Not a great Sunday night for primetime Philly Sports. The Flyers have been playing a better brand of hockey lately, sans the most recent Buffalo Sabres game. Traveling across the state, the Flyers hope to play spoiler. Well, that did not go as planned. Rickard Rakell scored twice, and the Pittsburgh Penguins regained the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with a 4-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday.
Pittsburgh moved one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for the second wild card and one point back of the New York Islanders, who lost 2-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes on the same night, for the first. The Penguins had dropped one point behind Florida on Saturday following a 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins and a 7-0 victory for the Panthers against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The FLyers had every chance to play spoiler.
Where It All Went Wrong
Where do we start? The Flyers allowed Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each to have two assists. Bryan Rust scored in his 500th NHL game, and Casey DeSmith made 31 saves. Rakell put Pittsburgh ahead 1-0 at 11:40 of the first period when his one-timer hit off the back glass, bounced back over the net, and deflected in off Ersson’s back. A pretty wild shot to watch live. It was going to be one of those nights. Rakell then made it 2-0 at 14:53 by redirecting a slap pass from Malkin on a power play. Rakell had two goals in his previous ten games.
Rust extended it to 3-0 at 13:23 of the second period. Crosby slipped a pass by Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo to Rust, who went forehand to backhand in the slot. The night continued not to play in the favor of Philly. Morgan Frost appeared to score for Philadelphia at 16:58, but the goal was disallowed because Joel Farabee had backed into DeSmith.
Flyers Fall Short of Spoiler
Deslauriers was able to cut it to 3-1 at 5:57 of the third period, finishing a pass from DeAngelo in the slot. Konecny recently returning made it 3-2 with a one-timer at 17:31. Konecny has scored in two straight since returning from an upper-body injury that caused him to miss 16 games. The Flyers pulled the goalie for the man advantage, but a lapse in defense was costly. Ryan Poehling scored into an empty net with 1:12 remaining for the 4-2 final. Samuel Ersson made 27 saves for the Flyers (29-34-13), who have lost three straight (0-2-1).
Kris Letang played in his 1,000th NHL game for the Penguins. Letang is the third player to play in 1,000 games with the Penguins, joining Crosby (1,185) and Malkin (1,058). He has the most goals (154), assists (532), and points (686) by a defenseman in their history.
Malkin Being Malkin
Another Penguins record holder Evgeni Malkin is the Penguins’ all-time leader in penalty minutes. Not if Philly fans needed another reason to dislike Malkin. His annoying antics were on display. He took not one, not two, not three, but four minor penalties. He topped off the fourth — for unsportsmanlike conduct — early in the third period with a 10-minute misconduct and then a 10-minute game misconduct for, presumably, yelling obscenities in English or Russian or maybe both at referee Chris Schlenker.
The Penguins’ head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t care much for Malkin’s attitude that night. He knew Malkin put the Penguins in jeopardy by being ejected with 18:11 to go. The team, which is in a fierce fight for a playoff spot, had to play almost all of the final period without one of its superstars in what was awfully close to a must-win game.
Al is one of the two co-creators of Edge of Philly Sports. Al started radio and podcasting in 2012 and covering sports in 2015. A lifelong Philly sports fan since watching the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers with his grandfathers at age 7. Al always looks at the other side of the hot topics and gives his different outlook on those topics. Web and Graphic Design.