PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Cooke does lots of things that annoy opposing players, and very few of them are accidental.
But he swears this one was.
That doesn't mean Cooke had any misgivings about deflecting in a Sergei Gonchar shot late in the third period to give the Penguins a 2-1 victory Sunday against Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center.
Just that he didn't feel terribly responsible for it.
"I didn't do anything," Cooke said. "[Gonchar] shot it off my stick. ... I did not see the puck coming. There were three guys in the lane, and it hit my stick and went in the net."
OK, so maybe that sequence wasn't drawn up exactly the way it played out -- "I knew he was standing there, and I was trying to hit that area," Gonchar said. "I wouldn't lie to you and say [I aimed for Cooke's stick,]" -- but Cooke's goal wasn't merely the by-product of a fortuitous bounce, either.
After all, Cooke had staked out a patch of ice in front of Flyers goalie Ray Emery with the intent of obstructing Emery's view and, if possible, getting his stick on any pass or shot that happened to come his way.
"That's why he's earned that spot on there on the second [power-play] unit," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's earned it by the way he's played. You need a guy in front of the net, but you also need a guy who's able to tip the puck, and he's shown that skill."
In fact, it's not an accident that both of the Penguins' goals came when they had guys planted near the Flyers' crease during power plays. On the first, Bill Guerin blocked Emery's view of a Gonchar shot from the high slot.
"Without that, the goalie's out three more feet," Bylsma said. "He can see the puck. It's a totally different dynamic if you don't have that net-front presence and traffic in front of the goaltender."
All three goals in this game came while one team was short-handed. The twist is that in a game with no shortage of nastiness -- there were 52 minutes in penalties assessed, and at least another 52 that went uncalled -- the power play that decided the game stemmed from a delay-of-game minor on Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who shot the puck over the glass at 16:50 of the third period.
"Obviously, I don't feel bad for Timonen because we're here to win the game, but I think that's a tough penalty for him," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Three minutes to go and the ice was bad all day. Especially at that point in the game, the ice was really bad.
"It's tough to see a game that's that well-played by both teams decided by that, but when you're on the winning end of it, you're not going to complain too much."
While Timonen's play left no room for interpretation -- he clearly launched the puck over the glass, which is a black-and-white violation -- the Flyers didn't care for the judgment exercised by the officials at 13:23 of the opening period.
That's when Mike Richards appeared to put Philadelphia up, 2-0, by throwing a rebound into a basically open net, only to have the goal waved off because Simon Gagne of the Flyers and Penguins center Evgeni Malkin were being penalized for a scuffle away from the play.
Gagne got a double-minor, although it initially began as a single penalty, and the Penguins scored on the power play, which means there was a two-goal swing in that sequence.
"I thought it was just a man-on-man battle and that's it," Gagne said. "Most of the time, those just go two minutes on both sides and they don't have to stop the play for those.
"I think the goal should be good but for whatever reason, they only called the first one on me and after that called Malkin for roughing, too, and another roughing on me."
The Penguins' victory not only gave them an insurmountable, 4-1 edge in the season series, but allowed them to sweep all three games here and to snap the Flyers' six-game winning streak on home ice.
Perhaps more important, it allowed them to expand their lead over the third-place Flyers in the Atlantic Division to 10 points. A Philadelphia victory in regulation would have trimmed it to six.
"That's a big, big swing for us," Orpik said.
One made possible not only by a productive power play, but by effective penalty-killing and some solid work all over the ice.
"We haven't played a game like this," Bylsma said. "Where we've played well defensively and kept a team down to one [goal] or less and won a hockey game."
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published January 25, 2010 5:00 AM