The Flyers played their first of back-to-back games this weekend as they finished off the set with the Pittsburgh Penguins in PPG Paints Arena. This was the rubber match of their three-game series. Some heroics from the captain snuck the Flyers past them on Thursday, but bad special teams and a rough goal proved too much to overcome this afternoon.
The Flyers’ special teams were getting a workout early in the first, with their powerplay coming up small after being given a chance within the first minute of the game. However, they proved they didn’t need it to get an odd-man rush when a beautiful Scott Laughton defensive play led to him and Travis Konecny breaking wide open six minutes into the game. Some beautiful tic-tac passing between the two led to Konecny burying a shot for the first goal of the game and sending Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry to the bench in search of a new water bottle.
Things got bad quickly, as after Ivan Provorov would take a holding penalty. Evgeni Malkin would score on a wide-open net after no one challenged him on the wraparound attempt. The Flyers issues on special teams are nothing new, but they looked extra small today, as Bryan Rust would score near the end of the period on the powerplay. That sent the Penguins into the intermission 2/2 on the man advantage and the Flyers 0/3.
A Marcus Pettersson hook in the final minutes of the first gave the Flyers powerplay a chance to tie it early coming into the second. They would finally cash in on a man advantage when Kevin Hayes wired one past Jarry in the dying seconds of the powerplay. A Nolan Patrick screen prevented Jarry from seeing the shot, allowing them to tie the game at two.
And this is where things got spicy. After going awkwardly into the boards trying to beat an icing, Joel Farabee -back in the lineup after missing a game in COVID protocol- was slow to get up and quick to find a Penguin as players from both sides came together. The refs nearly pinned Farabee and prevented anyone from dropping the gloves, but offsetting minors would be handed out to James van Riemsdyk and Kris Letang.
The Flyers took advantage of the extra ice, with Jake Voracek whizzing by Jarry preventing him from getting a full read on a Shayne Gostisbehere blast that would put the Flyers up 3-2. Ghost would get the goal, but Jake would be the one taking home the puck, as his assist put him at number 500 for his career. The long-time Flyer became the 18th active player with the milestone, with over 400 of those coming in the orange and black.
The celebration couldn’t last long though, as Zach Aston-Reese would score late in the period to send the teams into the third tied. Aston-Reese’s bad-angle shot shouldn’t have gone in, but Brian Elliott’s pad didn’t get down in time, giving the Penguins a gift as the period wound down.
The Flyers came out in the third flat. They struggled to get stability in either direction, marred by icings and one shift that had players on the ice for over two straight minutes. They were able to win the faceoffs they needed and covered up their mistakes the best they could, but the team looked lethargic.
Brian Elliott did his best to give the team a rallying point, making an outstanding glove save, but the Flyers’ tired defense couldn’t hold up much longer. Joining the rush off the bench, Jared McCann picked up the rebound as he scored the backbreaker to put the Penguins up 4-3.
The Flyers got chances throughout the remainder of the game, but the team looked slow and were unable to get anything else past Jarry. Some heroic goaltending from Ghost with the goalie pulled gave the Flyers a chance, but ultimately the Penguins were able to weather the storm, taking the 4-3 victory in regulation.
Terrible special teams play certainly took its toll this afternoon, but the Flyers have the talent to make up for it. If the team can work out the issues on the power play and penalty kill, they could be really dangerous. A tough schedule coming up makes it a very tall order. The Flyers host the Washington Capitals and the fans tomorrow for some Sunday Night Hockey.