PHILADELPHIA -- The Wells Fargo Center crowd remains among the most hostile in the NHL, and the team based there can be ill-humored much of the time, too.
Doesn't appear to bother the Penguins much, though.
Fact is, they seem to love coming to the far side of the Commonwealth, and with good reason:
After their 4-1 victory Thursday night against Philadelphia, the Penguins are 11-2-1 in their past 14 regular-season visits to this city. The same town where they once went 15 years and 42 games without a victory (0-39-3), a slump left winger Chris Kunitz characterized simply as "pretty amazing."
The details of that decade-and-a-half of futility are pretty much a part of hockey's fossil record by now, though. The current generation of Penguins is much more accustomed to elevating their performance -- and leaving town with two points -- when they venture across the state.
"Every time we come, it's always a pretty tense game, pretty tough," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "I think it brings out the best in us."
It certainly did that Thursday night for Fleury.
He stopped 24 of 25 shots to raise his record to 6-0, and came up with a couple of quality stops when a Flyers goal could have altered the course of the game.
Like when he denied Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn from just above the hash marks at 10:45 of the second period, while the Penguins were protecting a 1-0 lead.
And when he robbed Wayne Simmonds from the right side of the crease on a power play at 1:21 of the third, after Philadelphia had sliced the Penguins' advantage to 2-1 with a man-advantage goal with just two seconds left in the second period.
"He's been our best player almost every single game," Kunitz said. "He's made key saves at big moments, and that's what we look to him to do."
Fleury, though, isn't the only Penguin who has gotten a pretty good start in 2013-14.
The Flyers nearly became the first team to hold Penguins center Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer, without a point this season, but he scored an insurance goal at 17:28 of the third period and picked up an assist on Evgeni Malkin's empty-netter with 12.3 seconds to go in regulation.
That puts Crosby's scoring streak at seven games and his points total at 14, an even two per game. Which, coincidentally enough, is just a bit more than he averages in Philadelphia, where he has put up 14 goals and 21 assists in 22 games.
Malkin, who also had a goal and an assist, has 13 goals and 17 assists on the road against the Flyers, also in 21 games.
"When the games ramp up in intensity and meaning, the key players on our team step up," said right winger Pascal Dupuis, who contributed a couple of assists.
True enough, but the Penguins also got some solid work from their third and fourth lines in this game. Winger Tanner Glass, for example, had another strong game and accounted for 10 of the Penguins' 35 hits.
The Penguins had an edge in play in the first period and took control in the second when Jussi Jokinen (9:43) and Kunitz (12:13) scored in a 2 1/2-minute span to put them up two.
They built a 29-10 advantage in shots as the second was winding down, but Fleury was penalized for interference with a minute to go before intermission, and Simmonds deflected in a Claude Giroux pass with two seconds remaining in the period to revive Philadelphia.
The Flyers, buoyed by a couple of early power plays, surged in the third, but were unable to manufacture a tying goal.
Crosby secured the victory by chipping a Dupuis feed past Flyers goalie Steve Mason at 17:28, and Malkin closed out the scoring by hitting an empty net with less than 13 seconds to go.
And so the Penguins improved to 6-1, while the Flyers slipped to 1-7.
"I like winning games," Dupuis said. "And I like our situation better than theirs, for sure."
First Published October 17, 2013 5:55 PM