A big two minutes here. Sutter, Adams, Letang and Orpik take the ice.
9:04: Timonen chops a slapper from the left point. Cooke blocks it.
8:50: Giroux whacks a one-timer from the left circle but has it blocked by Cooke.
8:16: Simon Gagne has a one-timr from the right circle denied by Vokoun. Briere is all over the rebound but can't beat Vokoun.
7:47: The Dupuis minor is killed. The Flyers pumped a lot of puck at the net but didn't' get many actually on net.
6:56: From the left wing corner, Kunitz snaps off a pass to Crosby on the backdoor but Couturier hustles back and pokes the puck away.
6:28: Neal and Hartnell each drive to the cage and trip each other up dislodging the cage.
5:48: Martin battles a puck in the left wing corner and backhand flips it down ice to kill some time. A nice smooth play.
5:29: Taking a pass on the right wing, Jeffrey screams up the left wing and snaps off a wrister over the cage.
4:00: The Penguins are winning nearly every battle for loose pucks this period. This is a complete change from the first period.
3:05: Racing for a dump-in into the left wing corner of the Penguins' zone, Martin is dropped by
2:25: Dupuis flips a backhander from the slot. Boucher blocks it away.
2:51: Bradyen Schenn lifts a wrister from the left circle. Depsite a screen, Vokoun gloves it.
2:12: Taking a pass in the slot, Giroux hammers a one-timer. Vokoun fight sit off. Niskanen plays the rebound away.
2:01: Voracek chucks a wrister from right point. Vokoun fights it off despite Hartnell crashing in.
1:20: Boucher is pulled for an extra attacker.
1:07: Battling off a check in the left circle, Simmonds snaps off a wrister which Vokoun fights off.
0:26: Cooke has a chance at the empty cage but Briere blocks his shot at the Flyers' blue line.
0:08: Giroux chucks a desparate wrister from the left wing corner which misses the cage
0:00: End of period. Penguins 5, Flyers 4.
-Even by the hideously warped standards of most Flyers-Penguisn contests, this was a bizarre game. It stated off very quietly for the first ten minutes, the teams traded goals, the Flyers jumped out to a nearly insurmountable lead, the Penguins scored four unanswered goals the the game finished with a whimper. Just a really weird game
-Honestly, we're not sure how to dissect this game. It was just so bizarre. Neither team can be all that satisfied with this game. The Penguins continued to display some significant defensive deficiencies, especially on the penalty kill. The Flyers ... how do you give up four unanswered goals? Just an awful game all around on defense.
-For the "Dan Byslma can't make adjustments" crowd, it sure looks like he did after that mess of a first period. It might have been something simple such as telling his players to quit taking penalties in a game where officials were calling things tight, but he clearly changed something from the second period on.
-Don't discount Tomas Vokoun's effort in this game. he didn't face nearly the quality of shots Marc-Andre FLeury did, but he came in a bad spot, settled things down and earn a win. This was huge for him considering he entered the game on a nasty slump.
-It's crazy how vivid the chang ein puck possession was in this game. The Flyers were dominating faceoffs and offensive zone time in the first period. The second period on, it was totally different. The Penguins started winning more faceoffs, controlling the puck and took back the game.
-The best part of this game for the Penguins was how their defense actually showed up in the third period once it got a lead. They started blocking shots, clogging up passing lanes and winning battles to loose puck first. THe defense really shut things down on the Flyers in the latter stages in the third period.
-That said, the defense was shredded in the first period and put the Penguins in the position they were in. There still are some major issues in that area which require attention.
-The officials really dictated how this game flowed. They seemingly tried to snuff out any sort of extracurricular post-whistle stuff by calling the game tight. The Flyers adjusted to the offiicals before the Penguins did and got a big lead early due in part to that.
-Beau Bennett played the best game of his young career. Not only was he keeping pace with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal but he was also paying the price physically. He threw his body around without hesitation. He's starting to prove what he can do at the NHL level from a physical standpoint.
-The Penguins just can't contain Jakub Voracek fro some reason. He always torches them it seems. He's a first-class Penguins killer.
-Sidney Crosby was all over the ice tonght. he was tenacious in all three zones. He was strong down low digging puck out of the boards and creating scoring chance in tight. He looked like "the best player in the world" in the words of Peter Laviolette.
-Claude Giroux, who Laviolette called "the best player in the world" last spring, was pretty quiet after his first period assist to set up Voracek for a goal. he was clearly outclassed by Crosby.
-Since we always harp on the Penguins' record when he's in the lineup, it's only fair to point out their record without him. The Penguins are now 3-4 without Simon Despres.
-Faceoffs were a killer for the Penguins. They were bludgeoned in their own zone, 10-3. Not having Joe Vitale in the lineup didn't help in that area.
-For someone who didn't record a point, Evgeni Malkin had a strong game. He tilted the ice whenever he had the puck.
-What a big game for Tyler Kennedy. He has had a mostly rotten season. He scored the tying goal tonight and generally played responsible defense.
-We're not sure how one can fairly look at any of the goaltender in this circus. The lack of defense throughotu most of the game doesn't make it a fair way to rate the play of Marc-Andre Fleury or Ilya Bryzgalov.
-What kind of tear is Chris Kunitz on right now? He has goals in five consecutive games and points in 15 of his last 17 games. Remember when he wasn't "really" a top-six winger? He has 27 points since the start of February. Those points alone would have him ninth in the league in scoring. As it is, he is third line league with 31 points.
-The Flyers led in shots, 32-22.
-Voracek led the game with seven shots.
-James Neal led the Penguins with six.
-Letang led the game with 25:30 of ice time.
-Claude Giroux led the Flyers with 23:51.
-The Flyers led in faceoffs, 33-27 (55 percent).
-Giroux was 17 for 29 (59 percent).
-Dustin Jeffrey was 4 for 7 (57 percent).
-Grossman led the game with five blocked shots.
-Brooks Orpik led the Penguins with four blocked shots.
-Neal (110 points) passed up Wayne Bianchin (109) for 75th place on the franchise's all-time scoring.