Mike Sullivan said he felt like they still played well, but for some reason the Puck was not going into the net for them last night. The discipline and speed we saw in game 1 was absent in this game for the Pens. The Flyers played at their pace pretty much from start to finish. The Pens dropped game 2 in Disappointing fashion by the final score of 5-1.
There is no time or reason to dwell on losses in the playoffs, but something that should alarm Penguin fans at least a little is just how quickly the Pens went from the High Flying Cup Team to the slower less aggressive regular season version of themselves. And no, the Pens did not play awful and I agree with Sullivan that they did lack some puck luck last night. Sid had a breakaway that was stopped, and then he had one on the door step into an open net that he just sent across the crease. It was that kind of night for Pittsburgh.
Not only did Flyers Goalie Elliot received a good bit of help from the Pens and the iron that surrounds him, he coupled that with some outstanding stops of his own. He was the difference last night stopping 34 of 35. It was his stellar play ignited the guys in front of him which led to them playing like a team that can compete with the Pens.
Couturier was really good last night, unlike game 1 and finished with a goal and 2 assists. In my previous post I said Wayne Simmonds was going to have to be better, he in fact probably was worse as he put his team in short-handed situations several times. Last night was full of interesting and controversial hits and those that said the Flyers don’t play like that anymore can officially back off that stance. Giroux had a completely obnoxious hit on Letang that look in regular time like it was not planned but when you slowed it up it was clear he had intentions. Letang had to leave the ice and when he finally returned he was not the same or even close.
Scary moment in Flyers vs. Penguins as Giroux and Letang collide. pic.twitter.com/iCyhmnJtCH
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 14, 2018
“I thought he hit him high,” Crosby said of the hit, via Chase Williams of WXPI. “I’m sure the league will look at it, but I thought it was a pretty high hit.”
As for Letang when asked about leaving the ice after the hit “I took a little break thats it, then I got back out there.” Then he was asked what he thought about the hit. “I didn’t see it, it happened pretty quick I didn’t see it at all.”
There was a cross check into the boards that sent Hornqvist face first into the wall that the ref gave each player time including a Hornqvist embellishment. It was a completely ludicrous call just as the non call against Letang.
The Pens were lucky early in the game though as Hornqvist went hard into the wall with one of the Flyers and you could clearly see his elbow had intent heading for the head although he luckily missed. It was chippy, not out of hand like the 2012 series, but definitely had some edge to it.
The first goal that Murray gave up was the first goals in over 220 minutes of Stanley Cup Play. A goalless streak that lasted through 5 games, 3 of which were shutouts so he was due. The first goal I am still not sure he saw as there was lots of traffic in front of him. He did make the save for the most part, but the puck would just trickle past barely crossing the crease.
The second goal was a puck that bounced off of Letang’s skate as he struggling clearing pucks and guys away from the net. Last night was not his best showing by any stretch as he looked a great deal Like he did throughout the regular season.
The third goal Murray should have stopped as it went over his glove on the short side where he should have played the post more. The fourth was an amazing goal that Murray could do little about.
The Pens were able to get on the board late in the game, with a Hornqvist goal that cut the lead to 4-1 but that was all they could get by the resurgent netminder.
Here is the audio from after the game from Sullivan, Crosby and Letang.
Taking Good from the bad:
The beat down could serve as a wake up call for the Pens after they cruised in the first game. They elevated their play and It did not look like the Flyers were ready. Last night was exactly the opposite so the loss could in fact prove a good thing showing this team that they have to play at their highest level throughout the playoffs in order to win. They will not catch the Flyers or any other team sleeping like they did in game 1. Or…..
The Flyers just showed the NHL that the Pens have difficulty when the physical play is ratcheted up a bit. They showed that if you press, the Pens defense is not capable of holding off top end offensive talent. And make no mistakes, the Flyers have it regardless what anyone thinks. That is not to say they are better than the Pens by any stretch, but they are talented and capable.
A Strength that Wasn’t:
Last night the Pens power play looked awful. The Flyers were able to get in the way at nearly every turn during each of the first few special team opportunities. Intercepting passes that were not crisp and blocking shots were what we saw last night. The Pens came into the series with the best power play in the game and finished 0-4 while the Flyers converted 2-3.
In Game one, there were Times you felt like Evgeni Malkin was the best player on the ice. In game two, you could ask if he was even out on the ice. During Wednesday’s game Malkin played angry, almost like he had something to prove. Last night, he did not take a penalty but he also did not play or skate with that edge we saw in game 1. That will need to change during game 3. Also, Phil Kessel was less effective during game 2. His passes were not nearly as crisp and he gave up the puck near the blue line a couple of times. He also gave one away down by the net as the Pens had just started cycling the puck. The team as a whole looked a bit out of focus.