Well, that didn't go according to script.
Surviving through a tilted first period, the Philadelphia Flyers scored two second-period goals and managed to hold off the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Thursday night before a capacity crowd at the Consol Energy Center.
What Went Right:
- Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek didn't have perfect games, but they showed what they can bring to the table. Martin is a very mobile defenseman and looks eager to join in on the back end of offensive rushes, as seen in his chance early in the first period. Michalek, though a more traditional defenseman, showed that he can hit a pass on the breakout. A pair of his turnovers led to big chances for the Flyers, though, so lapses will need to minimize.
- Mark Letestu and Tyler Kennedy each had effective games, the latter being rewarded with a goal. Letestu was good on draws and found himself unfortunate not to get on the score sheet.
- Deryk Engelland had a solid game. As the sixth defender, he limited his mistakes and only took one penalty, a vital one that stopped a prime scoring chance for the Flyers. Though they would score the ensuing power play, Engelland can't be faulted for the goal.
- The penalty kill was effective, despite allowing an impressive goal from Daniel Briere. The Penguins were deep in Flyer territory for much of their penalty-killing time, diluting the Flyers' time on the power play.
- The game was largely devoid of needless goonery and gamesmanship. Each team is talented and in a relatively open game, like we saw last night, the hockey is entertaining to watch.
What Went Wrong:
- Though they had a number of chances, both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ended the night scoreless. Malkin clicked with Mike Comrie early, but, as the game wore on, Comrie's impact gradually melted away. Crosby, on the other hand, seemed to be trying to carry his line as usual. On another night, Crosby could have had two or three goals, but on Thursday he only managed two or three posts.
- Chris Kunitz was anonymous. Even during his unproductive games, Kunitz typically makes a nuisance of himself on the forecheck and in front of the net. Less is expected of Pascal Dupuis on the top line, but Kunitz, with some salary and pedigree, is held to a higher standard. Hopefully it's merely rust and his nagging "lower body" injury.
- The Penguins didn't dominate the first period, but they definitely had control of the game. 15 shots on a rookie goaltender in the opening frame on the christening of your ballyhooed new arena needs to lead to a goal. Unfortunately, the Penguins found themselves tied after the first, and that gave the Flyers the opportunity that they needed to regroup and take an early lead.
- The much-maligned power play is again the deservedly maligned power play after only converting once in five chances. That lone goal, however, was effectively negated by the short-hander surrendered on the same power play. Alex Goligoski, despite scoring that lone goal, was ineffective on the power play on the whole. His decision-making was tentative and he eagerly gave the puck up to the forwards, passing on several shot opportunities. No one expected Goligoski to magically turn into Sergei Gonchar, but a more decisiveness will be needed from the young defender as the season progresses.
- Though a loss is a loss, the game was encouraging for a few reasons. The Penguins did generate offense and chances were there for key players to finish on. Typically, those key cogs will capitalize on more than zero of them. On most nights, the effort displayed tonight earns at least a point. Full credit to the Flyers and their young goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in a well-earned victory.
* The Penguins seized momentum early with some inspired shifts, specifically from the second line, where Evgeni Malkin and Mike Comrie clicked early in the contest. After about two minutes of play, Comrie found himself with the puck behind the net and ample space. Though the diminutive center's wraparound attempt was stopped by NHL debutant Sergei Bobrovsky, the rebound squirted across goal onto the blade of onrushing Penguins defenseman Paul Martin, whose sliding attempt at goal ricocheted off of the post and wide.
* Halfway through the first period, Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek was down on the ice, attempting to freeze the puck with his hand behind the Penguins' net, only to be stripped by Nikolay Zherdev of the Flyers. Zherdev kicked it to the point, where the ensuing shot was saved by Marc-Andre Fleury before the rebound fell to an open Claude Giroux in front. Giroux's turnaround shot was forced wide and, shortly after, Michalek was able to spring Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby on a 2-on-1. Dupuis' feed found Crosby's blade, but Bobrovsky stopped the one-timer.
* Shortly after exiting the penalty box, Matt Cooke was in the enviable position of playing alongside Malkin and Comrie. Doing what he does best, Cooke chased his own dump-in behind the Flyers' net, which eventually found its way to Malkin. Cutting into the circle, Malkin found Bobrovsky off of his post and his quick spinaround wrister was only inches from rippling the twine. Moments later, Malkin found the puck on his stick after a scramble in the high slot and backhand-fed Comrie, who was stopped again by Bobrovsky.
First Period Stats:
Goals Pittsburgh 0 - 0 Philadelphia
Shots: 15 - 9
Penalties: PIT: Cooke, 2:00 for holding; PHI: O'Donnell, 2:00 for tripping.
* The Flyers stopped the Penguins' dominance with a goal early on. With Philadelphia on the power play, Flyers' center Jeff Carter tied up Maxime Talbot on a faceoff deep in the Penguins' end. That gave Ville Leino an opportunity to feed Mike Richards on the point. Taking a moment to survey the scene, Richards fired a quick, low pass to Daniel Briere, to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury's goal, which Briere managed to one-time deflect into the open net of an understandably out-of-position Fleury. 1-0 Flyers on the power play goal.
* Right after the goal, the Penguins found themselves on the power play as well. Action early and often led to a few legitimate chances, the largest of which followed yet again by a scramble. Crosby, with the puck landing on his stick at the side of the net, found room and Bobrovsky down and helpless. Crosby's backhand attempt into a seemingly empty net only met with the defiant clang of the near post. Crosby's follow-up attempt was deflected wide via the recovering Philadelphia defense.
