Penguins stuck in second place as they fall to Flyers, 4-0
March 15, 2014 10:49 PM
Tom Mihalek/Associated Press
Philadelphia Flyers' Sean Couturier, top, and the Penguins' Olli Maatta battle for the puck along the boards during the second period Saturday in Philadelphia.
Tom Mihalek/Associated Press
Sidney Crosby, left, loses control of the puck as the Philadelphia Flyers' Braydon Coburn pursues during the first period Saturday in Philadelphia.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PHILADELPHIA -- Fred Shero, the only coach to lead Philadelphia to a Stanley Cup, was honored Saturday several times.
First, the Flyers unveiled a statue of him.
Later, an appreciation video was shown on the Wells Fargo Center scoreboard.
And finally, there was the ultimate tribute: The Flyers humbled the Penguins, 4-0, just the way they did so many times when Shero was their coach.
Oh, it's unlikely that this defeat will plunge the Penguins into a 15-year, 42-game winless streak (0-39-3) in Philadelphia like the one that began in 1974, when Shero was running the Flyers bench, but it certainly looked like many of the games from four decades ago.
Philadelphia asserted itself while the final notes of the national anthem were echoing in the arena, and did just about everything necessary to build a commanding lead, then hold it.
They outworked the Penguins. Out-hustled them. Outshot them. Out-competed them.
■ Game: Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, Consol Energy Center.
■ When: 12:38 p.m.
■ TV: WPXI.
Philadelphia had an advantage in almost every statistic of consequence. One striking exception was blocked shots, but that's because the Flyers did most of the shooting.
"They were better than us, all over the ice," said Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who was held without a point for just the 10th time in 46 regular-season games against Philadelphia.
"Special teams, they were more aggressive throughout the game, winning battles and things like that. No excuse for that."
While many factors helped to shape the outcome, no player was more responsible for this being a four-goal defeat than Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Specifically, for it not being an eight-goal defeat.
The Flyers launched 40 shots at Fleury -- the Penguins managed just 25 on Steve Mason of Philadelphia -- but Fleury managed to keep his team in the game even after it no longer deserved to be.
Two stops on Jakub Voracek in the opening half of the second period, when Philadelphia was trying to build on a 2-0 lead, kept the Penguins within striking distance. Gave them a stay of execution, anyway.
The loss dropped the Penguins (44-18-4) three points behind Boston in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins will make up their game-in-hand today, when the Flyers visit Consol Energy Center.
Although the Penguins have fared pretty well on this side of the Commonwealth in recent seasons -- they were 11-2-1 in their previous 14 visits to Wells Fargo Center -- much of what transpired Saturday looked like a flashback to the 1970s and 1980s, when the Flyers routinely abused them at the Spectrum.
"In all aspects of the game, we weren't good," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Forgettable as the afternoon was for the Penguins, they did reach at least one milestone of note: Their total of man-games lost to injury crossed the 400 barrier, as a couple of top-six wingers, Chris Kunitz and James Neal, joined the long list of players unable to dress for games.
Kunitz was scratched after participating in the pregame warm-up because of an unspecified injury, while Neal is out indefinitely because of a concussion diagnosed Thursday.
Bylsma described Kunitz as "a possibility" for the rematch today.
While being without the likes of Pascal Dupuis, Paul Martin and Kris Letang, to say nothing of Kunitz and Neal, clearly has an impact, the Penguins continue to refuse to blame injuries for whatever troubles they encounter.
"It's something we've been dealing with all year and we've found ways," Crosby said. "We have to look at that, and understand that it's something we have to continue to do.
"Now is definitely not the time to make excuses for that. We didn't throughout the year, and we're not going to start now."
The Penguins are to be forgiven for hoping that, if Kunitz is in uniform today, that isn't the only thing that changes.
They entered the game Saturday with the top-rated power play and penalty-killing in the league, but neither unit did anything to improve its numbers -- or enhance its reputation -- against the Flyers.
Philadelphia scored on the first of its four power plays, as Scott Hartnell gave the Flyers the only goal they would need at 3:50 of the first period, and the Penguins not only failed to score on five chances with the extra man, but gave up a short-handed goal that staked Philadelphia to a 2-0 lead just 8:12 into the game.
There was lots of time left when right winger Matt Read scored that goal, but there was no suspense about the outcome.
"We got beat in every aspect of the game," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
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