Penguins' win secures playoff berth

No-goal decision alters momentum

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These teams usually do not agree on much.

Except, of course, for how little they care for each other.

But that did not prevent them from seeing what likely was the pivotal sequence in the Penguins' 4-1 victory against Philadelphia at Mellon Arena the same way. Sort of.

Both sides agreed that the play in question left little room for dispute, that it was abundantly clear how the officials should have ruled on it.

They just -- imagine this -- had completely different perspectives on whether a goal by Flyers forward Simon Gagne at 4:53 of the second period should have been allowed to stand.

Had it counted, it would have given the Flyers a 2-1 lead. But it didn't.

On the play in question, Ville Leino backed into Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury a second or so before Gagne slid a shot into the net.

Referee Dan Marouelli, whose initial call appeared to be that the goal would stand consulted with his fellow officials and determined that Leino was guilty of "incidental contact." Not enough to merit a penalty as James van Riemsdyk of Philadelphia had been for interfering with Fleury less than three minutes earlier, but just cause to wave off the goal.


Matchup: Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, 5:08 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).

"I think you clearly can see [Leino] hits my face," Fleury said.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette did not necessarily disagree with that detail, but insisted that Leino was not responsible for the contact.

"It seemed like Ville lost his footing because a [Penguin] took his legs out and he fell into the goaltender," he said.

The referees eventually decided otherwise. The goal went away, and so did the Flyers' composure.

"It maybe got them off their game a little," Penguins winger Chris Kunitz said. "Their bench was pretty riled up."

That might have hurt the Flyers, making the last of 124 regular-season visits to Mellon Arena, more than having Gagne's goal taken away did.

"We just have to forget about it and don't lose energy screaming at the referee," Flyers forward Ian Laperriere said. "We can't make a big deal out of it. It's over. We just have to move on. You scream at the ref and if you think about it, you just burn energy that you need out there."

The Penguins had an edge in energy -- and a bigger one in goals -- the rest of the way as they clinched a playoff spot and moved back into first in Atlantic Division, pending outcome of New Jersey's game at Montreal Saturday night.

Locking up a spot in the top eight in the Eastern Conference will not lead to a "Mission Accomplished" banner flying outside Mellon Arena before the Penguins' game against Toronto at 5:08 p.m. today, by it is a necessary first step toward defending their championship.

"You always want the 'X' by your name [in the standings]," coach Dan Bylsma said. "We certainly want to finish as high as we can, but when you have the 'X' by your name, you know you're going to the postseason."

That the Penguins would qualify Saturday seemed less than certain 62 seconds into the game, when Arron Asham's attempted pass to Scott Hartnell from the right side landed on an edge and bounced by Fleury.

"That stunk," Fleury said.

Turned out to be the last puck that eluded him. Or, at least, that was registered on the scoreboard.

The Penguins ran off four goals in a row. Kunitz threw in a Jordan Leopold rebound with 57.9 seconds left in the first to tie the score, and Pascal Dupuis got the winner at 6:03 of the second.

Flyers goalie Johan Backlund left at the second intermission because of a groin injury, and Matt Cooke and Ruslan Fedotenko buried pucks behind replacement Brian Boucher.

So, what could be a decisive six-game homestand got off to a positive start for the Penguins.

"It's taken care of," Fedotenko said. "Now we're looking to [today's] game."

Imagine that. Something else everyone can agree on.

For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at . Dave Molinari: . First Published March 28, 2010 4:00 AM


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