* Two minutes later, as the game opened up, lively Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy took a hit and snuck a pass through to an open Mark Letestu in front of the Flyers' net. Letestu made a quick move and his shot beat everyone but the pipe. Seconds later, two quick passes led to a breakaway for Briere. Fleury, typically, went down for the pokecheck. Briere saw this, took his time, aimed high, and shot it over the net. Bullet dodged.
* With time waning in the period, James van Riemsdyk led a 3-on-3 rush into the Penguins net. With Paul Martin covering the onrushing Darroll Powe, Malkin eased up on his man, Blair Betts, who found himself open to Fleury's left. Van Riemsdyk's deflected shot was stopped by Fleury who only managed to kick the shot wide ... right onto Betts' stick. 2-0 Flyers. Tough to blame that one on Fleury, however.
Second Period Stats:
Goals: Pittsburgh 0 - 2 Philadelphia
Shots: 9 - 10
Scoring: PHI: Danny Briere 1 (power play) (Mike Richards, Ville Leino) ; Blair Betts 1 (Darroll Powe, James van Riemsdyk)
Penalties: PIT: Engelland, 2:00 for hooking; Orpik, 2:00 for interference; PHI: Shelley, 2:00 for goaltender interference; Coburn, 2:00 for interference.
* Mark Letestu won a faceoff low that found its way to Paul Martin. Martin slid down the right wing, where he chipped a backhand pass through the center of the ice, deflecting and missing everybody before landing at the feet of Tyler Kennedy wide of the net. Fortuitously, Kennedy, at a horrible angle, saw Bobrovsky now and fired a bullet of a wrist shot top-shelf from, basically, the side boards. Less than a minute into the third and it was game on. 2-1 Flyers.
* Three minutes later, on the power play, Sidney Crosby unleashed a rocket from above the right circle. The shot hit metal and skirted wide. The puck was then cleared from the zone, though the Penguins held possession. After the defense regrouped in their own zone, the onrushing Kristopher Letang left an ill-advised drop pass for Martin, which became a drop pass for Claude Giroux. Giroux found himself one-on-one with Fleury and only minor harassment from the recovering Martin. He went forehand, then backhand, and then back to the forehand, before putting the puck into the net. 3-1 Flyers on the short-hander.
* Seconds pass and it was once more a one-goal game. Michalek got the puck at the point and fired an unassuming wrist shot through a sea of humanity. That wrist shot clipped Alex Golagoski and beat Bobrovsky. 3-2 Flyers following the power-play goal.
* With just two minutes left, the Penguins were down a goal and unable to mount much offense. Following one of their brief moments of offensive virility late in the game, a narrowly missed chance by Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury was left hanging after a turnover by Michalek. Jeff Carter wound up in front of an empty net, quickly shot and, miraculously, was stopped by the leg pad of a stretched-out Fleury. This was one of those huge saves that keeps a team in the game late.
* With time winding down, Flyers goalscorer Blair Betts took a hooking penalty, giving the Penguins 1:13 of 6-on-4 power-play time after Fleury was pulled. Like a brick wall, the Penguins tried the same ineffective methods of carrying and forcing passes, time and again, only to run out of time.
Third Period Stats:
Goals: Pittsburgh 2 - 1 Philadelphia
Scoring: PIT: Tyler Kennedy 1 (Paul Martin, Kris Letang); Alex Goligoski 1 (power play) (Zbynek Michalek, Chris Kunitz) PHI: Claude Giroux 1 (shorthanded) (unassisted)
Penalties: PIT: Malkin, 2:00 for hooking; Talbot, 2:00 for slashing; PHI: Meszaros, 2:00 for roughing. Carcillo , 2:00 for roughing; Betts, 2:00 for hooking .
Post-Game Quotes (via NHL.com):
Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette on Bobrovsky:
"I thought he played a really good game," Laviolette said. "In the first period, he played really strong and we played sloppy. We turned the puck over far too many times in the defensive zone and in the neutral zone. They generated a lot of opportunities from that and he made save after save in the first."
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma on Bobrovsky:
"He found a way to keep it out of the net," Bylsma said. "I think we hit a couple posts and it looked like we had some opportunities. A goalie plays well when it stays out of the net and when we had good opportunities, he was able to do that."
Flyers defenseman Bradon Coburn on the Penguins' early success:
"(Pittsburgh) was setting the tone and we weren't doing what we wanted to do," Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "We turned a lot of pucks over and didn't get them out of the zone and when you do that, you get tired and that's when they start grinding you down on the cycle. I thought in the second we turned that around, got pucks out and started to put pressure on them."
Pittsburgh 2 - 3 Philadelphia
Shots 31 - 27
PIT: Fleury - 24 saves on 27 shots
PHI: Bobrovsky - 29 saves on 31 shots
- Philadelphia's Sergei Bobrovsky made his first NHL start and nabbed his first win as well.
- Paul Martin and Zbynek notched their first points as Penguins.
- This marked not only the first NHL regular-season contest played in the Penguins' new Consol Energy Center, but the first sellout as well, with attendance filling into standing-room-only sections.
3. PIT: Tyler Kennedy (1g, 0a)
2. PHI: Claude Giroux (1g, 0a)
1. PHI: Sergei Bobrovsky