Laraque Ejected as Penguins Lose 4-3 to Flyers

The Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night by a score of 4-3.  For the Penguins, it was just their 2nd regulation loss since December 23rd.  Ty Conklin got the call for the Penguins and made 29-saves on 33 shots to move his record to 10-2-2.  The Penguins (27-18-4) have lost all 4-meetings with the Flyers this season, after sweeping them in 8-games last season.  With 59-points, the Penguins are still just 1-point behind the Atlantic Division leading Devils and Flyers (1st place tie).   

In the 1st period, Georges Laraque and Riley Cote mixed it up with a fight at 2:19 to set the tone for the game, with each player getting a 5-minute major.   Laraque pretty much beat the tar out of Cote.  The Flyers got on the scoreboard first on a goal by R.J. Umberger, his 9th of the season, at 9:34.  Jason Smith and Daniel Briere were credited with the assists.  The Penguins evened it up at 16:37 on a backhanded goal by Evgeni Malkin, his 27th of the year, after the Penguins went down 9-1 in shots earlier in the period.  Jarkko Ruutu and Darryl Sydor picked up the assists.  The Penguins were outshot 12-8 in the period and were 0-for-1 on the 30-seconds of power play time at the end of the period before Ryan Malone took a goaltender interference call with 4 seconds left in the period to even it up. 

In the 2nd, the Flyers scored just after the expiration of a power play advantage on a shot by Randy Jones at 12:59 into a yawning net.  Scott Hartnell and R.J. Umberger got the assists on the play.  The Penguins evened the score at 17:54 on a power play goal by Petr Sykora who redirected a hard shot by Sergei Gonchar.  Ryan Whitney picked up the other assist.  With 3 seconds left in the period, Georges Laraque was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for hitting Steve Downie from behind into the boards.  Downie went head first into the boards and lay motionless for a few moments, but was able to leave the ice under his own power.  He subsequently rejoined the game.  While the hit from behind was a penalty, it did not appear to be an intent to injure by Laraque. 

In the 3rd, the Flyers scored at 3:53 while still on the extended power play as James Vandermeer got his 3rd of the season from R.J. Umberger and Jeff Carter.  But the Penguins bounced right back on a quick short-handed goal by Ryan Whitney at 4:51 to tie it back up 3-3.  The Whitney goal, assisted by Jordan Staal and Ryan Malone, was reviewed by the league as Staal fell into the net and it came off from its mounts during the play.  The video review revealed that the puck had crossed the line before the net came off from its moorings, and it was ruled a goal.  The Flyers wasted no time before striking back and regaining the lead as Mike Knuble attacked the net and forced the puck past Conklin at 5:25.  Less than 10-seconds later, Ryan Stone and Steve Downie went for a fight, with Stone getting the worst of it after his jersey was pulled up over his head.  Downie may have won the fight, but took a 10-minute misconduct for failing to have his jersey tied down.  Perhaps it came undone when Laraque pasted him to the boards?  The Penguins were unable to find the back of the net again and the Flyers picked up the win 4-3.  The Penguins were outshot 12-11 in the 3rd, and were 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.  The Penguins did not get any man advantage in the 3rd. 

With the loss, the Flyers move into a tie for first place in the Atlantic with New Jersey with 59-points, just 1-point ahead of the Penguins.  New Jersey lost to Montreal to stay put with 59-points.  Elswehere around the Division, the Islanders lost to Boston and the Rangers beat Atlanta 2-1 in a shootout.

The game was the final Penguins’ outing before this weekend’s All-Star game in Atlanta.  Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar will make the trip to the All-Star game to represent the Penguins.  Kris Letang will be playing in the Young Stars game on Saturday.  The Penguins will return to action against the Devils on Tuesday in New Jersey.   

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